It goes without saying that one of the great perks to this job is that we get the opportunity to visit some of the best hotels in Central America and fish on the best boats around. Who wouldn’t love that? Over the past nine months I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice to one of the finest fishing lodges in world, the Panama Big Game Fishing Club. I’ve gotten to know the lodge manager, Victor, as well as their top captains Chombo & Kenny. On my last visit I got to know the owner himself, ‘Mr. C.’
Mr. C is Mark Charman, a successful businessman from the UK and an avid angler. He purchased the PBGFC in May of 2011 and has quickly transformed it into one of the nicest fishing lodges in Panama, if not all of Central America. On my most recent trip in January we took a break from fishing for a quick informal interview:
CAF: How did you first discover the Panama Big Game Fishing Club?
Mr. C: I’ve been fishing since I was four year old, so it’s always fascinated me. I’ve always followed the top fishing lodges & hot spots throughout the world like the Great Barrier Reef, Tropic Star Lodge, and PBGFC. I first saw it on an episode of“Quest for the One: Monster Fish,” and bought it in May 2011 from the original owners.
CAF: What is your master vision for the lodge, which right now only has four rooms?
Mr. C: We are hoping to expand our dock another 300 ft. I’d like to build another 6-8 rooms closer to the water along with another infinity edge pool. We are finishing work on our 5-bedroom villa right now, as you can see.
CAF: What makes fishing from the PBGFC so different and so popular?
Mr. C: Something is always on the bite here, there is almost always something to catch. You can fish the famous offshore hot spots like Hannibal Bank and Isla Coiba for giant marlin and tuna, you can go bottom fishing at Isla Montousa, the inshore fishing is spectacular, and you can even fish our mangrove system for snappers and jacks. There are over 200 islands inside the Gulf of Chiriqui, which we call the ‘Jurassic Park of inshore fishing’ because the roosterfish, cubera snapper, and wahoo are so big.
CAF: The last two years the Panama Marine Resource Foundation has held an annual fishing tournament, which you’ve won easily both years. Why are your captains so successful?
Mr. C: Because they’re men. The crew has been fishing here all their lives, they’re older in their 40s and 50s. Chombo & Tati are our head captains and they’ve both been here for 10-12 years so they are professional captains, not young kids looking for tip money. They train everyone that comes through here so they learn from the best. We also have a full time engineer on staff, let’s not forget how important that is to keep everything running smoothly every single day during marlin season or cow tuna season.
CAF: Why is the marlin fishing so good in Panama?
Mr. C: I don’t know, I’m not a scientist mate. I suppose the merging of currents at the Hannibal Bank and Isla Montousa, plus there are almost always baitfish around. It also probably doesn’t hurt that those spots are 50 miles out, so the local fishermen in pangas can’t get out there and kill any of them.
CAF: What are your thoughts on the importance of conservation in the sport fishing industry?
Mr. C: I helped found the Panama Marine Resource Foundation. Obviously protecting the fish is in the best interest of our business and the ocean itself. It’s a law that all billfish are released, but we also don’t keep any cubera snapper or roosterfish unless they die in the fight. Roosterfish are such a beautiful and prized gamefish, and they don’t taste great, so we always let them go after a quick picture. Cubera snapper however only grow about 1 kg per year, and they can live 30-50 years, so if you kill a big one you are making quite an impact on the ecosystem.
CAF: PBGFC has won a lot of awards – Blue Water Magazine, Florida Sport Fishing, and Guy Harvey’s #1 rated Luxury Boutique Fishing Lodge in Central America 3 years in a row. Do you have a favorite?
Mr. C: Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence. We were the first fishing lodge to win that, mate. I am proud of that because that is voted on by the people, and we’ve won it every year since I bought the place.