As I posted before, I had tried to go Panama for fishing for years as I always heard about great fishing stories around Hanibal Bank in Panama. But I was hesitant because fishing in Panama is not cheap and I had little first hand knowledge where to fish. Reggie who is living in South Carolina called to buy a Jigging Master rod and while talking about fishing, he said his brother has a fishing lodge in Panama. His fishing package rates he quoted are substantially lower than what I heard from other lodges there.
At first, I didn't pay much attention to it because usually fishing or accommodations/boats are not great when they sell their packages cheap.
But I thought it doesn't hurt at all to check the lodge anyway and I called HungyJack who knows Panama better than anyone I know as he visited Panama about 16 - 17 times.
When he told the location of the lodge, he said the areas the lodge fish is the same areas as well known fishing lodges like Pesca, Coral Star or Big Game lodge fish and the package prices are very attractive. I asked him to call the owner of the lodge in Panama to get more detailed information. And he spent 3 hour 20 minutes talking with the owner next day. @( Jack said the operation is new and they have three pretty new boats with twin engines. Whenever I go to a new fishing destination, the first thing I check is Capts as I know Capts can make a big difference. I heard Capt Macho is the king of all guides in the Coiba area and he is very respected by colleagues. Surprisingly Macho works for the lodge. I know Jack. He is kind of perfectionist. When he said it is pretty good, it is good.
I already decided to visit the lodge with other fishermen in Mid- April as soon as tax season ends and called a few fishermen to join me. It was not difficult to got 5 - 6 guys as there are many fishermen who want to fish in Panama, but they don't have little knowledge where to go in Panama like me and they know me I don't book any fishing lodge just because it is cheap.
I asked Jack whether we could visit the lodge before I arrange fishing trip with other fishermen in April and he gladly said yes. It was big help for me because I know not much about fishing in Panama.
As I become very busy after mid January, I chose the dates in early Jan though it was pretty tough to go to Panama within 10 days after I come back from Costa Rica, but I couldn't go anywhere between mid Jan to mid April.
We left 5:00 am John K. Kennedy airport, NY on Jan 6 and arrived at Panama City around 10:30 am. Reggie welcomed us at the airport with a big pickup truck. Even we met for the first time each other, he was like a old friend as we talked so many times on the phone. He seems to have incurable disease like me. Whenever fishing is mentioned, I see his eyes lighten up with a big smile.
We chose driving to the lodge instead of flying to David from Panama airport at Jack's suggestion. Jack said we don't lose much time by driving instead of flying as we had to go to local airport to take a plane to David and it takes 45 minutes from David to the lodge. Due to flight schedule, we have to stay one night in Panama City if we decide to fly to David. The real advantage of driving is we can bring more tackles as the local small plane can limit the weighs of luggages.
It took about five hours from the airport to the lodge. The trip was not bad at all.
When we arrived at the lodge, John, the owner of the lodge, welcomed us with a big smile. I immediately felt comfortable as he is very humble and likable guy.
The lodge is new and clean.
Frankly, I didn't expect the lodge is that good as I thought the lodge would be a little better than a fishing camp for the package price.
While having dinners, I met Tony Pena and his wife who were fishing two days at the lodge. They caught one blue marlin out of three shots with Capt Macho that day.
As you know I go to many fishing destinations quiet often, but I had to shut my mouth up when Tony and Jack were talking about fishing in many different fishing destinations around the world.
view from the lodge
Group picture with Tony Pena's couple, John, Reggie, Jack and myself.
Jack and I fished with Capt Serio and while Tony Pena, Mrs Pena and John fihed with Capt Macho. We left for Hanival Bank around 7:00 am.
I was glad we went to Hanibal Bank first as I always wanted to fish the famous Hanival Bank. Many fishermen say the Hanibal Banks is one of the greastest fishing ground in entire North/Central America and I really wanted to taste what it looks like before to fish other spots.
It was about 50 mile run from the lodge.
We soon as we were ready to troll to catch live skipjack, we heard on the radio, Macho had a blue marlin. We could see Mrs Tony fighting the marlin on a standup. Surprisiningly she brought the 350 lbs blue marlin to the boat pretty quickly. She must be a very experienced angler herself.
It was pretty busy to make baits as skipjack were everywhere. The bridling technique is some what different than I saw in PV.
I asked to use my custom 500g Jigging Mater rod/Accurate B2 30 reel for trolling skipjack as I wanted to test the setup for marlin.
They used two rods for trolling live skipjack.
The line capacity of Accurate B2 30 is much bettern that it looks.
I could put 660 yards of Varivas Tuna Avani PE8 (80 lbs) on the reel. 8*
I was an amazing sight to see several boats fighting marlin at the same time. I know it is not easy to land a marlin on a single trip wherever you go in the world. I had a good marlin trip in Puerto Vallarta, but I've never seen so many marlin hookups on a single day as I witnessed on the Hanival Bank today. I don't think any boat out of 12 boats which fished on the Bank got skunked with marlin.
By noon, Macho had caught/released two marlin out of three fight, but we couldn't hook up any marlin though we almost had a few times. Finally we had our momentum. When a marlin was hooked up, Reggie asked us to fight the marlin, but I declined as I wanted to test my custom Jigging Master rod/ Accurate B2 30 for malin.
Reggie fought the marlin pretty easy with Shimano Tiagra 50W. The fish is about 350 - 400 lbs. I was told most blue marlin caught there is about in 300 - 450 lbs range though Macho landed a 1000 lbs marlin five years ago.
Unfortunately marlin didn't take skipjack of my rod, but I fought a several hundred lbs black dolphin for 15 minutes as the dolphin took the skipjack. They say black dolphin intentionally kill trolled live skipjack. The dolphin was very powerful. Even I pushed the drag lever to full which is over 30 lbs drag, dolphin took lines at will until it spit the bait finally.
We headed for Montuosa after breakfast. Montuosa is about 12 miles from Hannival Bank and the areas surrounding the island are as productive as Hannival Bank for malin and tuna. The mothership Coral Star usually anchors around Montuosa Island. However our mission was not for marlin or tuna this time, but deepwater jigging for snowy grouper and other bottom dwellers and take a shot at tuna if tuna are around as there were reports that tuna were popping in the yesterday afternoon.
I was very curious after I heard they catch snowy grouper in Panama. We usuually jig for them in very deep water in 600 - 900 ft in our areas. After positioning the boat for drifting, Macho asked us to drop jigs. The depth was 400 - 450 ft and I used 450g OTI jig first.
It didn't take long I had a hit on my jig. Yes, it was indeed snowy grouper though it is not big !
There were some mysterious monsters there. I had a fish on jig and big fish took them twice while cranking in them. I had max drag (about 25 lbs) on my Saltiga 40, but they kept pulling lines and lost both fish. After the fight, my Saltiga 40's drag was damaged and I could get only 15 - 18 lb max drag.
Jack had two monsters on his prototype jig which he designed with Everal 12-20 and lost them too though he used over 30 lbs drag. We saw part of fish mouth on jig hook. They said it could be a monster cubera. Jack's prototype jigs were the best producers of the trip. 8) I might ask him to sell those jigs for my shop.
Reggie fished with jigs for the first time and he was so happy when he hooked up nice snowy groupers and snappers on jigs. I don't know it is because of beginer's luck or not. He actually caught more fish on jigs than I did. 8*
Happy Reggie. I love fish with him. See all smiles on his face.
We didn't fish long for bottom fishing to search around for tuna as Macho said there were some tuna surface activities not far from Montuosa. But we couldn't find any sighn of tuna activities. We heard Anglers Pro guys at Paradise Lodge which are located about 20 miles east of our lodge had a great tuna popping yesterday at Isla Jicaron which is about 70 miles from our lodge. We could made a long run there, but I prefer to fish spots where the lodge normally fish as this is a scouting trip.
Tuna just showed up now and it is a matter of time tuna invade our area in massive number. I am told that they can not avoid tuna wherever they go in April.8*
In the afternoon, we fished around the Islands closer to the lodge and we still caught snowy grouper, mahi mahi and red snappers and other bottom fish.
I'll finish report when I have time.
Even we didn't catch any tuna on the trip, the trip itself was great.
Just imagine yellowfin tuna including cow are the most abundant fish there in April.
Anglers Pro guys had a blast of catching big yft on poppers around Isle and tuna move closer and closer every day.
I'll post all lodge info at the end of my report.
Great report and pics, Kil! Looks like a phenomenal spot. Besides large cubera, any chance those monsters you guys hooked were really large AJs? Noticed one in the pics.
I didn't catch any tuna or roosterfish on the trip. But tuna just started to move into the area and it is hit and miss right now. However April is totally different story. It seems you can catch big tuna at will along with pleanty of marlin in April.
Jack is the guy who is very hard to be pleased, but he made his mind already to bring 12 guys in March and he has the list already on the plane to home.
He fished Pesca Panama and the mothership Coral Star already years ago.
It shows how much he liked the operation and the prices.
This is going to be my annual fishing destination for years to come. I liked the operation and fishery in Langara Island off Queen Charlotte Island, BC and I visited there almost every year for 6 - 7 years.
It's most likely from constant use because Kil fishes alot. The reel is very strong. I have one with carbon drags. I don't know if he maintainence his reels either and that could be a factor.
No reel last one year in my hands as I don't maintain reels very well and use them extensively and intensively to the limit .
RIch, you got to go to Panama someday.