It only makes sense that Panama is a mecca for fishing fans, considering that the indigenous meaning of the country’s name translates to “Abundance of Fish”. Indeed, Panama is not only a prime travel spot for anglers, but it is currently recognized as a paradise for all water sports enthusiasts, eco-tourists, and bird watchers alike.Panama has an incredible variety of attractions all in close proximity to each other: exotic tropical rain forests, mysterious mountain top lookouts, pristine Caribbean beaches, a Miami-esque modeled capital in Panama City, top notch surfing, diving, rafting, windsurfing, and more species of birds than Costa Rica. And this doesn’t even include the awe-inspiring marvel — The Panama Canal.
If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, here are a few more little known facts that make Panama so alluring: Contrary to popular belief, the country is safe to visit, and it may come as a surprise that it has the highest rating for tourist safety from the renowned Pinkerton Intelligence Agency. Not only is Panama safe for vacationers and sportsmen alike, it is also completely shielded from natural disasters! Unlike the rest of Central and South America, Panama is blessed by nature — there are no hurricanes here due to its unique climate, and there are no major earthquakes either, meaning your trip here will never be cancelled or postponed due to natural events. Panama City is the most developed and metropolitan civilization in the entire region; hotels are first rate, complete with high-speed internet; restaurants and shopping are right on par with that of the United States; the highways, medical care, telecommunications and business/banking services are all first rate as well.
But let’s not forget about the world renowned sports fishing. No matter which location you choose to cast a line, the surroundings are sure to be drenched in scenic beauty. The coastlines are filled with abundant bird life, as proven by the world bird watching record set for most species sighted within a 24 hour period, as well as amazing wildlife. It is not uncommon to spot crocodiles, giant iguanas, sloths, monkeys, and other creatures from your boat. Of the numerous fishing spots around Panama, Pinas Bay is arguably the best place in the world for fishing Black Marlin. During the high season of January through March, the local lodges are completely booked, mostly by competitive captains and anglers from around the globe looking for a good fight with the large fish. Zanes Reef is a short trip from the Bay and is the sight of more than 180 world fishing records! The inland fishing here is also well above par — fish inshore for such species as Jack, Dorado, and Wahoo. On the trip back from Zanes Reef, don’t pass up the opportunity to fish another spectacular locale: The Pearl Islands. The Pearl Islands — Las Perlas to the locals — actually consists of over 40 islands, most of which are totally uninhabited. The picturesque white sand beaches are surrounded by fish packed seas.
Where as most fishing spots are dictated by the season, here there is no bad season, only different varieties of fish varying from month to month. From December through May, there is more than a fair share of Red Snapper, Grouper, and Amberjack. Since the water temperatures are lower during these months, the bottom dwelling fish swim to the higher elevations, making surface lures the bait of choice.
From February through March, it is almost a certainty that you will fish huge schools of Snapper swarming the surface in a rabid search for food. During these two months, bottom fishing is also at it’s peak, with Jack, Tuna, Wahoo, and Sailfish being the prime targets for anglers. Whatever your species of choice, fishing the archipelago is a unique and unforgettable experience.Another major fishing spot is Coiba Island — or Isla Coiba — located off the west coast of Panama. Not only is this the largest island in Panama, it’s also the last penal colony in the world, where the most notorious criminals in Panama are incarcerated. But that will be the last thing on your mind once you set your sights on some of the most unparalleled fishing in the region.
During the summer months (coinciding with winter in the United States) the islands surrounding Coiba are known as “Wahoo Alley”. There is ample opportunity to snag a 70 pound Wahoo or a giant Dorado bull, both of which are acrobatic fighters — twisting and launching high above the water as they do battle with the angler. During March, April, and May, the chances of bagging a 200 pound tuna increase drastically. During the peak season of December through April, billfish are the likely species to be found at the end of your line. For the larger fish, including Blue and Black Marlin, live fish is the bait du jour: small tuna or large bonita are the most popular; however, the Sailfish and Dorado are so big that tuna upwards of 15 pounds are often used to bait the hook.
The Hannibal Bank and Cebano Bay, both located on Isla Coiba, are perfect for big game fishing: Marlin, Sailfish, Monster Snapper, Grouper, Roosterfish, Dorado, and Tuna are all in abundance. Amazingly, Coiba Island is very lightly fished because it is still such an obscure locale. You can take land transport to Puerto Mutis or take a short charter flight directly to the island. Isla Coiba is a protected Marine National Park, as proven by the natural splendor of the terrain. Once you experience the clear, shallow waters off the exquisite, white sand beaches, you are sure to make this a lifelong destination. Another Marlin hot spot is Isla Montousa. A short ten miles from Hannibal Banks, the shores on this island rise sharply from the ocean depths, which reach an amazing 10,000 feet less than two miles off the coastline. Here you are certain to tangle with giant Black Marlin, Dogtooth Snappers, and Sailfish.
Another two miles from the 10,000′ deep 100 fathom drop are the islands of Jicaron and Jicarita. Here, Sailfish are popular catches, and are often spotted in the midst of a feeding frenzy — the best news an angler could hope for. But Sailfish aren’t the only species you will find here: Marlin, Dorado and humongous Yellowfin Tuna are readily fished offshore; Roosterfish, Wahoo, Cubera Snapper, huge Amberjacks, and Trevally are teeming along the coastlines, rock formations, and underwater reefs. The best bait to snag one of these whoppers is live Blue Runners, Rappalas, Peli-Poppers, Cisco Kid lures, or anything similar.
Truly, Panama has more to offer than just the Eighth Wonder of the World. Of course, the Panama Canal will always be the centerpiece of this Central American paradise, but the real wonder is how this angler hot spot has remained a secret for so many years. One thing, however, is certain: the secret is out, so get there while you can!