Panama Trip Preparations
I am very excited that Spring is here, its time to break out the shorts and T Shirts and prepare for our 4th annual trip to Panama. I really fell in love with the fishery and country back in 2009 when I was lucky enough to join a short notice trip with Kil, Peter Kim and Bret Baker. We went on to fish Panama a total of 30 days in 2010, learning a great deal about the offshore and inshore fishery and making contacts along the way.
In 2011, Raza, Peter, John and Reggie took 2nd Place in the Panama 33rd annual Yamaha Tournament with a massive #62 AJ on a Popper and we've been addicted ever since!
So are we ready for Panama ?
Now there is not a week that goes by where I don't get a live report from a friend, customer Captain or Lodge owner in Panama and recently a neighbor and former co-worker that moved his entire family to Volcan a town west of Boquete. All reports from the Captains to the Wife shopping at the fish market are positive for large tuna - I think we are in store for some very good fishing and large tunas and mahi this time of the year as well!
Jan at Alta Pesca and I speak weekly, he says the #100 tuna are just arriving, they will get bigger and bigger and hopefully we arrive in the midst of the big Cows.
We have landed legit #290/#300 Yellowfin (Allisons) there - its no joke and its not too late to start getting your body into shape, especially your back and legs. Panama run and gun fishing is demanding and its hot and humid there so be ready.
Monster Bull Mahi on a Salas 7X top water lure - a very exciting fight.
This year we have six boats running and perhaps even a 7th. We will assign boats based on requests and then logistics ie if a a good percentage of the group wants to catch a large Black Marlin, we will pair up guys with similar interests. Perhaps one or two of the boats will focus on live bait trolling until they get their Marlins and hopefully some massive tunas. All these close to #300 Yellowfin are taken on slow trolled live bait. When you troll a live Bonita at Hannible Bank you never know - you can get a Marlin or massive Yellowfin. You may encounter bait balls and schools of smaller tunas attaching on the surface to throw poppers and swimbaits.
Other boats will likely focus strickly on Jigging and Popping - more so the popping. Be sure to bring at least 10 lures that you have confidence in and can get good distance with. Fish tend not to be leader shy so #100 to #130 is fine and needed for the Cuberas.
Here is what I am bringing and I what I recommend:
(1) 350g~400g Jigging rod with PE 6 ~ PE 8, Salitga 40, Talica 16 size reel with #80 PE line. This will be used to jig in water 270' to 450'. This is for deep drop Grouper fishing.
(1) 150g to 250g Jigging Rod with PE 5 Shallow jigging is Amberjack, Snappers, Cubera, etc.
(1) 65g to 85g capabile light popping rod, Temple Reef STK 72M, 74MH, 7'6"H, Tuna Sniper 7'10", Magic Eye - paired with Stella 8K, Saltiga 4500H this will be your inshore rod and for throwing small baits to catch the Bonita for trolling.
(1) 100g to 180g heavy popping rod, Black Devil 200, GT Reefer 7-11, Smith WRC 80-35P, Racepoint 200, Tuna Sniper 8" paired with Stella 18K, Saltiga 6500H, Dogfight this will be your offshore popping rod for tangling with bigger Yellowfin, Snappers and Massive mahi.
If you are into live bait fishing and want the best chances of catching more baits on a sabiki rig, then I recommend (1) very light spinning rod for making bait with a sabiki rig if you intend to live bait fish. Bring at LEAST 5 Sabiki rigs that are constructed with #30 main line and #20 branch line. Also maybe 3 lighters ones. You are catching big runners on these rigs for the live well.
6 pcs Salas Surface Iron 6x (85g) or 7x (100g)
6 pcs Yo-Zuri Surface Bull 150 popper Pink, Flying Fish, Mahi 2 pcs each
2 pcs Yo-Zuri Bull 200 Popper Bright or Metallic Colors
Upgrade to Owner ST-66 hooks or 76 for Cuberas.
2 pcs Larger poppers for Cubera Snapper, Heru, Hammerhead, Strike Pro 8", 7 Seas.
Leaders #80/100/130 Fluor for popping and jigging, we do not find the fish to be that leader shy.
Extra spool of PE line in case you get spooled
2 Jigs 150g to 170g
2 Jigs 220g to 270g
2 Jigs 320g
2 Jigs 420g to 520g
2 packages CM Tackle Glow Squids one white one glow green
(cut head, put on leader above jigs - draws more strikes from Snappers and Groupers
no doggies down there to worry about)
Pliers, crimper, drag scale, gloves.
I prefer to hide from the sun vs using lots of suntan lotions which always get in your eyes when you start sweating on a fish. I recommend loose fitting 100% non cotton, "quick dry" or "wicking" materials.
Columbia makes a nice SPF 50 long sleeve shirt (do not get short sleeves) the long sleeve can be rolled up. Exoffico and others make nylon quick dry underwear, Aftco, Pelagic nylon shorts. All will dry the quickest if you sweat alot or want to jump in the water. A wide brim hat and/or visor. TWO (2) pairs of Sunglasses - one and a backup, its extremely bright in Panama this time of the year DARK lens like Costa 580 in Mirrow Blue are also recommended.
If you lose your only pair of sunglasses you will not be a happy camper.
Shoes: Personally I like Keens with the hard toe, but many guys wear crocs, I don't recommend flip flops for popping
Rain Jacket - is highly recommended, likely we will see a bit of rain on the water.
One of the most important things in Panama is to drink when you are not thirsty and drink until your pee is clear. Many including myself have become seriously ill due to dehydration. Its an issue there, I suggest powdered Gatoraid in small packets (available at Dicks and better sporting goods and camping shops). The boats will provide plenty of bottled water but it gets boring to drink 8 to 10 plain waters a day. There will be beer on the boats, I strongly advise having beer on the way back to the lodge after fishing has ended and not to drink excessively as it also leads to dehydration.
There is little if anything to buy at the lodge, and everything down to mixed drinks, wine and beer is 100% included. We will stop btw Panama City and the lodge for shopping and if you need any call brands of liquor you can get it cheap. We do suggest tipping the Captains/Mates 15 to 20% of the fishing fees and a very small tip for housekeeping. They will wash your clothes daily and clean your room, so important to take care of her. Otherwise tip the kitchen staff if you are happy with the way they treat you.
In Panama City I would budget a few hundred a day spending money per day btw. lunch, dinner, shopping and nightlife. Cuban cigars are real and totally legal in Panama, so we will hit a legit Cigar bar in our travels to take on some Cubans, maybe a few Dominicans. Taxis are reasonable but be sure to bring at LEAST $100 in small bills $1s. Do not bring a lot of hundreds as anywhere outside a Casino its a major hassle to get change they have a major conterfitting problem so shops are very reluctant to take your large bills and won't without delay.
On a single sheet of paper copy your DL and Passport, leave the passport in the hotel safe, carry the copy folded up on your person.
Call your credit card provider and let them know the dates you will be in Panama and using their card, same for ATM cards.
Make a photocopy of your passport, DL and any credit cards you are taking on the trip (front and back) therefore if you lose something you will have account and # to call. Keep your passport in room safe and carry the copy with you.
Do not wear expensive or excessive jewelry.
Keep everything in the hotel safe this includes iphones, ipads et al that are very tempting targets.
Make sure you have at least 6 months of time before your passport expires or they may not let you leave the US!!!
To the airports are being arranged, I can drive as many as Five (5) with luggage and rod tubes in the Sprinter Van. We will meet at the Hampton Inn off Chemical Road in Norristown, PA Thursday at Noon. From there we will drive to Newark Int. for the direct flight to Panama. I think we should be able to share rod tubes to min. checked baggage costs. I personally put my reels with out line in my carry on with my cameras. The spools get put in the checked luggage.
The lodge has no TV, but does have a computer/printer for public use and has WiFi. I would bring a small laptop computer for communication back home and DVD's or movies if you will suffer from TV withdrawal.