Just a short ride from Panama Big Game Fishing Club, lies a string of desolate islands which hold highly prized gamefish. As we come closer to land I feel like I’m in the movie, Jurassic Park. These jungle-covered volcanic islands take you back in time. Many of them are not even inhabited. “Islas Secas” shouts Captain Antonio Isaza, aka Chombo. Secas is a small island in the Gulf of Chiriqui on the Pacific Coast of Panama.
We slow drift a pair of live baits, practically 15-20 yards from the island. I ask Chombo what species of fish roam these areas. I’m shocked to hear that not only roosterfish and Cubera snapper are prevalent. Mahi, wahoo and other gamefish come in very close to shore.
Mate, Maicol Rios explains to me, “You could be 10 yards from the rocks and the depth could be 40 feet and then move another 10 yards and down you go to 100 plus feet.”
Not long after we arrive, Chombo shouts – “FISH ON!” Our first game fish of the day is a roosterfish caught by friend Diego Toiran. After a couple of pictures and high fives, it’s time tokiss and release the Gallo, Spanish for Rooster.
About 10 minutes later, my reel starts to scream and it’s my time to catch my rooster, or is it?
Twice I had the misfortune to see my prized roosterfish eat the bait and not hook up. Seeing Diego catch his and seeing how good they fight, makes me want it even more. Oh well – not my time.
Hopping from Island to Island is breathtaking. I can’t believe there are really places like this in the real world, not just the movies.
Captain Chombo takes us to another place and Mate Maicol hands me a spinner with a top-water popper. “Cast around that rock protruding out of the water,” he says.
In the corner of my eye I see what looks like a shark exposing its fin coming to attack. “Don’t let him in the rock!” shouts Captain Chombo. As I get a better look at the fish, I’m already nervous not to make a mistake and for him to beat me to the rock – it’s a massive Cubera snapper.
When Chombo tells me there’s only two ways this is going to unfold, catch or break off – he’s not kidding. I’m using a top of the line fishing reel and I have a lot of drag on it, but the only way to catch this monster is for the Captain to move the boat forward and with his help, I soon land this prized gamefish. It’s my first big Cubera and on a top-water popper and it’s estimated at 40-45 lbs.
After the release, the captain mentions something that really makes the day even brighter. “Captains in all the resorts got together and made a decision to release all Cubera snapper. We need to protect the ecosystem and this fish is vulnerable.”
Its places like the Panama Big Game Fishing Club and responsible captains who teach and spread the word about marine conservation. I’m very happy to have fished with such men. One day soon, I will go back to the real Jurassic Park.
Look for the complete experience on the trip to Panama in the Winter Issue of Guy Harvey Magazine!