Panama is a transcontinental country in South America and Central America and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the South and the Caribbean Sea to the north. The word ‘Panama’ means an abundance of fish, which is a popular local pastime in Panama. It earned this name in part to the Tuna Coast. This is where you can deep-sea fish in the channels and it is made possible because of the coast’s proximity to the continental shelf.
This country is a world-class destination for sport and professional fishing world-wide. Every year in Panama, many fishing records are broken or made. One example is Pinas Bay, which has 250 fishing records. This is more than any other location worldwide.
When you arrive in Panama for your vacation, make sure that you get in some fishing time. There are many great fishing locations here in Panama and the entire coast is suitable for deep-sea and saltwater fishing. There as so many fish that you can fish for that it is hard to name them all. You can fish for blue, black, and striped marlins, grouper, red snapper, roosterfish, sea bass, and the list goes on. Most of the fish you catch are sizes that are unseen elsewhere in the world.
Things to Know Before Fishing in Panama
It is important to know that in Panama they are very serious about turtle conservation and it is prohibited and illegal to fish, catch, or bait turtles. On Isla Coiba, which is a nature preserve and national park, you have to pay $50 per boat, per week if you want to fish there. The fishing there is catch and release only. Your boat also has to stay off the coast of the island at least one mile.
Always make sure that you keep your passport handy as it is a valid ID for the locals. If you are going on an offshore trip, you may be required to show it. The dry season is from December to May and during this time most of the fishing is done close to the shore because that is where you will find most of the fish. From May to December this is known as either the rainy season or green season. During this time you can fish farther offshore and fish almost all spots. This is also the time for you to catch a trophy roosterfish or cubera snapper, maybe both.
Panama Fishing Regulations and Seasons
The fishing regulations here in Panama are the strictest of all Central American countries. There is no season for general fishing or limit to the number of fish or size you can catch, with the exception of the sailfish and billfish. The lobster and shrimp season is enforced because of continual overfishing. The billfish include all species of marlin, along with swordfish and spearfish. You can only catch and release them.
- March 1st to July 1st
- February 1st to April 11th
- September 1st to October 11th
It is frowned upon if you catch, kill or eat Billfish and especially Sailfish although there is no law against doing any of those three things. They would rather if you caught a Sailfish or Billfish that you took a picture with the fish and then returned the fish to the ocean.
When you are on vacation and want to go fishing, you do not need a fishing permit for recreational fishing. If you rent a boat for fishing, it must have a permit that is up-to-date. The local maritime authorities can pull the boat over but it is generally just so they can check the safety equipment and permit. They usually do not worry about the fish you have.
For more details about fishing regulations in Panama, visit Angloinfo.
How to Fish in Panama
In Panama, you have your choice of deep-sea fishing, saltwater fishing, spear fishing, and one area of freshwater fishing. You can fish from shore or charter a boat to take you deep-sea fishing.
Best Lures and Tackle for Panama Fishing
The best lures and tackle to use would depend on how you are fishing and what you are fishing for. Some use jigging or popping.
Best Bait for Panama Fishing
Again, the type of bait depends on the method of fishing and fish you are fishing for. You can use either dead or live bait. If you go deep-sea fishing, the charter boat will have the type of bait that you will need. For example, if you are targeting inshore species like the Cubera Snapper, you would use live drift Blue Runners, which is a fish that gets about 70 centimeters in length and only weighs about 5 kilograms and are predatory fish. You would set out the baits with and without weights to see what you can catch.
Some of the Best Places to Fish in Panama Deep-Sea, Shore or Spear Fishing
Freshwater Fishing in Panama
In Panama, freshwater fishing would be in Lake Gatun, which is populated heavily with peacock bass. You can also fish from the Panama Canal to the Mountain Rivers.
Saltwater Fishing in Panama
If you want to try your hand at saltwater fishing, you need to visit the Gulf of Chiriqui. It has a tropical environment and home to more than 20 Inshore Pelagic species of game fish. At nearby Hannibal beach, you can fish for tuna and marlin. It is not unusual for you to see Black Marlin exploding on the surface of the water or huge schools of Yellowfin Tuna. Hannibal Island is 15 square miles of feeding grounds for the marlin and tuna you find there. Take a 70-minute boat ride over the turquoise waters and you will be right on top of these fish. For inshore fishing, there are miles and miles of rocky coastline to fish from.
The Gulf of Chiriqui is a sports fisherman’s dream come true. Here, the gulf is home to some of the biggest fishing. Stay at one of the resorts there and take a deep-sea fishing trip with the fishing captains there.
In this area, in addition to Hannibal Bank, there is Isla Ladrones, Islas Secas, Isla Montuosa, and Isla Coiba. If you are staying at the lodge there, Isla Montuosa is only 40 nautical miles from the lodge and its fishing grounds will always offer exciting fishing.
Deep-Sea Fishing in Panama
El Rio Negro on the Tuna Coast – This is a great place for deep-sea fishing every month of the year except for October and November when they close the lodge there for maintenance. Here are the migration routes for a variety of different fish so no matter when you visit, you will find plenty of fighting sport fish. This includes yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, red snapper, and many more. Here they cannot predict what fish you will catch but they can tell you what fish are biting and what will be biting in a few weeks before your visit. This is where you will find some of the best sports fishing.
For more details about the best fishing months in Panama, go to SportfishingPanama.com
Spear Fishing in Panama
This is a popular water sport that is offered by many of the boating tour groups, resorts, and fishing tour groups. This recreational activity does not have any regulations or restrictions.
Renting a Charter Boat in Panama
When you book a fishing trip to Panama, many times the resort where you are staying will offer charter boats to take you out for fishing. If not, you can ask around and they will steer you in the right direction to a charter company who will take you where you want to go so you can fish for the trophy fish you want. If you want to fish for black marlin, they are found off the Hannibal Bank so you would look for a charter boat to take you there.
You can even book your fishing vacation as a charter boat vacation, where you would get so many days fishing and in some, you would stay on the boat overnight.
One of the many reasons to book a fishing trip to Panama is the great variety of game fish in their waters. There are roosterfish, grouper, cubera snapper, yellowfin tuna, and more. You just need to find out which fish you can keep and which are catch and release only. Also, in Panama, there are many trophy fish, those “fish of a lifetime” like a marlin that can weigh more than 500 pounds. There are also many different places and ways to fish.
Panama offers many coastal fishing resorts that cater exclusively to sports fishermen on both coasts. The coastline of Panama is 1550 miles long and this country also has over 1000 offshore islands. As you can see, Panama is a sports fisherman’s slice of heaven. If you are an avid sports fisherman, Panama needs to be on your list of places to fish for that trophy fish. Don’t delay, book your trip today. It is a great trip for families and it will give your children memories that they will remember for a lifetime.
Love to fish? Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Hawaii