Panama: Wide open and in super high definitionMay 15, 2012
Trip 4 of the West Coast Fishing Club’s Expedition Marlin has picked up where the first three weeks left off. The fishing has been headlined by hoards of yellowfin tuna crashing about the surface on bait balls and by good sized marlin, both blacks and blues.
Joining us aboard the Provider are Bob Frazier and his wife Isis fishing aboard the Sula Sula and JB and Diana Rupert aboard the San Miguel and Catherine Martin and Lynn Sharettes fishing on the Hooker. JB and Diana are veteran salmon anglers who have spent quite a bit of time at the northern lodges. They have also experienced quite a bit of marlin fishing in places such as Mexico and Hawaii. We are glad to have them aboard. Bob and Isis have traveled and fished around the world in search of billfish and giant tuna. Catherine, an world record holder, and her husband Ralph Martin are old friends of ours from Alabama. They are about as friendly and down to earth as people come and it is good to see them in Panama. Lynn is Catherine’s fishing buddy who caught her first sailfish this week.
Also on the trip are Carlo Wein of Alterna Films and his partner Byron Kopman. They traveled down to Panama bringing with them super high definition camera equipment and the hopes of capturing on film some of the great marlin fishing we have experienced. Stated simply, they picked a really, really good time to come.
On the first full day of fishing, I joined Jessica and Byron and Carlo with Captain Donar to film the action. As we were bait fishing, we received a report from Captain Junior that they were on the tuna. Donar put her to the pins and we arrived upon a spectacle of tuna carnage… Massive schools of yellowfin tuna were ravaging balls of bait they had pinned against the surface. Tuna, some of them upwards of 200 pounds, were clearing the water as they gorged themselves on the hapless bait. Carlo and Byron readied the video cameras as Jessica captured still images.
Donar backed the Abundancia right up to a ball of bait so thick that Mate Richard was able to scoop three dozen or so kujinua (blue runners) and trigger fish in a bucket. We hooked them up to circle hooks and began catching tuna one after the other as soon as the bait hit the water. The yellowfin were swarming about like neon torpedoes, bent on gluttony and consumption. Diana fought a big yellowfin– a 200 pound fish– for an hour only to have the fish break off next to the boat. Bob aboard the Sula Sula really caught some nice fish too. It was an incredible spectacle, the ocean alive, water boiling with life– bait, dolphins, tuna, and birds by the hundred.
Carlo and Byron captured some incredible tuna footage on cameras that shoot 300 frames per second. Watching the tuna crash through the solid, whirling mass of bait in slow motion was incredible. Tuna shooting in at 30 miles per hour, bait being slung ten feet into the air, wriggling as it is projected skyward. Fish crashing through the ball, above and below water, some with mouths agape, others with hapless kujinua hanging out of their mouths. Simply incredible… I cannot wait for the video. Jessica’s photos are wonderful above the water and below.
Day two brought a return to marlin fishing. We were a chase boat, getting into position to film and photograph the other boats if they were to hook up. We decided that it would be a good idea if we fished as well. The addition of another boat fishing would not only increase our odds of catching marlin by 33%, but also just seemed to make sense. After all, life is too short not to go fishing as often as you get the chance.
With the photographers on board, I would be the angler. We adjusted our gear to use 80 pound tackle with heavy drag. This would allow us to put heat on the fish and get them to the boat quickly. This would not only result in better condition upon release, but would also make for more acrobatic displays near the boat. This was our intent. I asked Donar to drive the boat aggressively and I would do my best to keep up, reeling to keep the slack out of the line as we reversed.
Once we arrived, we caught bait quickly and Richard soon bridle rigged the bonito to a circle hook. Before we could even get the line into the outrigger the clicker sounded. We gave it free spool for a few seconds and threw it into gear. As soon as we came tight, a monstrosity of a black marlin jumped away from the boat about 40 meters from us. I climbed into the fighting chair and began reeling. The fish fought up top for the first two minutes, jumping toward the boat and clearing the water. The agility and acrobatics of such a large and powerful creature are both counter intuitive and amazing.
Carlo and Byron and Jess were on the mark. As the fish would rise toward the surface, indicated by changes in the angle of the line’s intersection with the ocean’s surface, Donar and I would call out that it was about to jump. The fish fought deep for 15 minutes, before coming to the surface. We almost had the leader three times, before Richard was able to grasp it. The put on an amazing show (the video is astounding). We tagged and released the fish, which was as big around the shoulders as an oak tree. She was 600 pounds.
No sooner had we released this fish than we heard that the Sula Sula had a nice black near the leader. It was Bob fighting the fish stand-up, with Mate Andres reaching over the teak covering board to grab the leader. The fish went into the air on a series of jumps in close to the Sula Sula that were captured by the guys on film. The fish was big, 600-650 and was released in good condition.
Shortly thereafter the San Miguel hooked a small black that jumped and thrashed through the air, before escaping the hook.
At about 2:30 the bonito in our left rigger was accosted. Donar saw the fish before it ate and got ready. After missing the fish once, it returned and consumed the bait. After 5 or seconds of free spool, we threw the reel into gear and were hooked up to 500 pound blue. She jumped and crashed, grey hounding at the boat before jumping away from us. The fish flung itself into the air and we got the leader within 10 minutes, before it once again pulled away. We put a lot of drag on the fish and got her back up for some pictures and a healthy release.
This was a day I will not soon forget (an not just because my back and arms are sore from playing tug of war with sea monsters). We were fortunate to get on the fish and ready with some incredible photographers wielding contraptions so advanced that part of me believes that their cameras are from the future. We believe that they were the first videographers in the world to get this sort of footage on a RED (brand, not color) camera. It is stunning. Jessica’s photos are incredible. As soon as I get back the city I am going to print some of them out to use as Christmas cards, thank you notes, and post cards– the list will grow as I think of more reasons to send them to my friends and family.
It was a good day. We are thankful. It is good to be here. I cannot wait until we have the video.
Today was a day that only one dreams of. I managed to photograph 4 Marlin today and see another amazing tuna feeding frenzy.
Take a look at the shots below!
Huge storm clouds coming in.
The Day started off with Elliott and Captain Donar’s boat reeling in a nice 600 pound Black Marlin!
Elliot’s Blue Marlin gave us an amazing show.
Nice Black Marlin.
Alterna crew filming away!
Big Black Marlin, that Elliot was fighting
Elliott’s black Marlin!
Elliots Black Marlin!
Elliot giving an interview to Carlo and Byron after his second Marlin of the day!
San Miguel had a nice little Black Marlin on the line. Unfortunately it broke off.
Sula Sula fighting a nice Black Marlin!
Bait ball hiding out under our boat!
Massive balls of tuna feeding on bait!
Alterna film boys are doing a great job shooting.
Sula Sula and their nice big TUNA!
Diana working hard reeling in her nice tuna.
Alterna boys setting up their video cameras.
Today was amazing and so was yesterday.
Can’t wait till tomorrow!
Photographing from paradise,