After a quick run across open water, the famed Hannibal Bank seamount appears on the depth finder. The hum of the dual Suzuki 300's softens as the 33-foot catamaran—T.O.P. CAT— slows down and eases into position. 200 yards away, a flock of cackling seabirds hovers over a boiling slurry of fleeing baitfish and slicing fins. It's prime fishing season in the Gulf of Chiriquí, and the tuna bite is on. This is panama sport fishing at its best.
You're in Panama, a true angler's paradise. The Gulf of Chiriquí along Panama's Pacific coast holds one of the most prolific saltwater fisheries in the world. A perfect combination of undersea structure, strong ocean currents, and nutrient-rich water within the Gulf creates a fertile aquatic habitat that sustains a remarkable diversity of marine life—including 20 species of highly prized gamefish.
The boat creeps within casting distance of the chaotic scene. You're handed a heavy-duty offshore rod rigged with a feisty live blue runner bridled to a thick-gauge circle hook. That’s a fancy way of saying you’re well-equipped and ready for the fight.
Twelve months of the year, epic numbers of resident species like roosterfish, kingfish, and cubera snapper can be caught within the sheltered inshore waters of Chiriquí. And just offshore, droves of ocean-roaming pelagic species like dorado, yellowfin tuna, and marlin move into the Gulf like clockwork, providing seemingly endless opportunities for big-game-crazed saltwater anglers to catch a fish of a lifetime.
It's no wonder the Spanish named the country "Panama"—a word from the native Kuna Indian language that means "Place of Many Fish," or "Abundance of Fish."
You lob the bait into the center of the blitz. Within seconds, there's an explosion at the end of your line and the reel starts screaming. The rod bends deep into the grip as you lean into the fighting harness. Fish on.
Much of Chiriquí’s unspoiled aquatic wealth is due to the strictest fishing regulations of any country in Central America. The Panamanian government forbids the large-scale commercial use of long lines and seine nets within the Gulf, and all billfish species are protected through a mandatory catch-and-release policy. It's amazing that a fishery of this caliber still exists today. It truly is a place to be cherished.
Just 12 miles offshore from Panama's mainland, the Chiriquí National Marine Park stretches across a chain of 25 islands, harboring networks of coral reefs and thriving populations of tropical fish, sea turtles, and manta rays. The rugged, volcanic islands, with their coconut palms and white sand beaches, are home to howler monkeys, iguanas, tiger herons and other tropical terrestrials like the paca.
It's twenty minutes into the fight and you've tamed the torpedo-shaped beast. Line-ripping runs have given way to a dogged match of tug-of-war. Pump, reel, pump, reel. Every muscle in your body fires, your predatory instincts ignite, and the battle is won.
It's pristine, remote, and wild. No development, no marinas or shops, and very few tourists—tropical paradise as it should be. While most of the islands in the national park are uninhabited, Isla Parida, the largest island in the chain, is home to Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge, THE place to stay to intimately experience the world-class sport fishing the Gulf of Chiriquí has to offer.
Looks like it's sashimi for dinner tonight. You earned every ounce of that sweet, succulent flesh. Today was yellowfin tuna. Tomorrow, black marlin. The next day... maybe roosterfish, snapper, or blue-finned trevally. Who knows what will end up on your line in these rich Panamanian waters.
Originally developed as a vacation home by Captain Shane Jarvis and his family, Sport Fish Panama is now an all-inclusive private fishing lodge, complete with luxury accommodations and daily chartered inshore and offshore fishing adventures. While the remote island getaway is completely "off-the-grid," it has all the necessities—solar power, filtered water, hot showers, high-speed Wi-Fi, a private chef, and of course, an open bar.
When you stay at Sport Fish Panama, all of the best fishing spots in the Gulf of Chiriquí are only a short boat ride away. That means less time traveling and more time on the water doing what you love. World-famous places like Hannibal Bank, Isla Ladrones, Isla Montuosa, Isla Secas, and Isla Coiba are all on the itinerary, and Capt. Shane Jarvis knows where to go on any given day for the hottest action.
Mere steps away from the Lodge’s doorstep, the rich inshore fishery of the Gulf of Chiriquí provides endless entertainment when the offshore bite is slow—or if you simply want to hook into the iconic roosterfish or hard-fighting amberjack.
If there are any non-anglers in your group, some of the best snorkeling, beachcombing, and wildlife viewing can be had among the many islands of Chiriqui National Marine Park.
Sport Fish Panama is the only private island fishing lodge in all of Panama, and they host only one group at a time. It's just you, people you care about, the chill pace of island life, and the best saltwater fishing Panama has to offer. Thanks again for showing the Huk team one heck of a time.
Ready to take your angling to the next level? Get equipped with high-tech fishing gear for your next trip. Be sure to add our quality fishing shirts, pants and shorts, fishing gaiters to your Panama fishing gear list.