On November 16, 1998, I loaded my fishing gear into Capt. Algis “Negro” Garsia’s panga on the beach north of Pedasi and we promptly took off for nearby Isla Iguana. “Tuna” he said, pointing to the open ocean leaving the beautiful island behind. Birds were diving and water was churned up by yellowfin tuna. Casting poppers we had 15 tuna from 20 to 40 pounds in the boat within an hour. Too easy? This was my first trip to the AzueroPeninsula and I was very impressed with the fishing so far. We changed course and went to outer Frailes where we found more tuna but deep jigged and popped near the rocks for cherna, cubera snapper, amberjack and lots of bluefin trevally. As an outdoor writer/photographer I was getting some good photos but wanted some billfish. For the next two days we tried to avoid the numerous tuna as we fished for marlin. At the middle of the incoming tide south of Frailes a black marlin took a live black skipjack before we could bridle it with a large hook and jumped close to the stern with wild eyes and huge body pounding the water. It tossed the bait out with my small feather jig still attached. That was a great introduction to this fishery that had lots of fish but very few boats designed for sport fishing. In 1999 I wrote an article “Panama’s Tuna Coast Pangas” for Salt Water Sportsman Magazine and discovered that there was no name for this 50-mile coastline. I named it the “TunaCoast” not only due to the numerous tuna found nearly year-round but the presence of the Tuna Lab at Achotines.
Today, new lodges and better boats are attracting more anglers from many countries. For years I wanted to fish theWesterlyTunaCoastaround Punta Mariato but it is so remote there was no practical way to get there. That all changed in February 2006 when I fished with Capt. Jim Wiese who developed the Cebaco Bay Sportfishing Club (cebacobay.com) at Isla Cebaco. His fleet of 31’ Bertrams and fast 27’ Caribe Pro pangas makes fishing the Mariato region easy, safe and productive. Some of the biggest gamefish including huge cubera and roosterfish are found in these deep waters that run close to shore as well as black marlin that concentrate on the Aguja Reef. You can fish for a week here and not see another boat. Evenings are spent relaxing on the 110’ mothership “CebacoBay” in a calm, scenic anchorage. Live bait is caught at night for the next days fishing but popping and deep jigging are very effective methods for a variety of fish. It’s not unusual to catch 20 to 30 species during a typical week offshore and inshore. After all these years theTuna Coast is one of my favorite places to fish in the world and I’ve fished in 18 countries.
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The Roving Angler