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April 20, 2014

Panama Fishing Report - Big Yellowfin Tunas Arrive at Hannibal Bank! - March 2014

We hosted five great groups, and fished 17 days, in March 2014 at Propiedad de Paradise Lodge here in the heart of the Gulf of Chiriquí, Panama. The annual migration of Yellowfin Tuna here has officially has begun! Our clients had some great catches of some big Tunas down around Isla Jicarita and at Hannibal Bank. It wasn't always easy though...as we had some slow days along with the good ones. Just as it happen every year when the Tunas first show...they are a bit picky. The fishing overall was a bit slow except for the southern area of the gulf that was active with bait and feeding fish....down 20 miles south of Hannibal Bank near Isla Jicarita. It generally was worth the longer ride as the tunas there were not as picky as the ones we encountered at the areas further north that were hitting our live baits, jigs, and poppers!
 
Our first group consisted of a bunch of good friends and veteran travelling anglers...Kenny, Oliver, Kathy, Gary, Judy, Mary Beth, Myron, Robert, and Joan from California & Montana came to enjoy our private island lodge and see for themselves what the fishing experience was all about here in Panama. The group split up each day between both our boats the "TOP Cat" our 33' World Cat and the "Scandalous" our 25' SeaCraft. Captain Bartolo works with us when the second boat is needed. His vast experience and knowlwdge of the fishery here is a great asset to the lodge. The pictures pretty much speak for themselves as the group had a great time even though the fishing wasn't super hot everyday. We did get few nice YFTs offshore but most definitely had to work for them. We had best luck with live Bonitos as the Blue Runner weren't getting it done. We had some decent luck inshore with the Cuberas, Mullet Snappers, and the girls got their fill of Jack Crevelles one day at Isla Ladrones with Bartolo. We had a really great time with all these guys and wish Myron and Marybeth who own/operate Kibler Outfitting & Charter Fishing on Fort Peck Lake, Montana a great season! Thanks guys!! 
John Barnett brought his family down again to fish and stay with us for a couple of days, on the island, to try and get his son Robert hooked up on his first Yellowfin Tuna. We headed out of Boca Chica on the first day with the whole crew and headed strait to Isla Jicarita as that was where we had ran into decent Tunas the day before. Leaving from Boca Chica adds another hour to the boat ride to the spots offshore, instead of leaving directly from the island, so the ride down was a bit long...especially when we didn't spot any Tuna activity all the way down there. I decided to fish a submerged rock that usually is active until we heard on the radio something happening with the Tunas. It paid off as we had a good flurry of action. We caught & released a nice Cubera Snapper, a Blue Trevalle, a couple of decent Rainbow Runners, a couple of Mullet Snappers, and missed a monster Amberjack after Robert fought him for a good 20 minutes! We didn't hear anyone else into the tunas so we ran up by Hannibal Bank to see if we could spot some bird and porpoise activity to put us on the YFTs. Sure enough I get a good mark on the radar and a few miles away it's hound-dogging porpoises, diving birds, and busting Tunas! It didn't take long for some Live Action!. On the first pass we drop two live blue runners in front of the moving school and a minute later Wham....Wham! Both baits get inhaled! The clickers are screaming on both 50s. Johnny, my mate, lifts the lever and begins to reel in order to get tight and put the hook in the mouth of the tuna. And it goes slack. He spit the bait! As I slam the lever forward on my reel...it gets tight and the rod doubles over! "Everybody hold on!" and I jam the throttles for a good 5 seconds to get a little extra tension on the line and set that 10/0 circle hook good into the corner of the Tunas mouth. Johnny puts the harness on Robert and the fight is on! An amazingly short time later young Robert has got the fish boatside, to the gaff, and it's a monster! We tape the fish out at 63 inches! 220#s plus and a great fish for Robert!! The next day the girls stayed at the lodge and we decided to stick around for some inshore fishing around the lodge and Isla Ladrones in search of Roosterfish. No such luck for us with the Roosters but we did get 5 or 6 big Jack Crevelles as it was that time of year when they come in and take over around Isla Ladrones.  Another great time with the Barnetts! 
 
Rob and Star from South Florida we hosted next. These two were really pumped up about the getting down here to experience some Panama fishing as they are both avid anglers. Even though we had some good catches it seemed that the bite, not just with the tunas, really slowed down. Again, we made the ride down to Jicarita via Hannibal Bank to find the action but it was a bit more difficult in the three days we had with these guys as we had a bit of wind to deal with that made sighting the porpoises a bit harder. When we did put eyes on the activity and found the fish... Star strapped into the stand up harness and did battle with a couple of impressive YFTs! She had never used a harness before but learned very quickly how to balance her body weight against the drag pressure when the tuna was running, use her body weight to pull hard and turn the head of the fish, get the tuna a bit closer, and then down reel fast with short pumps to pick up line. Rob got his chance to bust a nice YFT on a big spinning outfit with a popper as well. My favorite rock, that was so productive the days prior with the Barnetts , was pretty much deadsville but we did get one a nice Cubera and a couple small Trevalles. All and all a great time with Star and Rob...we hope to see them back again!
Rob, Joe, Ken, Phil, Terry, Mike, and Keith were our next group. This motley crew of experienced travelling anglers from all over the US took over the lodge here for a few days just as the moon went full. I believe that as the moon switched the Tunas turned there attentions strictly to the huge clouds of squid they were feeding on and didn't really want to eat our baits. We did get a few shots, and got some nice fish, but the fishing got progressively harder as the days went by and was frustrating as hell seeing Tunas busting all around you and not being able to get them to eat! Then when we switched to try our hand at inshore species it was just as tough. Joe Rava did get one decent Cubera but inshore action seemed off. Mike Biffel was Tuna King for the trip as he got nice 150# plus Tuna with Bartolo one day on the "Scanadlous" and another with me on the "TOP Cat" that he fought all the way to the boat without a harness! Strong like Bull! Another highlight of the trip we were lucky to get a Pacific Sailfish double header out at Isla Jicarita! Two Sailfish ate our liveys that we were dropping in front of a pod of Porpoises. Robert Holt and Keith Silverstein brilliantly worked the two big Sails simultaneously passing over and under each other with the rods and we managed to tag, photo, and release both perfectly! As we were casting on Bonitios for bait one day down by Jicarita....some excitement as Robert Holt had a monster Bull Shark explode on a hooked Bonito he was fighting. I thought it was a marlin at first as I've seen them hunting around the schools of Bonito down there before but ended up breaking off the shark shortly thereafter. Bartolo and his crew got a couple nice tunas on jigs on the final days but again it was tough to get the tunas to eat even though they were thick and busting all around us!. We had a great time hosting these guys that were able to keep their cool even though the bite was a bit off. Thanks for your patience guys!!
We got a one day charter out of Boca Chica in with brothers Charlie and Jeffrey Joyner, Dick, his wife, and Dick's son Matt. We went out chasing the Tunas down around Jicarita and found them but couldn't get them to eat poppers or live baits. More frustration!  We wound up with a nice Roosterfish release for Matt, a big Horseeye Jack ,and a monster Needlefish when we switched up to fishing inshore. Looking forward to fishing you guys again in July for another chance at those YFTs! 
The last group was returning clients Steve, Johel, Carlos, and Lester. It was really more of the same tough bite with the Tunas but we did get a few. Poppers seemed to work the best because our live baits weren't getting the job done. These guys wanted to get into the Tunas worse than I did.  And although it was frustrating at times, we had a great time, as these guys are always joking and laughing! We struck out down at magic rock as the sharks moved in to systematically eat all our live Bonitos! But when we moved out away from Jicarita, in search of the Tunas on the last day, we found a monster area of feeding Tunas that were inhaling every one of the artificials that we threw at them! For that one afternoon it was truly a red hot bite which made up in part for the two slow days prior. We would up with a dozen nice Tunas all on spinning outfits with poppers and waxwings! Great way to end the trip with another super cool bunch of guys!
Enjoy the pics...   
Capt. Shane Jarvis 
 
Propiedad de Paradise Lodge
Isla Paridas, Panama
Panama Cellular Phone 011-507-6675-7191
 
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