Panama: Coiba, AwesomeApril 24, 2013
Down south in Panama, we’ve had some changes. Miss Alex has turned into Mrs. Alex and moved back to the United States. I myself have a new piece of jewelry for a certain finger on my left hand (the prospect of leadering giant black marlin has it hanging on a string around my neck) but have come back to Panama for the old tour-du-force type deal in the waters around Coiba Island. Joining the Panama team is Justine Dart down from the Outpost. Justine is as nice and hospitable as they come.
The Pacific Provider has transformed as well.
Preparing for the expedition, we took on provisions in the city. We purchased 96 metric tons of diesel. I didn’t know that a ton was unit used for purchase of such things. The liquor cabinets aboard the ship look like something out of the show, “Doomsday Preppers.” We bought every kind of booze you can imagine, so much so that it looks like we are preparing for the apocalypse. When our guys were loading the boat with provisions, they looked like a Panamanian episode of “The World’s Strongest Man,” with cases of Ron Abuelo rum substituted for three hundred pound rocks. We bought so much food and drinks that it showed up in our gallons of diesel per hour calculations on the 200 mile steam to the island. Now that we are fishing, with guests from around the world, I guess it’s time to drink it…
We are anchored in Playa Hermosa, the same ruggedly beautiful cove as last year. And just like 2012, we have been welcomed by hordes of yellowfin tuna and all the signs of some pretty good black marlin fishing to come. The trip to date has been highlighted by a 650 pound black marlin that was expertly handled to within 30 feet of the boat by a 78 year old rodsman, a 300 pound yellowfin that broke the leader boatside after a three hour death match, a 160 yellowfin that was escorted to the dinner table by executive Chef Francisco Cho, the gifting of three signed bottles of Abuelo rum commemorating the catching of a first marlin, and generally some pretty good times.
If we learned anything last year, it was that fishing around Coiba is hell on equipment. We have respooled our reels, put together new wind on leaders, and snelled lots of marlin hooks. We have also made sure to have a stock pile of harnesses and stand up gear. There are lots and lots of tuna around and they are big. Last week we hooked one on a spinning reel… we still have the reel, but the tuna took all the line. Dumped. Big tuna in large numbers mean that before long somebody will be hooked into a double header. The first guy hooked up is in luck because all of our boats have fighting chairs. The second guy gets a harness and the hope that his buddy wrenches his fish quickly. They then do the cockpit dance and watch our guys handle the boat to work the fish. This kind of fishing is really a great deal of fun.
The waters around the Hannibal Bank are a bucket list yellowfin tuna fishery. But it is black marlin that get the headlines and for good reason. Fishing banks and edges around islands, blacks stack up in western Panama. Their presence here conjures two thoughts: 1) I really want to go fishing, and 2) I am sure glad that I am not a bonito. The site of a big black marlin on the leader has the effect of staying with anyone who is fortunate enough to see it. Our captains and mates are excited to be here (and not just because we have a bounty for the biggest yellowfin and most marlin released). The signs are here that our journey to Coiba will be worthwhile.
I am as excited as can be… Awesome.