Day one of our first group in March started out like many do in the dry season with some strong north winds. We made the call to get the pangas and mothership the kayaks west to fish Punta Blanca and Corto – few of our favorite spots that are protected from the wind. Recently we upgraded two of our pangas and they now have flat bottoms. This makes fishing from the panga a lot easier and more comfortable and we are certain our clients will be very happy with this!
We launched about 7:00 in the morning and once we arrived at the spot the wind had gotten significantly calmer and we unloaded all the kayaks from the pangas and it was on! We noticed immediately that the water temperature had gotten significantly colder. The average temp is around 82 degrees normally and this day it was as low as 70 at times! Generally we start fishing for blue runners and moonfish at Corto which is almost a guarantee for these species most days but we were only able to catch 1 moonfish. We assumed they did not like the temperature and we decided to look around the bay a bit more to see if we could mark any type of bait on the fishfinder. Shortly after moving we noticed a spot in shallower was marking fish. We dropped the xps jig and made one pop on the bottom and hooked up. A few seconds later a BONEFISH shows its self and Dakota flips it over into the boat. His first one ever! We snapped some pictures and put it in the live well. Just after that almost every drop we were hooking up bonefish and we filled the live well with as many as could fit! Several of the anglers were able to catch some themselves and for each it was their first bonefish! Not something you typically think you will catch on a trip to Panama but a nice surprise! We ended up getting about 15 in a span of 20 minutes all on the xps jigs.
Now it was time to hand out bait. The bonefish made perfect bite size baits as they are incredibly shiny, energetic and look like a candy bar to a roosterfish. In no time the anglers started hooking up. James was the first with a beautiful roosterfish. Then shortly john had hooked up and landed an absolute trophy! Elviss bait got slammed by what we think was a cubera but it ended up spitting the bait. A few hours later Shannon hollers on the radio “Im hooked up!” We race the panga help boat over to him and find him putting some serious pressure on what appeared to be a giant fish. The rod was doubled over and the fish was directly under him. Adam and Pio on the Panga both yell Cubera! As generally they will pull strait down rather than off to the side. Shannon is winching this fish up with the Accurate Fury 600 and it finally breaks the surface. “Broomtail!” everyone yells. It was the biggest we had ever seen from that area and a real surprise. It came at the perfect time as this was day one of the group and we had not caught any edible fish yet. Just a bunch of trophy species. Now we knew we were set for dinner every night. We put the grouper on the scale when we arrived back at the lodge and it weighed in at 47lbs! By far Shannon’s largest fish to date!
Day two we had the same plan. Head to corto first, load up on bait, and knock a few more species off the guests lists. This proved to be a bit more difficult however. We could not find the bonefish again so we decided we would look elsewhere for bait and were able to get a few bonitos and mackerel. These both can be excellent bait and within a few minutes they started to get hit but the anglers were struggling to connect with the fish. Cuberas and Roosters can be very smart and know how to avoid the hook sometimes. After a few more fish were lost the anglers started jigging and trolling some lures. John hooked up with a yellowfin tuna which is great fun on light tackle. After a few minutes it managed to get tangled on his rudder. It’s a miracle the line did not break as it was taking line and it was very tightly wrapped. Adam jumped in the water and detangled the line and he John was back in the fight. It took a few more runs and he was able to get it up next to the boat. He took one shot with the gaf which spooked the tuna and it took a screaming run and ended up breaking off. SO CLOSE! Soon after, Henry was able to bring one up on the jig. “Looks like we’re getting shashimi tonight!” a few other fish were caught while jigging like some small flag cabrillas, spotted rose snapper, triggerfish, Mexican hogfish, giant hawkfish, and several more.
Day three the winds had died down a bit so we changed it up and lauched the kayaks from the backyard and headed to vaca. John had been trolling a deep diver and in no time hooked up to a stud sierra mackerel. We were off to a good start! Darret had loaded up with Sean in the panga down the coast out a bit deeper to look for tuna without kayaks. In the meantime the kayakers at vaca were trying their luck with artificial as live bait was tough to find. We found a handful of bonitos early on and they were getting hit but mostly all short strikes. The anglers were having their best luck with jigs and trolling lures. After a few hours Dakota and Adam were able to locate the big eye trevally school and caught enough for everyone to use for live bait. We soaked them a few more hours but did not have much luck. Since everyone had bait the panga decided to put a bonito out near vaca as some of the anglers had moved on to “Rooster City” after just a few minutes the clicker sounded just a second or two. Adam grabbed the rod and as soon as he did the line went slack, and it began to get more slack. “Its coming right for the boat” He cranked as fast as he could and came tight with the fish. It ripped some drag and the fight was on. After a few minutes a monster roosterfish surfaced right behind the boat. It was an absolute trophny. We fought it with some very tight drag to wear it out fast and get it in the boat so incase any of the kayakers needed help we could get to them quickly. We started pulling on the leader and the hook popped right out of the fishes mouth… But this gave us some more hope. Many times when one bites, more will follow.
James decided he would head in shallower as we had been marking more fish on the fish finders a bit in shore near the rocks. He broke out his popper, headed to “Thunder Reef” and with his first cast a big jack crevalle smashed it! We were all hooting and hollering as he thought it was the cubera snapper he was really wanting. After he bourght it in though we were cheering because who doesn’t like a topwater hit like that?! Just moments later, Darret, Sean, and Pio show pull up along side us in the Panga. We ask them how they did… Pio gestures that they didn’t catch anthing. Sean says “my back hurts!” and proceeds to pick up and show off a MONSTER tuna! Over 100 pounds which he says he caught on a popper! This really amped us all up and everyone was excited for the next day with tuna on their minds.
Day 4 we headed out at 6:30. Darret and Sean left in the Panga again and the kayakers headed out with Adam in the Kayak and Dakota watching over in the Panga. We headed strait to vaca to look for live bait. After just a few minutes Adam was able to locate the blue runners and had one for everyone. Blue runners are our favorite live baits as just about everything eats them. We spread out along Rooster City, the marlin spot, and just south east of vaca. All our hotspots were covered! Some time went by and we hear Elvis is hooked up! We race the panga to him only to find the fish had gotten off. A big rooster had smashed his bait and swam directly towards him. He watched as it swam directly under the boat and just spat the bait out. Another heartbreaker! But it wasn’t over yet! We got him a new bait and he was back in action. We all lined up side by side with about 200ft between eachother and worked our way across all the reefs. Surely if there were any fish in the area they would see our baits. They were incredibly nervous and a few were short striked but the roosters were really playing hard to get. We start to hear the hum of a Yamaha Enduro and all look over to see Darret, Sean and Pio with big smiles on their faces… They get a bit closer and we take a look in the boat and all we see is tuna. The cooler is maxed out and there are 4 giants on the deck up front. None of which could have fit in any cooler we had at the lodge… We all knew what we would be doing the last day!
Thursday morning everyone had tuna on their minds. We woke up to absolutely beautiful conditions with almost no wind and slick water. Adriano and Pio said there was no rush as the tunas would probably start biting around 10-11:00. We loaded 2 pangas with gear and just one of them with 2 kayaks incase there was an opportunity to catch some tuna from the kayaks. We got on the water and began looking for dolphin and birds about 8:00. We found a few scattered birds and dolphin just cruising and with no fish around. Then, at 10:00 dolphins showed up and by 10:10 we already had a fish on! Henry had hooked up BIG on the popper! We found them! Now it was on… we dumped James and Elvis in the water right by the dolphins so they could chase them down. The schools were moving fast but the anglers were giving it all they had and were right on the tail of the tuna school slinging poppers over and over. The school seemed just barely out of range. While on the boat, the dolphin swam right to us and with one cast John’s popper got slammed on the surface and the tuna made a screaming run strait across the surface of the water. He fought the beast about 10 minutes but before he could bring it in, the braid broke and it was gone. By this time, the school moved away so we picked up the kayaks and chased them down again. Now it was Elvis’s turn. We got him right up to the school and with his brand new Stella, he launched the Chug Norris popper right into the most perfect spot in the school… he popped it a few times and BOOM! We all saw it get smashed right by the boat. The water was so clear you could see the fish even before it broke the surface. He was on! We got the fish up, gaffed it, and went right back to chasing the school.
Next, James and John hooked up at the same time. We decided it was best for James to hop in a kayak and get away from the boat as to not get a tangle with two tunas pinwheeling under the boat at the same time as that would be a recipe for disaster. We dropped a kayak in the water and sent him out. He battled his fish and after a few minutes we realized it was a big one. He brought it broadside of the kayak and hit it with the spear. The fish went crazy and took off bending the spear tip. After calming it down and fighting it a bit longer he was able to bring it up again. Elvis grabbed the standard gaf from the boat and stuck it perfectly in the head and tried to bring it over the rail, however one of the hooks caught the side of the panga and prevented the fish from coming over the rail. It shook loose and the gaf popped off. The fish was back in the water fighting yet again! We figured it would be best for him to land it with minimal help from the boat so Adam jumped in the water to retrieve the bent spear gaf that was floating away, bent it back and gave it back to James who then proceded to stick the fish again. This time it was done and we got it in the boat. James held his catch above his head in victory. Definitely the largest tuna landed from a kayak in Los Buzos history 70 pounds! Though there was far more assistance from the boat than usual.
The action went on like this for about 2 hours. We were running and gunning these schools and having an absolute blast. If you could get the popper into the school it was almost guaranteed to get hit. We caught as many as we wanted and ended up calling it a day early. We all jumped into the water to get clean as everyone was covered in tuna blood. We celebrated a bit and headed back to the beach. That night Sophie made some absolutely incredible tuna steaks with all kinds of other extras. Another week for the books!