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Fishing Report - 5/28/17

Here we are again — the last week of our season and the fishing has been excellent. Again I wonder why it is over so soon! For some unknown reason, the influx of fishermen drops off after May despite all the incredible fishing that will continue for weeks. I spent the week fishing with my close friend Dr. Mike Pell, and we enjoyed the company of Shayne, Cory, Igor and Matteo aboard the Hannibal.

Doc and I pulled into Pedregal early Sunday afternoon and boarded our fishing boat along with Tomas our captain, and his brother Felix, our mate. We had enough daylight to load all of our gear and run to meet the barge at the mouth of the Chiriquí River, near Boca Chica. We had a few cocktails while we prepared our fishing gear to go offshore in search of tuna, and then sat down for a nice shrimp dinner with our fellow fishermen, who had already been fishing all afternoon. It was a little slow going this afternoon and the guys came back having caught a few jacks and some bait fish.

In the morning we all headed offshore towards Isla Montousa, where the tuna schools have been feeding. It was a slow morning, but in the afternoon the tuna surfaced and Mike and I caught 3 nice tuna in the 110 to 125 pound range, measuring 51 to 55 inches in length. Corey and Shane were fishing with Capt. Navas and they caught seven tuna. Capt. Jonathan ran our third boat and guided Igor and Matteo, who caught five tuna. The fish have been fighting very hard this year, most likely a sign of good nutrition and healthy fat stores and the fish we encountered on Monday were the largest of the week. Consequently, each of the three boats broke a rod while battling large tuna. We spent the night at Islas Secas, and enjoyed the freshest tuna dinner you could ever have.

On Tuesday morning we ran back offshore to chase tuna. Along the way we were looking for any floating debris harboring baitfish. Secas is a good anchorage, but has little to offer in terms of bait, so it was time to load the livewell. We found a small tree that was washed out to sea floating upside down with a large root ball intact offering excellent cover for the baitfish that were seeking refuge there. As we began to catch blue runners, we noticed that a small gang of dorado had also found the bait refuge. So we quickly exchanged rods and in seconds Mike and I each were fighting dorado. In a few minutes more they were flopping on the deck.

We were able to catch some bait and after the action slowed, we continued our search for tuna. We were chasing birds and porpoise and along the way I caught a small tuna on a popper. A little later and somewhere North of Isla Montousa, we encountered a large school of tuna boiling on the surface and our lives were totally consumed with catching and cleaning tuna for the next two hours or so. The tuna were boiling right next to the boat and we enjoyed non-stop action with four fish on within minutes of finding the school. A quadruple header…bordering on insanity…the excitement is hard to fathom as the baitfish are boiling out of the water while the ravenous tuna below are eating anything that moves. And into the mix, the dolphin, birds and fishermen were also trying to get their fill. The adrenaline buzz lasted for at least an hour while we were cleaning our catch and marveling at the awesome show of nature that we had witnessed.

We chased tuna for a little while longer, and then made our way to Playa Hermosa where we would spend the night aboard our floating lodge. The rain clouds rolled in just as we boarded the Hannibal and a steady rain began to fall cooling off the hot afternoon. Mary was ready to greet us with cocktails in hand, and we sat outside on the deck trading stories with the other fishermen as we downed a few libations. What a great day!

On Wednesday morning we decided to try to catch a wahoo and started trolling lures at a suitable pace to attract the speed demons that they are. After a short while we hooked and then lost a large wahoo when the steel leader broke. A little while later I caught a small wahoo and Mike landed a large ‘hoo of close to sixty pounds. While we were trolling we also caught a couple small tuna, an albacore and several jack crevalle. Later we were fishing live bait and poppers and caught lots of bluefin trevally and jack crevalle. I also caught a nice roosterfish and a small mullet snapper. Matteo and Igor were fishing jigs and poppers and caught three nice cubera, several blue jacks and crevalle, a dorado and a roosterfish. They also had a surprise inshore when they hooked and landed a nice sailfish. Corey and Shane also were trolling for wahoo and later fished inshore and caught blue jacks (aka bluefin trevally) and jack crevalle.

On Thursday, Mike and I headed offshore to chase tuna on our last day of fishing and we caught five or six tuna, with the largest fish around seventy pounds. The other boats also caught more tuna. By now everyone had caught plenty of tuna and had the sore arms and backs to prove it. It was overcast when we left the blue water offshore to start our trek back to the Hannibal and on to Pedregal the next day and then home. Despite the clouds and lingering rain showers, the visibility was excellent and you could see almost the entire Chiriqui coast, most of the islands in the Bay of Chiriqui, and Volcan Baru the extinct volcano home of Boquete looming in the distance. And when the sun set it was an incredible sight. The more time I spend fishing in this unbelievable paradise, the more I realize that I come here to enjoy the beauty and solitude of this place as much as for the awesome fishing.

On Friday morning we packed our gear and had a beautiful ride back on calm seas to civilization and the sleepy port of Pedregal. The other guys fished for several hours before following us in. I apologize for not knowing what they caught on Friday morning, as Mike and I left early to drive back to Panama City, stopping along the way in the beach town of San Carlos for a few days of golf and relaxation.

Until next time — Ted Merletti
Co-Owner Pesca Panama


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