Shore Fishing in Panama – Part 1

There’s nothing more exciting for a travelling fisherman than to explore new locations, 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 a chance and heading for a new location – Panama – not having a clue whether it would be productive or not.


Fishing places you already know certainly has its advantages. For example, you will have your favourite spots and know when they fish best and you 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, for this trip I decided on taking one light tackle set up together with a heavier casting lure rod. And, as always, pockets full of long casting 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 and leaders etc. Of course, I also packed as little clothing as I could get away with so as not to waste any valuable tackle space!

Getting Around

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 four wheel drive would be essential to pass through the river beds, streams and creeks on my way along the rugged coastline. So after picking up my car in the closest town, I headed off to my destination.

I had installed CoPilot on my mobile, so I was confident I should have no problems finding my way. That was until it sent me off 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 got back on track the old fashioned way: by stopping and asking directions whenever I came across someone.

After my drive down the coast I soon realised the importance of a four wheel drive vehicle. 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 my confidence, however, that the brakes would make a disturbing shaking noise on descents (although they worked fine on level ground).

On my journey, I had spotted a potential route to get 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 out as far as the track went. 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 the beach to reach the point I hoped to fish.

As I drove onto this beach in the middle of nowhere and felt the tires digging into the sand, I suddenly thought I had made a big mistake. But, fortunately, by keeping a good speed I made it to the harder stuff and just hoped the vehicle would start with no issues when I needed to leave with the incoming tide.

I was excited to find that it was possible to get out onto the rocks and around so I began to make my way around to the point. The waves were big and out on the fingers of rock I watched as big sets crashed through. This swell was coming from a long way away and meant huge sneaker sets every 15-20 minutes. This would mean that I would need to give 100% concentration at all times. Fortunately, the swell was meant to ease off the next day, with smaller waves with each passing day from then on.

It’s certainly exciting trying out new ledges and looking for good potential spots. Mornings are generally the most productive fishing sessions for me and soon after changing to my light tackle set up, a nice hard fighting jack crevalle smashed into my Enticer Minnow. I was reminded again just how powerfully these fish can battle! The Enticer range are excellent lures for jack crevalle and other species of jack like bluefin trevally. They are long casting lures that enable you to cover a lot of ground and can be fished in a variety of ways to stimulate the predatory jacks into striking. 


The Fishing Hots Up


With so much coastline, shore fishing in a place like Panama is a real challenge and often all about patience, perseverance and, of course, finding some productive spots. As the sun rose higher and the morning’s fishing quietened down, 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 sometimes taking one home for dinner!


The next day was spent exploring The Fingers area further. So many spots looked good but just didn’t produce. However, after finding a nice mark with churned-up water and a current running between two rocks, my adrenaline was soon pumping as an extremely powerful bluefin trevally aggressively chased down my topwater Enticer lure, connecting with it on the third attempt. You really know when a fish wants the lure, as they will continue to chase even after missing it multiple times. Fishing topwater lures for bluefin trevally like the Enticer Minnow can definitely stimulate these reactions!

Bluefin trevally fight every bit as hard as giant trevally and jack 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 five minutes passed before I was into another! These fish not only fight hard but are real beauties with their blue-flecked markings. I decided to keep one as these fish are very good eating and would last me for most of the week.

As the tide turned, I thought it was best to leave as I had begun to have visions of being stranded on the beach. When I’m fishing alone in isolated spots, I try to take every precaution. Equipment like a marine radio, emergency beacon and a small flotation jacket can all help you out of a challenging situation.

For me, the flotation jacket is the most important piece of equipment as it can literally save your life. 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 could happen when shore fishing and the better quality jackets are really not that uncomfortable to wear.


Trying the Deeper Water


As the swells dropped down the next day, I took the opportunity to go out by boat and get dropped off on a small group of rocks a few kilometres out. These were fishable only over a low tide and covered up over high water.

Maybe it was because it was the middle of the day, but the fishing was slow. I fished hard using long casting lures and was eventually hit by a passing jack crevalle, a species that can can often be seen patrolling up and down the reefs.

The tide was rising fast and it was soon 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 hadn’t gotten a hook up.

‘Some days are like this,’ they told, me shrugging their shoulders. After another unproductive session out on the rocks, I decided to stick to the shore fishing. I’m sure that on another day it could be amazing and if I ever return I will be sure to give it another try. The opportunity to fish into deeper water is always exciting as you never know what might turn up but, on this occasion, there was nothing doing.

Over the following days, I headed for the fingers of reef situated between two beaches. These allowed me to fish into about 2-5 meters of water. The mornings were now beginning to coincide with higher tides, leaving no possibility to drive down the beach. This instead meant a long (but enjoyable) walk to the point.

On the first day, I arrived at daybreak and decided to cast over the sand near to one lone rock. Not two cranks of the reel handle later, something took the lure. As it started peeling off line and heading out to sea, I felt I was well positioned to land the fish what with the sandy bottom. Unfortunately, my confidence was abruptly dented 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 big fish will often prowl along the beaches in the early morning, checking out these areas. 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 (other predatory fish) can often be found close to the points ready to ambush baitfish in the backwash. In these situations, using long casting lures gives you the option to cover a lot of water and seek the predators out. I really enjoy using lures for bluefin trevally and they’re great fun to catch but, after hitting another two good sized ones on my next session, I knew it was time for a change of venue.

In Part 2, I target snook in a beautiful small estuary and go in search of some more big jacks from the rocks!