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Fishing Report - 1/8/16

One of the most overused and abused descriptive adjectives associated with fishing and all athletic activities is EPIC.  Every single week I have fished here in the offshore Pacific islands of Panama have been different over the past 16 seasons.  The variety of catchable species is what most sets this region apart from anyplace else I know of including the far Pacific.  We have our usual characters that exist here, and the seasonal pelagics that wander through, and the head scratchers - once a giant school of tripletail; herds of large tarpon here and gone; large milkfish; orca; a rare GT; the occasional striped marlin, and so on.  So we commonly have flurries of angling activity that could be called epic by visiting anglers.  But this week I found MYSELF phrasing my stories at day's end with the E word while describing shore and kayak fishing... for snook/robalo!
Fuller than life Mark Collins out of SoCal hauled in a diverse group that included his son Steve, Lawrence Alessio and son Angelo, Jack Santone, Big Michael Dyer, Bill Ayres, Paul Traficante, and ever smiling Brad Cooper.  These guys have been everywhere, have sailed a lot of ocean, dived crazy places, hunted and hiked a lot of high western miles, caught a lot of fish.  The stories never stopped. They teased each other like friends do, fished hard and long, and they explored - which just lights me up as you all know.  We had pretty good mixed bag fishing.  El Nino continues to tantalize with its climate changes - seas are often slick calm, black marlin have been hiding, sails are here early and yellowfin are too.  The captains found them on our first full day and introduced the Cali guys to our run and gun technique with spin and casting gear.  Biggest fish was on Tommy's boat where everyone battled 150lb class fish for almost an hour and a half.  Tuna are like people, some are stronger and tougher and healthier than others, and get out of bed with a bad attitude.  Larry fought 90lb fish, other 80s were taken, and Steve picked up a nice sail.
Over the days ahead many species were caught inshore and off.  We continue my ethic of playing in new areas, learning and experimenting.  Jonathan put some of the anglers on deep drop grey grouper, Paul took a 30 and a 45lb rooster, Angelo hooked a sail on a large surface popper, Nava helped troll up six roosters, Brad took a large cubera, and Bill nailed a larger one.  We continue to release ALL cubera, but one this week couldn't be revived, so graced our table (no one loses weight on our trips, we eat large portions of fish to keep energy up, and chef Irina keeps it all interesting).  We ate grouper, dorado, snapper, cubera, fresh caught lobster, cierra ceviche, and yellowfin tuna. We didn't spend too much time offshore other than to sample the wonderful variety because many of the guys were more interested in good inshore action rather than trolling for billfish.  Two of the days found half the group exploring rivers, possible because of a rare lack of substantial surf on the windward shores of the islands we frequent.  Watermen Mark and Steve kayaked, rolled, swam, cavorted into three rivers one day to look.  You can't read what's up past the first shore dune and tree line, you have to go look, which takes a substantial effort.  One was too small, one was highly tidal and cloudy and had many crocs, but one that I've been to connected to, a clear water (fresh/brackish/pure salt) tidal lagoon with a fishable shoreline and many deadfalls - and it was full of snook that had no clue what humans were and couldn't have cared less.  They swam up to the kayaks at times in pods of 10, chased lures and looked at the anglers.  The Cali boy hooked around 40, released 17, went back the next day with Bill, Brad and Paul, and took more, one pushing 40".  Epic?
At the same time others were out pounding jacks and trevally and mullets and more, and I was exploring on my own, found a river with three pods of 10 or so big snook over the first quarter mile, hooked 1, got spanked.  Next day they were gone, river was empty.  This is what I most love here other than the roosters/tuna/marlin/cubera ad infinitum - figuring out nature's mystical game of tides and species and moons and bait.  Where did they go?  Why?  I  tried up river into the deep jungle until a croc came off a bank, submersed, swam through a big sunken set of bushes TOWARDS me, coming fast.  I spun that kayak, pulled a Jet Blue take off, and got out of town, like right now!  Amazing how fear can help your paddling technique.  Went hunting in another big bay, found The motherlode, the stuff anglers fantasize about, the moment that leaves you thrilled out of your bathing shorts at the same time it saddens you with the knowledge you might never again match it.  I found large tightly packed pods of snook working a 75 yard cove tight to shore, exploding - I mean cartwheel exploding in waves on rainbait in a killing eating frenzy.  I hooked 38 snook, 17 on fly, largest 38", almot all cookie cutter heavy deep bodied 33", only 2 under 30", all within 1-10 feet of shore.  Every single one got up and walked into the sky.  One of the great fishing moments of my life.
Thanks guys for visiting - can't tell you strongly enough how much we all enjoyed you, your stories, energy, and laughter.  Can't wait to see you again, try some other rivers together.  And for those of you reading this, I've two open boats last week in January, moon will be right, snook should be ready. Please come join us to try this and all else that we do!
Warmest regards to all,
Capt Mike Augat


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