Panama: Back in the Perlas
July 2, 2012 | 1972 Views
After a break in the city, the Provider is back in action. West Coast Fishing Club Panama is once again doing what seems to come most naturally… catching fish and having a good time. The location has changed since our last report. Fishermen who visited us during the Marlin Expedition 2012 in Coiba might as well have come to Las Vegas, Nevada for the National Finals Rodeo. The creatures we wrangled there, in their size, antagonism and general bellicosity of outlook, could just as well have been big, black rodeo bulls. Anyone fortunate enough to witness a 700 pound black marlin on the leader leaves with the same impression. The origin of the creature’s nickname, the bull of the sea, does not take long to understand.
Punta Coco sits at the southernmost tip of an isthmus projecting into the bluish green waters that surround Island del Rey. Isla Del Rey, or Island of the King, is the largest of the Perlas archipelago, a string of islands located in the Gulf of Panama, about 60 miles south of Panama City. The islands are tucked in waters protected by the horseshoe-shaped undulation that is the nation of Panama. The bottom of the horseshoe sits at its northerly extent, where the waters of the Panama Canal empty into the Gulf as they pass the city. To the west lie northern Panama and the Island of Coiba. To the east lies the southern border of Panama, where the nation meets Colombia.
This region is heavily forested and sparsely populated. It is the Darien Region, a national park; in many ways pre-Colombian. Its rainforests, home to indigenous populations, seem to stop time. It is where the Interamerican highway ends—the road that connects Panama with Canada, serpentining its way from Panama through Central America and Mexico, becoming Interstate 35 in Laredo, Texas traversing the great plains of the US before entering Canada at the border with Minnesota. There are villages here with names and stories that date to encounters with Conquistadors… to the Spanish conquest of the New World in the 1500s. There are also hellacious roosterfish, cubera snapper the size of refrigerators, and an offshore fishery so prodigious that it has been holding the attention of the angling world since the days of Zane Grey. From Punta Coco, the West Coast Fishing Club is perfectly situated to take advantage of all of this.
Punta Coco is the home base of the West Coast Fishing Club in Panama. It is a jumping off point for fishing adventure that is both epic and somehow magical. This is easy to say and if you didn’t know any better, the statement could be ascribed to trying to sell fishing trips. This is, after all, a blog produced by a fishing lodge. These statements, however, are more than semantics.
I was fortunate enough to have fished in the Perlas Islands at the invitation of Mr. John Richardson on numerous occasions. On the first trip, I was fortunate enough to catch a 45 pound dorado. I was floored. He told me, “That’s a nice one, but they get a lot bigger here.” On another occasion, we caught a 70 pound roosterfish, a gargantuan monstrosity of a creature. The mates had seen roosters like this before. It takes a lot to impress people who fish in Panama. Anywhere else in the world, a 70 pound roosterfish would make the front page of the Sunday paper. When is a 450 pound marlin average? When that’s the normal, average size of the fish that you catch. Pretty amazing, but think about it. The best thing about an average is that by definition half of the fish you catch will be that size or larger. Fishing in the Pearl Islands is magical. It is magical enough to prompt otherwise rational people to sell their automobiles and put all of their earthly possessions (aside from some of Alex’s shoes and dresses and a bag of my fishing gear) into storage. How good is the fishing in Panama? Really, really good. I now have to categories of fishing story—“Panama” and “other”.
We are in the Perlas. We will be fishing hard and steady through the end of September. We will be catching marlin, turning loose roosterfish, and eating the freshest yellowfin tuna you can imagine. We will be having fun and are excited. Estimates of numbers of humpback whales we will see run conservatively into the hundreds. The fish here are monsters and we are ready. Come and see us. After all, fishing stories always seem best when you are part of them.