Mike Wasch looked at me in disbelief as we sloshed our way toward Cebaco Island in Panama a little over two weeks ago. Our group had travelled a full day prior to this one, took a four hour bus ride from Panama City to the little port town of Puerto Mutis where we met the sport boats, and now heavy winds were steadily tossing 5 gallon buckets of green water into our yaps. "It takes a little work to get to the edge of the earth," was my short response as I shut my mouth before another greener hit me in the chops. Mike gurgled something and from his facial expression I'm pretty sure it was a chuckle.
It wasn't long before we were loading our luggage onto the Lost Coast Explorer and sportfishing tackle was being slammed together for our first afternoon of saltwater fishing adventure in Panama. Some of us were salty veterans to this adventure and understood what lay ahead in the coming days, but several of the newbies had no idea what was in store for them.
We tossed poppers at the rocks around Cebaco and outside of some near misses from snapper and jacks the action was slow. Our plan was to meet the Lost Coast Explorer at the ranger station on Isla de Coiba approximately 20 miles away for our evening anchorage, so we dumped the gear in the water and began the troll toward our rendesvous point. 3 dorado, 4 yellowfin tuna, and a sailfish later we were at the mothership. Week one was off to a great start!
Blake and Mike with one of the football yellowfin we grabbed on day one. Mike's 14 weight proved handy with the baitfish pattern, a combo that took several more yellowfin and dorado on the trip.
Dorado were literally everywhere throughout our first week in Panama and we hammered them on trolled lures, flies, poppers, and jigs. Average size was 15 to 25 pounds and several were in the 35 pound range.
This little pink and white chugger was a hot lure on the shotgun rod for two straight weeks. It took multiple dorado, yellowfin tuna, and sailfish.
Oregon Tuna Classic organizer Del Stephens with a 30 pound dorado he nailed on week two.
With a 100 feet of visibility this 175 pound yellowfin looked like a bonita circling up from the depths. Steve Maris's back was damned sure that this was no bonita!
Steve and the Wasch's with one helluva lot of sushimi back at the mothership. The big cow took a live bonita slow trolled on a diver on Hannibal Bank.
Vanessa coerced a worn-out Steve into throwing poppers along the Jicaron shoreline that evening and look what he found. A huge Cubera engulfed his Williamson popper and augered it's way around the rocky reef before Steve could land it after dark. The Legend lives!
With steady winds making Hannibal Bank somewhat unpleasant during week one we spent a lot of time chasing inshore species like the big blue jack Mike is holding in this pic. We used the bait and switch technique to lure jacks, roosterfish, and snapper within fly casting range. I would cast a huge popper into every nook and cranny along the rocky shoreline and when the fish would charge the huge surface lure I'd keep it going just fast enough to keep it out of their reach. Once they got within casting range the boys would zap them with baitfish patterns on 12 weight fly rods. I had roosterfish up to 60 pounds chasing my popper and while we didn't land many of the big roosters, the exhiliration of the whole scene was over the top!
Skydive instructor turned fishing sicko! Vanessa had never caught a saltwater fish before this trip. Here she is with a beatiful roosterfish she hammered on a surface popper near Coiba.
Fresh sushimi and as much dorado as you care to eat back at the mothership every night.
Even though we go to Panama for the roughly 30 some species of gamefish that can be caught there, it's really the marlin fishing gets the blood boiling. Dave Bergeron hooked into this 400 plus black near Isla Montousa on week two and I managed to get one decent picture of this explosive fish as it greyhounded towards the boat, covering 200 to 300 yards in a matter of seconds. It took both Dave and good friend Chuck Girtz, both from the Gig Harbor PSA club, 3 hours to land this black marlin on standup gear. Nice work guys!
Chuck takes a quick cerveza break during the grueling battle.
Deckhand Mayo leaders the fish and goes for the bill. Check black marlin off the bucket list!
Off she goes!
Del and Dom with one of the football yellowfin we were finding around Jicaron. We hooked a lot of these fish on trolled gear and Williamson jigs.
Jeff Norwood with yet another yellowfin football.
Skipjack tuna were mixed in amonst the yellowfin schools for both weeks. Here's Venessa with a scrappy skipjack.
This dorado definitely took the cake! It jumped over ten feet in the air multiple times on Kents 40 plus year old spinning tackle after hitting a small Buzz Bomb that he brought along. Good stuff!
When the fish aren't biting it's time to tak it all in. Steve ordered up a couple porpoise with his Vitamin D.
Perhaps the best seat in the house, I jump into the "tower" on the lookout for tuna. The Costa blue mirror Triple Tail 580's were a blessing on this trip.
A sushimi feeding frenzy takes place on deck after a long day of fishing.
A 20 ounce steak of seared yellowfin tuna from week one aboard the Lost Coast Explorer.
One more sunset and a little more Vitamin D. Time to bring this trip to a close and head back to sunny Washington.
Here are a couple of other fishing reports that have been posted on chat boards from this trip:
Piscatorial Pursuits 1
Piscatorial Pursuits 2
I'm busy crunching thru all the video footage and will post some video links to The Outdoor Line Video page just as soon as they are finished.
After two weeks in paradise I'm already counting down the days to our Costa Rica trip in March of this year to pre-fish another destination. The Outdoor Line is hosting a trip similar to this one in 2011 in Costa Rica, only this time at the 5 star Los Suenos Resort near some of Costa Rica's most productive bluewater fishing grounds. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS