Well just got back from Panama and am still tired. I caught some minor bug either down there or by being on the plane and have no energy but I want to get this up while the trip is still fresh in my mind.
The flight there is quick out of Miami but then there is a 5 hour bus ride from Panama City to the launch point to get to the surf camp. A bunch of Panama I saw reminded me of south Florida and one store I went in seemed like a smaller version of the Walmart in Homestead. Anyways after the bus ride was over we walked down a mud path to were the panga awaited us in the dark. After a brief 20 minute ride through the mangroves we arrived at the surf camp. The guy driving the panga apparently would stop the boat by just ramming it into whatever boat was near where he wanted it to stop. If you take this trip be advised that there does not appear to be any docks involved and exiting a boat basically means just jumping into the water and hoping it will be shallow enough.
The surf camp Morro Negrito is nice. It has a great view of the ocean and although there is only electricity for a couple hours a day, the ocean breezes keep the place comfortable. I guess it is not the season for surfers because none were there. There was another group of spearfishing people there all ready who just returned from an awesome tuna trip. Guy Skinner the owner of jbl was among them, which was pretty good because on the way down I had popped one of my inflatable floats, and he sold me a jbl float which kind of saved the day.
These guys who had been out before us had a truly epic trip and after looking at the photos of tuna they had shot up to 200# we were pretty hyped up. The next day was just basically a rest day, we slept in and rigged gear. I also went for a walk on the beach with Skinny Dog, my new friend on the island. We found a tuna carcass being eaten by vultures and Skinny Dog peed on it.
The next day we loaded up our gear on the boat we would be fishing, loaded all our other supplies on a second boat that would be going directly to the island we would be camping. On the run out before we were even to the bank we saw huge tunas busting all over the place. We geared up and started jumping in on them. They disappear as fast as they appear. Pretty amazing they will be busting all over the place, and then once you swim there, there is nothing. Again and again we did this. Then finally Danny shot a small one. I dropped in on a school and saw a bunch of small ones followed by a larger one. I tired to get the shot on a larger one but ended up getting nothing. I could see Dan in the distance being surrounded by tuna, I swam towards him but when I got there they were gone.
Then there was more chasing and no shooting. Then I dropped in on a school of big fish breaking the surface. I dove down lining up on a big tuna but he seemed out of range, so I change tack and lined up on a smaller one and sunk the shot into him. He took off into the deep like a rocket trailing my two floats behind him. As I watched the float disappear into the murk, I had to laugh. Would they come back up? They went down so fast it was like the tuna was trailing nothing behind it. We all stood in the boat waiting for what seem like forever, then the floats appeared in the distance. The floats were tomb stoning , sticking up indicating there was a fish on. Pete and I dove in on it, and the driver left to drop Andy and Dan on another school of tuna. I slowly pulled the fish up using the tuna clip, something totally foreign to diving in the keys. After a minute we got the fish close to the surface and the boat came back with a second gun to put a second shot in it. Pete grabbed my camera and got some photos while I struggled with the fish. The slip was not that deep into the fish so I shot it again and after a minute of gushing blood I was able to pull it up.
Once we got to the boat we drove to where Dan and Andy were in the water and Dan had another tuna on after a similar struggle. Tuna and dolphins were breaking the water all around us, dolphin flipping in circles in the air, followed by tuna. I jumped in with the camera which in retrospect was dumb. All I got were some blurry photos of dolphins in the distance. I actually had a tuna swim almost right under me. After that we headed to Montuosa Island to camp.
Montuosa is an incredible island, the jungle is so thick and huge it looks like you are in the movie Predator. Huge rocks stick out of the water around it and depending on the tide and swell you have really jump for it coming in. The porters or whatever you call the local workers have a little row boat which they row large stuff back and forth from the boats. The island is populated primarily by hermit crabs and biting insects.
The next day we went out for the tuna again but they had changed up. Now instead of being on the surface for a few seconds they were up and down and running with the dolphins. If anyone every suggests shooting the tuna off of dolphins be prepared for it to suck. They move so fast it’s non-stop in and out of the boat. You have to leave the tuna guns loaded, you jump in on the birds and breaking tuna and then they are gone. You look up and the birds and the breaking tuna are already a 100 feet away in like 2 seconds. Then you are just out floating in murky water for like 10 minutes waiting for the boat to come back.
Then we finally hit one good boil of tuna. I noticed something about Dan. He is ever the gentleman letting everyone go first when there is a little bit of action but when its starts going off he is in the water quicker then spit. Dan hit another tuna on this boil and Andy shot one that pulled out. After the rest of the day spent chasing dolphins it was back to the island. Most of the night was uneventful except I woke up when I thought I felt someone’s hand on my foot. I turned the light on to find a big red crab sitting on my foot. Which was pretty interesting.
The next day we went for tuna again but it was overcast and tuna were running on the dolphin again. After awhile we gave up on tuna and went to dive this series of islands closer to the surf camp. I believe its called Islas Secas. This was interesting diving. The water was kind of dirty compared to what I am used to but not that bad. Like 30 feet of vis, maybe 40. We spent a long time working these rocks where Pete had once gotten some broomtail grouper, with no success. We headed in with plans to hit these islands the next day.
The next day Dan decided to stay back at the surf camp and soak in the tuna he got, while Andy and I went out diving with Pete and Pedro. We went back out and Pete wanted to go right back to the spot where we got nothing the day before. We vetoed that idea and decided to try diving new stuff. We found this one point that was pretty awesome. The water was around 35 feet deep with top to bottom vis. I swam up to the spot and was surrounded by golden trevally, crevelle jacks and horse eye jacks. I lined up on a large barred pargo by hiding behind the jacks but at the last second it spooked. Then these huge rooster fish swam through and I was actually kind of dumbfounded by the size of them. By the time I lined up to shoot one they were out of range. I also saw a rainbow runner that looked 25# and a big ball of pacific barracuda. After a minute Pete wanted to leave to go somewhere deep. The first deeper spot had no fish at first which made me wonder why we left the shallow stuff. But after awhile we found a ball of yellow and red snappers that were pretty cool. They would engulf you similar to mangroves in the keys. Except the average fish was probably 4-5#, maybe a little more. That was pretty cool so we dove that for a while shooting a couple of them. Then we moved to some other rocks I shot an around 10# pargo and saw again schools of smaller snapper.
Finally we asked Pedro to take us to a Pargo spot. He has been fishing the area for 15 years, I am not sure why we didn’t put him charge in the first place. He triangulated us a spot where some rocks came up for 100 feet to around 40. Our first drift a huge school of golden trevally, blue trevally and horse eye jacks came up to meet us. We ended up diving the area for awhile just mostly seeing jacks and small snapper. Then Pete did a dive and shot a nice snapper between 25-30# and said there was school of huge snapper down in the thermocline past 60 feet down. I did a 75 foot dive and shot a snapper that was 17# or so . After that we were so beat that pursuing the big snapper didn’t seem that important and we headed in.