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Fishing Report - 6/21/16

This past week was the final week of our 2015-2016 season, but for the life of me I do not know why. The offshore fishing right now is as good as it gets, and for the handful of anglers that joined me on this last fishing trip, it will be remembered for a long time, possibly forever!

Jay Hould and Pat Moore, a couple of well-seasoned outdoorsmen from Montana shared a boat and Fred Jenkins joined me on the second boat for a beautiful week out in the Bay of Chiriqui, Panama where roving schools of yellowfin tuna and porpoise were gorging themselves on the plentiful bait fish in the area.

On Sunday we met the Hannibal which was already resting at anchor out in the Secas islands around noon, just in time for lunch. There was a firm breeze coming out of the WSW with a little chop and overcast skies. Good fishing weather in my book. Along the way we met some local divers that were catching lobster and bought a dozen for dinner.
After lunch the guys stowed their gear, changed and went out to catch bait and do a little inshore fishing before returning in the late afternoon for cocktails and dinner. Fred caught two nice barracuda, a couple of jack crevalle and a yellow snapper. Jay and Pat also caught a few jacks and yellow snapper. I was just finishing a few chores and was ready for a cocktail and some stories when they returned.

On Monday morning we left the Hannibal just after sunrise and headed offshore to chase tuna. It didn’t take long to catch our first tuna once we arrived at the tuna grounds. Just one cast of a popper to the first school of busting tuna encountered was all that was needed and after a relatively short fight, we had our first tuna on ice. Fred and I caught seven of the nine tuna that we hooked that morning, before moving off to search for bait. Once we found a huge ball of bait that filled our sonar screen with a variety of colors, our luck changed……for the better!

Fred was reeling in another bonito when a passing marlin found what appeared to be an easy meal and ate the five pound fish in one gulp. Much to Fred’s surprise he was now tethered to several hundred pounds of one of the oceans top predators by the thinnest of line, and a reel more suited to freshwater fishing. Fred did a great job fighting the magnificent fish for over an hour as we witnessed jump after jump before the strain was too much for the tiny reel and the line failed.

We continued to mark lots of bait and what we suspected were large tuna on the sonar so we stayed in the area, and fished bait on our heavy gear. Within minutes, we were into our second black marlin of the afternoon, and after 90 minutes of battle on stand-up gear we unhooked the great fish at the side of the boat and watched her swim away. My guess was that she weighed close to five hundred pounds, but who knows and what does it really matter? It was after all happy hour, and away we went.

Jay and Pat had their hands full all day long catching tuna, including one that took the two of them a couple of hours to bring to the gaff and would tip the scales at close to 180 pounds. Of the twelve tuna they caught that day, it was by far the largest and toughest. They also had an unusual encounter with a black marlin when one followed a 30 pound tuna right to the boat for all to see. I guess we’re not the only ones fishing for tuna!

On Tuesday morning we stayed close to the islands to fish for some of the many inshore species of game fish that inhabit the area and enjoyed a very comfortable day under the cloudy sky. Fred and I caught four mullet snapper and some nice jack crevalle and rainbow runner. Fred caught a small roosterfish, a silk snapper, a rock snapper, a bluefin trevally, and two nice amberjack. The larger of the two AJ’s would likely weigh well over sixty-pounds. I caught two nice cubera snapper. We also spent a few hours trolling lures for wahoo and Fred caught one nice one that we brought back for dinner. Pat and Jay also caught jack crevalle, mullet snapper, cubera and rock snapper. A torrential rainfall that would last all night long arrived at the Hannibal just a few moments before they did and they were instantly soaking wet. Fortunately for Fred and I, we were already enjoying cocktails in the salon as we watched their soggy approach.

In the morning, there was hardly a cloud overhead and after a nice breakfast of coffee, fresh fruit, omelet, bacon and toast we were all ready to head back to the tuna grounds. Once we got back to the tuna grounds, we quickly became busy with our fishy business and caught 9 tuna of the dozen or so that we had hooked. Most of the tuna were in the 40-70 pound range with a couple of fish pushing 120. Jay and Pat continued their lucky streak on tuna and caught seven tuna, including another big one that took 2 ¬Ω hours to bring to the boat just before sunset. Back on the Hannibal, she stretched the scale down to the 205 mark.

But the most excitement occurred when another marlin stole one of our fish! Captain Tomas was jigging with my light tuna setup spooled with plenty of 50 pound braided line, and hooked a smaller tuna. After a while, he passed the rod to me and in the process felt something strange and shouted “something hit the line”. When I started to fight the fish, I noticed that the fish was certainly fighting odd for a tuna. And when the line started to rise toward the surface, I thought “tuna don’t jump” just as a great marlin jumped completely out of the water and proceeded to run, jump and carry on for the next 15 minutes. This fish was quite a bit larger than the one I caught two days earlier and I knew I was seriously out-gunned. Fred and I took turns trying to wear down the beautiful fish that was now done with frolicking near the surface and was headed down to the deep, cool, oxygen rich water where he could fight us for hours. And in the end the rod was in my hands when the line snapped.

With all of the action on the tuna grounds, not one of us actually considered fishing elsewhere. We ran straight back to where we left off the day before and began looking for porpoise, birds and jumping tuna. They hadn’t gone far. They were not about to leave the vast schools of bait that now appear settled in the area. Throughout the day we caught another seven tuna and Pat and Jay had another six. There were also lots of bonito, rainbow runners and horse eye jacks to keep us amused between tuna.

On Friday, the last day of our fishing expedition, I stayed onboard the Hannibal now lazily pulling on the anchor somewhere near Boca Chica while the rest of the group headed back out to fish for the morning before it was time to gather their things and leave for the airport. As it turns out, I missed quite a lot with three nice roosterfish released. The largest was estimated to have been about sixty-five pounds! I’ll have to check with Fred, but at last count I think we had caught 21 different species between the four of us. It is truly an amazing place!



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