Shores of Panama cover by Grant woodgate

There’s nothing more exciting for a traveling fisherman than to explore new locations, and discover new marks and hopefully land some fish in the bargain. So after looking at some potential spots I had seen on google earth over the last couple of years, I decided on taking the chance and heading for this new location not knowing if it would be productive or not!

Fishing places you already know certainly has its advantages. You will have your favourite spots and know when they fish best etc, and don’t need to waste time doing the ground work but, the excitement of exploring new fishing locations always gets my imagination going, wondering how it’s going to be, researching what species are possible and finally deciding what tackle I will need to take.

With the increasingly difficult airline regulations and prices for excess luggage, I decided on taking one light tackle set up together with a heavier casting lure rod and, as always, pockets full of lures! Knowing there would be no tackle shop on hand, I needed to make sure I had everything I would possibly need; from spare line, through to swivels, hooks, leaders etc and of course as few clothes as possible not to waste any valuable tackle space!

I would be getting about with a rental car for most of the days and was told by a contact from the area that a 4 wheel drive would be essential to pass through the river beds, streams and creaks on my way along the rugged coastline. So, after picking up my car in the closest town, I headed of to my destination. I had installed co-pilot on my mobile so was confident I should have no problems finding my way. That was until it sent me of into the middle of nowhere claiming I had reached my destination!

I’m not sure if it was a network problem but, anyway, as there was no sign posts I found my way the old fashioned way by stopping and asking directions whenever I came across someone. After arriving at my accommodation, I was keen to get out and cast a few lures.

After my drive down the coast I soon realized the importance of a 4WD. Not only did I need to pass through many creeks, but the mountainous terrain meant driving up and down the steepest of mud tracks to get along the coastline. It didn’t help matters that the brakes would make a disturbing shaking noise on descents but worked fine on level ground!

I only had a short time before dark so ended up chucking a few lures out on a slippery reef I found on the way back. I had also spotted a potential way to one of the locations I had found on google earth. I had named it the fingers, as it had a series of finger like points stretching out into deep water! The next morning I set off in the dark heading for as far as the track goes. I had no idea before the trip if this spot would be accessible, as you can only see so much from google earth maps.

With a big dropping tide, I headed down a beach to reach the point I had hoped to fish. 

As I drove onto the beach in the middle of nowhere and felt the tires digging into the sand I thought I had made a big mistake! But, keeping a good speed I made it to the harder stuff and just hoped it would start ok when I needed to leave for the incoming tide.

I was excited to find that the rocks were possible to get out to so made my way around the point.

The waves were big and out on the fingers of rock I watched as big sets crashed through meaning I would need to give 100% concentration at all times. This swell was coming from a long way away and meant huge sneaker sets every 15-20 minutes. Fortunately, the next days were set to ease off with smaller waves with each passing day.

It’s certainly exciting trying out new ledges and looking for good potential spots. Mornings are generally the most productive fishing for me and soon after changing to my light tackle set up a nice hard fighting Jack Crevalle smashed into my surface Enticer. I was reminded again just how powerful these fish can fight!

With so much coastline, fishing from shore is a real challenge and often about patience, perseverance and of course finding some productive spots. As the morning got quiet with the sun high I put on some bait to catch a couple of smaller Snapper for dinner. The plate sized fish really seem to be the best eating, and although I release most the fish I catch, I do enjoy taking one home for dinner!

The next day was spent exploring the fingers further. So many spots looked good but just didn’t produce, so after finding a nice mark with churned up water and current between two rocks, my adrenaline was soon pumping as an extremely powerful blue fin Trevally aggressively chased down my top water Enticer connecting with it on about the third attempt. You really know when a fish wants the lure, as they will continue to chase when they miss the lure that’s moving erratically across the surface.

They fight every bit as hard as GT’s and Crevalle and I was certainly thankful for a strong leader as I felt it scraping against the rocks when the fish dived hard for the reef. After changing the leader, not 5 minutes had passed and I was into another! These fish not only fight hard but are real beauties with there flecked blue markings. I decided to keep one as these fish are very good eating and would last me for most of the week! I had all my provisions for the trip and needed to make the food last!

As the tide turned I thought it was best to leave as I had visions of being stranded on the beach with the tide pushing up fast. When I’m fishing alone in isolated spots I try to take every precaution. Marine radio, Emergency beacon and of course small flotation jacket that also helps if you fall hard.

For me the flotation jacket is the most important piece of equipment and really can save your life if your in strong seas and get injured! I now wonder why I fished so many years without one! I guess coming from surfing I felt confident on the rocks and didn’t even think of it. But you just never know what can happen and it’s really not that uncomfortable to wear.

As the swells went down the next day, I took the opportunity to go out by boat and get dropped on a small group of rocks a few kilometres out. It was a low tide only spot as high tide would see them covered up. Maybe it was because it was the middle of the day, but fishing was slow.

I cast long and hard and was eventually hit by a passing Jack Crevalle,  a fish that can can often be seen patrolling up and down the reefs. The tide was rising fast and it was already time to go! The guys had been spinning and popping from the boat, and I was surprised to hear that they also hadn’t done so well and didn’t get a hook up.

Some days are like this they told me, shrugging their shoulders and, after another unproductive session out on the rocks I decided to stick to the shore fishing! I’m sure on another day it could be amazing fishing and if I ever return I will be sure to give it another try, as the chance of fishing into deeper water is always exciting as you never know what might turn up!

The following days I headed for the fingers of reef that were situated between two beaches, and allowed me to fish into a about 2-5 meters of water. The mornings were now beginning to be higher tides leaving no possibility to drive down the beach, but instead meant a long but enjoyable walk to the point. Upon arriving at daybreak I cast over the sand near to one lone rock. Not two cranks of the reel handle and something took the lure!

As it started peeling off line and heading out I felt I was well positioned to land the fish what with the sandy bottom. Unfortunately that was short lived as the fish slipped the hook leaving me wondering what the heck it was!

It’s always a good idea to cast to some structure on an otherwise sandy beach as fish do tend to hunt in these areas and early morning big fish will often stray along the beaches. With the sun rising I headed around the point where I managed to get into some more good sized bluefin trevally again. Early mornings and the Enticer Minnow really seemed to bring them up from the reef. These Jacks and many other predatory fish can often be found close to the points ready to ambush baitfish in the backwash!

I really enjoy catching Jacks, but when in my next session after hitting another two good sized ones, I knew it was time for a change of venue. The next day I tried a large estuary around 40 minutes away where you needed to get dropped by a boat to get to the mouth! The tides were ferocious and the estuary filled up so quick it had me running back to keep out of the strong cross currents.

The boat driver spotted a huge crocodile on the way which was the first I knew about crocs and alligators being around!

In part 2 I find a beautiful small estuary to target Snook, and go in search of some more big Jacks from the rocks!

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