Fishing Panama with Sebile Plugs and OLIVIER CHARPENTIER
When I got the invite to go photograph and fish with the Sebile lure team down to Panama I had the vision of fancy lodges, swimming pool, and cushy sport fishers. I mean from the images I’ve seen in the magazines and TV that was the impression I got. Since I have never been down to South America this was all I had to go by.
I’ve been in sport fishing boats before and they are super comfortable. AC, hot and cold running water, showers, sinks, great food, couches you name it. It’s basically a small apartment on the water. The only thing I didn’t like about these boats is that they are so big and cumbersome at times you’re limited to trolling or kite fishing 90% of the time.
When I found out that we will be fishing out of a 24′ panga style boat and casting big Sebile lures all day I was both excited and worried. Excited because it wouldn’t be boring trolling and worried, with such a small boat the weather might hamper our efforts.
Flying American airline, the flight from Miami was very short at just under 3 hours in the air. Surprisingly the airport had free wi-fi. This is cool because most of the US airport I’ve been in does not have wi-fi for free. I did have some issues at customs because I had a box full of lures. They thought my intent was to sell them in Panama but I convinced them that we were using them to actually fish and take photos of.
A taxi picked us up and drove us to a modest hotel and get everyone together. The crew consist of myself, Patrick Sebile, Jeff Brooks and Andrew Cummings. After we wined down with a couple Balboa “Panamanian beer” we were off to dinner. We made the mistake of asking the lady at the counter a good place to eat and ended up at a touristy restaurant. Half the dishes were good the other was just ok.
The next morning we did a walk around town of Panama City (We had to get on a jump plane to the town of David and then to the final destination, the town of Boca Chica). Very interesting town. Lots of old buildings and architecture. The streets were clean and there were armed guards at all the tourist areas. I’m assuming it was to squash any flair ups that may or may not happen. I’m happy to say it was uneventful for us.
A taxi showed up to take us to another airport. We had to wait a bit in the terminal but that was ok. Believe it or not this airport too had free wi-fi! Flying over mountainous terrains and rivers, the flight last only an hour. Olivier (Oliver), the lodge owner picked us up at the small airport with a Toyota truck. We drove for an hour and half through the Christmas traffic. Familiar sights were KFC, McDonals and even a TGI Fridays.
When we finally got there I was happy it was not a “resort”. You know we all the help running around and tourist shops. Boca Chica looks just to be a small fishing village. The lodge looks more like a large house with separate rooms at the top for 3 guest quarters. The rooms were complete with showers, toilet, sink and AC. The lanai is laid out as commons area. A 10 seat dining room, couch, fridge and bar at the other end.
Oliver and his wife Suzie ran the place along with Maria who helps out around the premises. This was nice and cozy vs the large resorts I was expecting. After dinner of yellow fin tuna, rice and beans I was off to bed. Patrick stayed up to beef up all the terminal tackle on the lures. I helped a little bit but after the long travel and big dinner complete with a house wine I was out like a light. I was told I was snoring like crazy as well. I couldn’t hear as I was sleeping..
The next morning we awake at 6am and had eggs, beacon, flat bread, juice and coffee. We grabbed our gear went down stairs, walked across the street where Oliver’s 24′ panga tyle boat powered by twin Suzuki 115 awaits us.
After we ran for about 30minutes we started to fish with the Sebile Splasher, giant stick shads and a variety of other lures that was brought along to test these waters. Fishing rocky mounds and ledges these monster fish would hear the splash and come up and absolutely smoke the lure in 30 to 75′ of water.
We caught tunas, yellowfin, big eye, cubera snapper, wahoo, mullet snapper, a variety of jacks, and a couple of monster needle fish. Needless to say the fishing was awesome. The scenery of rocky mountainous ledges and beach made it even better.
To me, the lure of the trip was the Big Sebile Stick Shad, Splasher, and magic swimmer in that order. The color I thought did the best was redhead w/ white body.
The temperature through out the day was in the upper 70′s and with a 5-10mph winds. This felt great. The only problem is it felt so good I didn’t pull my buff up most of the day which led to some red sun burnt face. On the boat lunch consist of home made pasta, fish, rice, dishes. A very local feel indeed and was better than the restaurant food I had in in Panama City the night before.
At the end of the day you step off the boat, grab your belongingss, walk across the street to your room and shower to get ready for dinner. Dinner was all fresh fish, crabs, lobster prepared and home cooked when you get back. No buffet style food here. Lots of fresh ingredients using native spices and many times what you caught the day before. If you don’t like fresh seafood this will be a problem for you. Bring some snickers’ bars and beef jerky like Jeff.
The coolest part of trip was when we got to camp on an island 50 miles offshore called Montuosa. This small island was like something you see out of post card. Besides a person keeping watch on the island it is not inhabited. The coconut trees were everywhere. The beaches was teaming with life. So many species of crabs, fish, bait it was hard to keep up. The hermit crabs ran a muck, they are harmless but everywhere. Needless to say the beaches were very very clean.
The fishing near the island that day was excellent. Since were were right next to the “drop off”, pods of dolphin with Tunas underneath them. Bait balls,Wahoo, kingfish, Marlin and Sailfish within a couple miles of the island. If you were using bait I’m pretty sure the bill fishing would have been awesome. I even had a blue marlin swim up to me when I was taking photos of the bait ball. You can catch many off the species from land for the most part. I actually wished we stayed on the island a couple more days so I could check the island itself out. It was not to be, we were fishing from dawn to dusk.
We caught pretty much every species that we wanted to catch with the exception of one, the elusive Rooster fish. Not that they were not there they just was not chewing for us. The Rooster would follow the lure then turn off. Very frustrating indeed. When we got back to to the lodge the people staying next door good two, so it definitely was not from the lack of fish. That’s just how fishing goes sometimes.
Some cool things that was a bonus.. besides the fishery itself.
- Easter Time zone
- Most speak or understood some English
- Near the Equator temperature were in the low 70′s to 80′s
- US dollars were used
- Roads were great
- Wi-Fi all over the place surprisingly
Olivier and his wife Suzie has a very cool operation indeed. He took care of the in country flights arrangements, the hotel, the taxi from airport to hotel, from hotel to airport number as well. All you need to worry about is your dinner the first night and the fishing.
The price for the trip was the same as taking an offshore trip in the states.
Except in the states for that price, they don’t:
- Feed you 3 meals a day
- Give you sleeping quarters
- Book and pay for your in country flight
- Arrange and pay for the taxi and hotel.
He tells me he is completely booked the next 2 months from Jan to Feb. 2011. Honestly, that is quite easy to believe.
The Camping on the island was off the charts.
Morning waves on the island
Big Eye Jack
Beefing up the hooks for big game
Guards down in Panama city
Oliver loading at the David airport
Susie and the money skull they found.
Loading the boat for the the camping trip
Land Crabs we caught the night before.. not a lot of meat but tasted better than blue crabs.
Instead of gulls they have tons of frigets over there.
I miss the island already
Yellowfin or Big Eye Tuna
Hound fish got up to 15lbs over there.
Howler monkeys were all over the mainland
Dolphins following Tuna, the scene was awesome
Cubera Snapper the ultimate snapper