Well positioned in the world of fishing as a destination that offers anglers an unparalleled experience, sport fishing in Panama continues to be an excellent attraction for travelers and an important factor that contributes to the country's tourism economy. For sports enthusiasts looking for an exciting challenge, it's a tale of trial and error, achievement and sheer excitement that continues to draw them to the destination's world-class fishing shores year after year.
With billfish season peaking from December through April, it's the perfect time for travelers to plan a Panama fishing excursion. Running along the coasts from east to west, the country's hardy saltwater species, abundant billfish and crystal clear waters provide an unforgettable experience every sport fisherman dreams of.
Panama offers anglers a year-round fishing destination and it is not necessary to have a fishing license. Cold, nutrient-packed currents, known as the Humboldt or Peru Current, move north from Antarctica to the west coast of South America. The warmest water comes from southern Costa Rica and crosses over on the Pacific coast of Panama. The convergence of these ocean currents on the Pacific coast of the country creates optimal conditions: plankton, a main source of food for baitfish, thrives in these waters, creating an ideal ecosystem for catching larger fish.
There is wide availability of many eco-fishing lodges for an epic experience and responsible rental companies throughout the destination. Keeping sustainability and conservation at the forefront, Panama has the strictest fishing regulations among all Central American countries. The law prohibits the killing of any billfish, including black marlin, blue marlin, striped marlin, white marlin, spearfish, sailfish, and swordfish, and states that these fish are reserved only for for bycatch and release in sport fishing. Tour and rental operators in the country play a vital role in protecting the waters through regulatory compliance and educating travelers on board.
Fishing spots in Panama are not in short supply, but its most popular destinations are found in the following regions:
the gulf of chiriqui
The Gulf of Chiriquí stretches along the Pacific coast of Panama from the border with Costa Rica to the Azuero peninsula. It has abundant vegetation, enchanting white-sand islands, and one of the largest coral reefs in the Pacific, making it one of the best destinations for sport fishing, diving, and snorkeling.
· Hannibal Bank is one of the world's most unique fishing grounds for big game fishing. It is the highest seamount that stands on the southern edge of the Gulf of Chiriquí. The feeding area is 15 square miles (approx. 39 square kilometers), allowing for an abundance of yellowfin tuna, blue and black marlin, and Pacific sailfish.
· Isla Montuosa is a rocky island known for its huge billfish and oodles of tuna. Here the fishermen land more than 150 pounds (approx. 65 kilos) of yellowfin tuna. The area is an excellent source of groupers, mullet snappers, while black and blue marlin patrol the area.
· Isla Parida is a fishing spot that offers exceptional opportunities to fish for pejegallo. The island is surrounded by lush mangroves, which offer not only a picturesque sight, but also an underwater sanctuary for sea turtles and marine life. King kingfish and wahoo can also be caught in the fertile waters.
The Azuero Peninsula
Another popular fishing destination is on the Azuero peninsula, which includes the east coast of the Los Santos province and the west coast of the Veraguas province. The coast of Los Santos along the towns of Pedasí, Venao and Cambutal, earned the name of "tuna coast". In this specific region, between May and July, anglers can catch huge tunas, also known as “cow tunas”, which weigh more than 200 pounds (approx. 90 kilos).
The Gulf of Montijo, located on the west coast of Veraguas, is another popular fishing destination on the Azuero Peninsula. This area is filled with lush vegetation and mangrove forests and offers more than 60 miles (approx. 100 kilometers) of winding waterways to explore. It remains one of the most lush, diverse and productive ecosystems in the world.
Los Santos, located in the center of Panama, has the perfect balance between traditional, charming and modern. In Los Santos is Pedasí, a quaint fishing village known for its world-class sport fishing. This is one of the most prolific fisheries in the Eastern Pacific, with species such as pejegallos, snapper snappers, amberjacks, tunas, wahoos, dolphinfish, groupers, billfish and many more.
Gulf of Panama
Bordering the southern coast of the country, the Gulf of Panama offers many world-class fishing spots to discover. The gulf stretches for 155 miles (approx. 250 kilometers) at a depth of 720 feet (approx. 220 meters) and is the only maritime route connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Panama Canal. In this area there are a number of smaller gulfs and bays, such as the Bay of Panama, the Gulf of Parita, and the Gulf of San Miguel.
Located in the center of the Gulf of Panama, the Pearl Archipelago consists of more than 200 uninhabited islands and islets for premium fishing throughout the year. The islands have beautiful white sand beaches and are very easily accessible for whale watching, snorkeling, and observing well-preserved nature and marine life. The area became popular thanks to the Schimdt family, pioneers of sport fishing in Panama who began navigating its productive waters in the 1930s. Louis Schmidt Jr. caught the first largest specimen ever recorded while fishing off the islands of the Pearls, weighing 1008 pounds (approx. 457 kilos). Since then, anglers from around the world, including Guy Harvey, have frequented the area in search of billfish of epic proportions.
Easily accessible from Panama City, there are several marinas with private rental services that travelers can book, and a flight from the capital to Contadora Island takes just 15 minutes, plus ferries connecting the archipelago to the mainland take about an hour. hour and a half, departing from Punta Pacífica or Calzada de Amador. The Gulf of Panama is also accessible by car on a one and a half hour road trip from Panama City or from the Pacific Riviera, which has excellent marina infrastructure, via direct flights to Scarlett International Airport.
Pineapple Bay, Darien
Possibly one of the most incredible fishing spots in Panama, Bahía Piña, located in the Darien province, holds more than 300 deep-sea fishing world records, more than anywhere else on Earth. Most of the records set here were for marlin and Pacific sailfish. Isolated and surrounded by a lush tropical jungle, in Bahía Piña is the Zane Gray reef, a great underwater mountain that rises from the bottom of the sea and peeks to the surface. Here, sport fishermen will find an abundance of goldfish, swordfish, billfish, tuna, dorado, snapper, bass, dolphinfish, wahoo, barracuda, and blue, black, and striped marlin. Bahía de Piña can be reached by plane with regular flights to and from Panama City arriving at the Bahía Piña Airport.