Panama– Russians, Jamaicans, and OctagenariansJanuary 21, 2013
While this title sounds like the opening line of a joke, it really happened. The fishing continues to be really good. We are up to our elbows in dorado and have been seeing lots and lots of marlin. The guests on the boat the past week were a great bunch of guys. From a third party, big picture perspective, the world always seems that much more orderly when there coincides the presence of nice folks and good fishing.
Group number one were three Russian buddies who all now live in Miami. Vladimir, George and George fished the week aboard the Sula Sula with Captain Jose and Andres. The first day fishing inshore was a good day, producing amberjacks and big mullet snapper. Day two it was offshore, where the guys caught a mess of dorado before stopping to catch some snapper on the ride in. Day three was the trip maker. After a morning sailfish, it was time for Vladimir’s first marlin. He caught a black of 500 pounds. After some aggressive boat driving, the guys got the fish on the leader quickly. Andres took a couple wraps on the fish, before it came off behind the boat. The fish was released in good condition and it was back to it. The last day of inshore fishing produced snapper and an amberjack, with the guys hooking a big cubera on the down rigger. Big snapper are powerful fish and this one got into the rocks.
Fishing aboard the Abundancia were Kim and Jason, a Canadian transplant to Jamaica and a Jamaican blue marlin captain of the highest order respectively. Captain Junior was running the boat and I was the mate. Kim invited Captain Jason Carvalho to accompany him down to Panama to learn live baiting and how to rig belly baits for use marlin fishing in Jamaica. From a fishing perspective, this was an insightful move. Panama is blessed with some great sportfishing opportunities and is a preeminent destination for using live bait to catch marlin. Jason was bitten by the fishing bug early and was as happy to get out on the water as he was to learn new techniques.
The first day we made bait close to the Pacific Provider and ran offshore. After catching half a dozen dorado in the morning, we raised the first of the two marlin we would see on the day (Donar also raised a couple). Our fish was a blue of about 300 pounds. The fish came in, checked out our baits in the spread and followed the boat for 30 seconds. The fish swam behind the left bait, checked out the right and inquisitively looked around. Everyone on the boat got a good look at her as she languidly inspected her would-be-lunch before she faded off in to the blue from which she came. She wasn’t aggressive and seemed not too excited to eat, but it was pretty neat deal to see. In the afternoon we had another one come check us out. The two marlin we raised and the two that Donar spotted didn’t eat.
On the way in we stopped at Galera Island—about 8 miles from the mothership. We trolled a bonito on the downrigger and I tossed out a strip bait on a 20 pound spinning outfit as we rigged up another bonito. After a big swirl, it was the strip that was inhaled by what turned out to be a 52 pound cubera snapper. After 25 minutes of skillful rodsmanship by Kim and some good fortune, we had the brute in the boat. Light tackle snapper fishing is not for the faint of heart.
The second day brought with it more marlin fishing. We dragged lures around in the morning before locating schools of bonito offshore. I was on the bridge and Junior down below when old sticknose paid us a visit. A fish popped the left bait out of the rigger, we came tight but nothing was there. Junior ran and grabbed the right bait, while Jason grabbed the previously accosted left. Jason’s line started lurching, he freespooled expertly before throwing the reel into gear. I threw the boat into gear and the reel started hollering. Junior and I then did our best marlin dance—me scrambling down the ladder, him coming up to handle boat. We cleared the lines and Kim took the chair. The guys were then given the second lesson in Panamanian marlin fishing. When the fish is hooked up and up top, the boat is thrown into reverse to get on top of the fish as quickly as possible. As this manner of fishing doesn’t take place everywhere, I instructed Kim as to the best way to handle it. The instructions are pretty easy—- “Reel, reel, reel! Just reel.”
Jason grabbed the Go-Pro and took in the sights. After about five minutes the orange Dacron of the wind-on leader cleared the surface o the water. I grabbed a hold of it and the fish decided to give us a closer look. The 250 pound black marlin, green as an unripe orange, came 7 feet out of the water 6 feet off the corner of the boat. From the angle at which she was jumping, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that she may have paid us a visit. Jason jumped out of the corner and I threw the leader back at the fish so that it wouldn’t take the pressure applied to the corner of its mouth as an invitation to come aboard. With that the circle came unstuck and the ornery little creature with bad intentions was turned loose, no worse for wear.
The last day of Jason and Kim’s fishing resulted in an 80 pound amberjack. Kim left with sore arms and Jason hardly needed the airplane to fly back to the city—he was floating. It was great.
The third group that joined us was a couple of really nice guys named J.D. and Shelby. The guys are from Arizona and Utah and have been buddies for a long time. Each of the guys was around 80 and each was in search of his first marlin. Talking about trout fishing and elk hunting with these guys, we were as excited as could be to try to put them on a marlin. Their presence aboard the Provider is proof that fishing is better than baseball, because after a certain point in life you can’t play baseball. We talked about life and fishing and then it was time to go marlin fishing.
Their first day offshore was aboard the San Miguel with Captain Donar and mates Richar and Lucho. The guys caught a bunch of dorado in the morning and it was J.D’s turn in the chair when a 600 pound blue marlin paid them a visit. Upon hook up, J.D. took the rod and commenced to reeling. After an hour on the stick the fish was released in good condition. The story most probably deserves more detail and greater length, but it has been written. Hemingway’s Santiago doesn’t have a thing on J.D. That night at dinner we presented J.D. with his signed bottle of rum to commemorate his first marlin.
The guys fished two more days and raised another couple of marlin. The highlight of the remainder of their trip was a 45 pound bull dolphin that came up on a live bait. As it turned out, it was J.D.’s turn in the chair again for this one. The guys had a good time and it was all smiles and stories on the way to the air strip.
The marlin are here. The dorado are here. In good numbers. We’re having a pretty good time catching them.