PANAMA EAST TO WEST
OUTSTANDING OPPORTUNITIES A BOUND IN THIS CENTRAL AMERICAN DESTINATION
Outstanding opportunities abound in this Central American destination
The Republic of Panama offers some of the most unique sport fishing in the world, thanks to its location , bordered by costa rica to the west and colombia at the southeastern end . and while the caribbean sea laps the northern shores , its ’ the placid pacific to the south that holds the action we seek .
There are a number of lodges and fishing operations throughout the country. One thing they share is the general ease of access. Most visitors arrive at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, departing for the lodges on the coast via regional airlines, charter carriers or private shuttles. Panama City is renowned as one of the most beautiful capitals in Central America, making for a terrific overnight destination in its own right. The dry season generally runs from January through April. From May to December, afternoon thunderstorms are frequent, but it usually doesn’t rain all day in most locations.
For fishing, the main draw in Panama is undoubtedly the black marlin. These pugnacious brawlers are typically found in good numbers here November through March, and they are usually caught on live bait. Big Pacific sailfish fill in the gaps throughout most of the year, and you shouldn’t overlook the excellent blue marlin fishery. The yellowfin tuna show up in big numbers in Panama too, with some trophy-size tuna weighing over 150 pounds or more.
TROPIC STAR LODGE piñas bay
situated on the edge of the incredibly scenic Piñas Bay, roughly 150 miles southeast of Panama City, Tropic Star Lodge has been attracting anglers since it first opened as Club de Pesca in 1963. Over the years, more world records have been set here than in any other fishing lodge in the world — a testament to the amazing opportunities that await its visitors.
Guests arrive on a chartered flight from Panama City, landing near an Embera Indian village. A short ride through the jungle and a 10-minute boat ride later, you’re standing on the lodge’s main dock and an iconic fleet of 31-foot Bertrams await on their moorings in the bay. For those who might not have visited Tropic Star recently, there have been some considerable upgrades in the operation. The dining room has been remodeled, as well as one of the guest suites, with additional renovations currently underway. Also, under construction is a massage and spa area, among many other improvements on the land side. The fleet of Bertrams is also being upgraded. During our visit in July 2018, the prototype had already been put into service, with quieter, more fuel-efficient engines plus an air-conditioned salon.
The captains and crews at Tropic Star Lodge are among the best live-bait fishermen in the world, but are equally adept at pulling lures or rigging Panama strip baits, which are especially productive for sailfish. However, most days will nearly always start with bait-fishing and slow-trolling along the Zane Grey Reef at first light. The captains collectively work together to find the bite as they spread
out in search of pelagics as the day wears on. Visiting sport-fishers are welcome to anchor in the bay, with fuel and guest dining available at the lodge.
The black marlin usually begin to arrive in the fall and bite well through January and February, depending on the conditions. The action for blue marlin usually begins a little earlier and runs a bit longer, and the tuna fishing can be excellent during this time as well. The sailfish bite picks up in the spring and is usually good all year, peaking in the summer months. The lodge is closed for maintenance from October through late November, but otherwise, expect reliably consistent offshore action plus five-star dining and service from one of the sport’s most renowned fishing destinations.
SPORT FISH PANAMA ISLAND LODGE Isla Parida
lodge owner capt. shane jarvis originally moved to Panama from Miami in the late 1990s to help his father build a vacation house for the family’s fishing adventures. The plan was to ship his boat down and stay for a year. During that time, he grabbed every available opportunity to fish and learn the area, earning his captain’s license along the way.
Officially opened by Jarvis in 2005, Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge has one terrific advantage: its location. The lodge is on Isla Parida, inside Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui National Park, which significantly shortens the run to the famed Hannibal Bank and nearby Isla Montuosa, where target species include both blue and black marlin as well as yellowfin tuna that can tip the scales at over 300 pounds.
Copa Airlines offers flights from Miami and Houston to Panama City, where anglers can opt to take a same-day connection to David, Panama, or stay overnight in Panama City as part of the lodge’s VIP package. Either way, guests need to make sure to arrive in David by early afternoon to make the lodge-provided transfer to Pedregal Marina for the hourlong boat ride out to Isla Parida.
Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge has two cabins that can accommodate a total of 14 guests. Despite the remote island location 12 miles from the mainland, the lodge offers all of the modern comforts, including free high-speed Wi-Fi and laundry service. Gourmet meals and all beverages, including alcohol, are covered in the all-inclusive package price.
Jarvis and crew operate a pair of 33-foot World Cats powered by twin Suzuki 300 hp outboards, and a 25-foot SeaCraft center-console with twin Suzuki 140 hp outboards. The boats are fast, maneuverable and comfortable. Conventional tackle consists of 30- and 50-pound-test Accurate reels paired with custom Blackfin rods. Shimano spinning reels are available for anglers interested in targeting tuna with large poppers, and guests are also welcome to bring their own gear.
Jarvis and his team cover the entire Gulf of Chiriqui, with a strong emphasis on Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa, a run of about 40 miles. From November through March, anglers can expect to see good numbers of black marlin, blue marlin and even a few striped marlin around the bait concentrated at Hannibal Bank. July through September are prime months for a shot at a big black marlin, from 500 to over 1,000 pounds, as this is the time of year when the large females show up to spawn.
Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge only works with one group of anglers at a time, so essentially, the lodge is your private getaway during your stay there.
PARADISE FISHING LODGE Quebrada de Piedra
paradise fishing lodge is located just south of David, Panama, in Quebrada de Piedra, Chiriqui. Once again, the location of the lodge is a key factor, and not too far from the renowned Coiba National Marine Park. The park consists of Coiba, the largest island in Central America, and 37 surrounding islands and islets, all of which are about 30 miles off the Panamanian coast.
THE BLACK MARLIN USUALLY BEGIN TO ARRIVE IN THE FALL AND BITE WELL THROUGH JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, DEPENDING ON THE CONDITIONS.
While black marlin are the nation’s top sport-fishing attraction, blue marlin are also plentiful and can be caught nearly year-round off Panama. Sailfish, huge yellowfin tuna and oversize mahimahi round out the top pelagics.
Tropic Star Lodge is the country’s oldest and best-known sport-fishing lodge, famous for its fleet of classic Bertrams as well as great fishing.