In honour of my Dad Bryce’s 70th birthday we had planned a special ‘ once in a life time’ fishing adventure, and after extensive research into various locations we opted for Paradise Fishing Lodge in Panama.
The journey was from Madrid to Panama City (around 10 hours on the plane), with an over night stay in Panama City. Unfortunately we were too jet lagged to take in the sights and sounds, and carried on our way the following morning with an internal flight from Panama City to David, and then a further car journey to our Lodge.
There are obviously many places which call themselves Paradise, but this place could truly lay claim to the title. Situated on a small hill the view out over the Pacific provided a wonderful back drop, with the accommodation being of a first class standard.
After arriving and settling in for a relaxing afternoon and evening it was time to get down to the serious business the next day with our first venture out onto the water. The fishing on offer is varied and falls into 2 main categories – inshore or offshore. We made the decision to spend the first couple of days fishing inshore around the various islands.
The inshore fishing in itself was fairly diverse, with 3 different tactics being employed. The first of these was Popper fishing for the various types of Jacks which are quite abundant all year round. This was probably the most exciting method we fished all week, with some of the takes being really aggressive off these fast sport fish. The usual method was for the skipper to gently motor around the shore of the islands, or around rocky outcrops. The best results were had by casting the poppers tight into the rocks and working them back with as much noise and splashing as possible. We managed to catch a large variety of the Jacks on poppers, with Blue Jack & Jack Crevalle being the most abundant. My personal highlight of the trip was a large Rooster fish which slammed a Popper close to the boat and put up a sensational fight with some phenomenally fast runs.
Also available inshore was bottom fishing, which involved the skipper finding a mark and then drifting slowly over it with the tide. Chunks or steaks of bait fish, usually Bonito, were free lined on circle hooks close to the bottom. The takes were quite interesting, some fairly savage but others quite slow to develop, with the fish given some time to hook themselves before winding into them. Again a wide variety of species came to the boat whilst deploying this method, with the majestic Cubera Snapper and the extremely handsome AmberJack being the two main targets. There was always plenty of action whilst fishing this method, and although we landed numerous fish we also lost some real big boys through a variety of hook pulls and cut off / bite offs.
The final method which could be employed inshore was live bait trolling, with small lives being gently trolled off the back of the boat around the contours of the islands. This method also produced decent results (providing you had sufficient bait!) and accounted for the capture of the sought after Rooster fish, surely one of the most handsome creatures to swim the Oceans!
The variety of the inshore fishing was fantastic, but of course we were also very keen to sample the offshore stuff, with a few black marlin having been caught the previous week. We had a number of tries fishing out on the famous Hannibal bank where the Pelagic species are known to patrol, and actually managed two strikes on our trolled Bonito. The first take (my turn) was unfortunately lost to a hook pull not long into the fight, to say I was gutted would be an under-statement! The next chance came on Mike’s rod and there was much euphoria as the fish was cleanly hooked and set off on a crazy series of leaps across the surface of the Ocean. Mike played the fish stand up and fight for the next 30-40 mins under the expert guidance of our skipper Chico and first mate Bartolito, before we managed to boat it, estimated by the crew at around 300lb and safely released. A fantastic moment to witness and a special moment for Mike!
Perhaps slightly disappointing was the absence of the Yellow Fin Tuna, which were late arriving and not available to fish for, along with the sailfish. We did however encounter some small Dorado whilst out trolling.
All too soon the holiday came to an end (I’m sure you all know the feeling!), but what a fantastic time we had with excellent and varied fishing in Jurassic Park style scenery – a wonderful trip which I would recommend to anybody!