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Pesca Panama
3699 Lower River Road
Youngstown, NY 14174
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Fishing Report - 5/6/16

This week we were joined by some old friends of Pesca Panama, Bill Huelsenbeck and Tom Keller along with some new ones. Andy Enos, Russ Saunders and Ted Levine, all first time Pesca fishermen. They came down to Panama this past weekend and joined me on a quick 35 minute flight to David, Panama, only a few miles from the marina in Pedregal where we are based. In short order we were off running down the Chiriqui River toward the Pacific Ocean, and whatever adventure would find us.  We caught up with our mothership Hannibal, anchored in a set of protected islands, stowed gear, had lunch and got ready for a week of fishing.  In the morning we were joined by veteran Pesca anglers Bill Hueslenbeck and Tom Keller who have enjoyed our operation for many years. We made the run out to the continental shelf where Hannibal Bank and a few other islands provide perfect structure to attract schools of migrating yellowfin tuna and other gamefish.  Once in the vicinity of the shelf, it didn’t take long to find the tuna. With the birds and porpoise pointing the way, we were soon into some hot action chasing and catching tuna. Ted, a seasoned angler and former Florida head boat captain and I were fishing together. He wasted no time pulling a nice 100lb yellowfin to the boat. It was my turn a few minutes later with a smaller fish in the 80lb class. We enjoyed fast action for the rest of the morning and caught seven tuna on live bait, including a double header on a couple of 150lb beasts.  Andy and Russ were also in on the action and each caught tuna that were well over 100lbs. Bill and Tom spent most of the morning traveling as they had an early morning flight and a long ride out the river and to the bank, but managed to get there in time to get in on the feeding, exploding fish. By early afternoon the action had slowed and we started to make our way back in towards our anchorage to meet our 80’ lodge, the motor barge Hannibal. The wind had picked up and it was time for happy hour, Irina’s famous pre-dinner snacks, and reliving the day’s action.

The week started out inclemently, with rain all night and until noon on Tuesday.  Ted and I headed to a remote set of islands with hopes of catching a cubera or two, and along the way we caught enough bonito to fill the tuna tubes. We fished live bait and cast a few lures around the islands and shorelines.  Ted caught a couple of white tip sharks and an amberjack. He also had a nice cubera on the line, but lost him in the rocks.  I caught a small tuna inshore casting a stickbait toward the rocks, and took a nice albacore on a jig. Tom and Bill were fishing with Capt. Tomas and caught roosterfish, mullet snapper, cubera, a white tip shark on live bait, and a big blue jack that destroyed a small bonito. Andy and Russ tried trolling for wahoo and brought a nice one to the boat where the hook pulled.

After the rain passed, the high pressure moved in and the sky cleared. The humidity dropped and we enjoyed a beautiful evening on the barge moored just north of Coibita.  On Wednesday morning there were blue skies and calm seas. Ted and I headed out in search of cubera snapper. The calm water made perfect conditions for topwater fishing and I caught two nice cubera and a jack crevalle on poppers. I also lost two nice fish on topwater. Ted caught a beautiful cabrilla, a type of grouper, a large bluefin trevally, and a couple of jack crevalle while fishing live bait.  Between fighting fish we enjoyed watching an endless aquatic show starring sea turtles, schools of colorful reef fish like trigger fish, small jacks and snapper, schools of bonito and milkfish, a large hammerhead shark, and a sailfish that was momentarily interested in my popper.  After lunch I switched to a butterfly jig and caught two albacore, several yellow snapper and a mullet snapper and hooked and lost another cubera and a wahoo. Ted continued to work live and cut bait for a variety of bottom fish.  Bill and Tom ran offshore to Hannibal bank to chase tuna and had a banner day catching 100 - 120lb tuna on live bait. Bill had the largest tuna of the day that was estimated to be right at 200lbs by the keen eye of Capt Tomas. They also encountered a huge school of jack crevalle that were running with the porpoise and caught over 60 fish on poppers. Andy and Russ stayed inshore and caught a variety of species including roosterfish, cubera snapper, horse eye jack and jack crevalle.  We all enjoyed a splendid day on the water in this remote area at the southern extreme of Central America with calm seas, sunny skies and over 20 mile visibility and hardly another boat in sight. We returned to Coibita to meet the Hannibal and exchange stories of the days’ action over dinner and drinks.

On Thursday morning we left the barge to continue our search for cubera. The first order of business was to get bait, and we filled the livewell and tuna tubes in short order. We were catching blue runner, bonito and other baitfish on jigs and sabikis. As an added bonus we caught a half-dozen lane snapper of 2-3lbs on jigs. We ran south along the eastern island shores and started to work poppers in hopes of cubera. It didn’t take long to tie into a double header!  We continued to work our way westward fishing the many reefs and Ted caught a roosterfish that was 70-80lbs- one of the largest roosterfish catches I have ever witnessed!  We caught a few other fish including yellow snapper and a small tuna.  After lunch we ran offshore and encountered roving schools of tuna. We caught one in the 50lb class on live bait. After the activity slowed we went in search of another school and found an area where the porpoise had the bait wound tightly into a ball and the birds, porpoise and gamefish were eating their fill. After our great mate Chichi scooped a net-full of sardines from the middle of the bait ball that was trying to hide underneath our boat, we caught a dozen or so “schoolie” tuna of 10-40lbs and a few large bonito using light tackle.  It was Bill’s 70th birthday today and he was rewarded with another big tuna of close to 200lbs! They also caught another fish over 100lbs as they enjoyed the awesome sight of mother nature in full force with diving birds, jumping porpoise and charging tuna. Andy and Russ also caught some tuna and witnessed the hot action on the banks.

Ted went out solo on Friday morning to fish for grouper and while catching several snowy grouper on the deep drop Capt. Jose spotted two large dorado swimming nearby. It wasn’t long after the popper hit the water that the larger of the two fish ate the popper. And Ted, a seasoned Florida captain, was hooked-up with his personal best dorado, one that was close to 60lbs!!  Russ caught a broomtail grouper that looks close to 50lbs by my eye.  After spending the last morning of the trip fishing close to shore it was time to head back to the marina in Pedregal after five days at sea and time to start the journey home. We all shared a lot of laughs and fish stories, boasts and tall tales this week, and made some new friends. It was another awesome week in the wild and remote Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of Panama- one that will not easily be forgotten.  Come join us to experience this incredible action — we have some openings in early June, and the fishing is HOT! Give us a call at  716.868.4432 or 716.228.3222.

From all of us here at Pesca, thank you. 
Ted Merletti


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