Panama Inshore Fishing
Panama offers some of the best inshore fishing in the entire world. It’s a bold statement, but when you consider that we can catch up to 40 different species in a week, the sheer quantity we catch, and the size of some of these fish you’ll understand why we say that. In Western Panama, the Gulf of Chiriqui features over 200 islands which provide the perfect habitat for a variety of inshore species. The inshore fishing here is so good it has earned the nickname “Jurassic Park” thanks to 50+ lb roosterfish and cubera snapper being a common occurrence. The inshore fishing in Panama is so good we even have one fishing lodge that is 100% dedicated to inshore fishing with artificial lures & jigs – no offshore trolling and no live bait. Whether you prefer jigging, poppers, crank baits, or slow trolling live bait, when you spend a week in Panama inshore fishing with us it is a safe bet that you’ll go home happy and with tired arms. Once you speak to us we’ll help you sort through the various options and you’ll see why nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat or referral guests!
Inshore Fishing at Jurassic Park
Panama Coast to Coast
Panama Fishing Paradise
Inshore Fishing In Panama
The sport fishing that made Panama a bucket-list destination among saltwater anglers decades ago was almost always centered around the epic blue and black marlin action. Soon after the top water tuna action and 200-300 lb cows because just as synonymous with Panama. While always available, it wasn’t until the last decade or so that the inshore fishing in Panama became just as popular as the offshore fishing. Today we have just as many anglers contact us dreaming of catching their first black marlin as we do hoping to catch a 50+ lb trophy roosterfish or cubera snapper. Panama inshore fishing is almost unrivaled anywhere else on Earth due to the fact you can fish two oceans on the same trip, you can catch up to 30-40 different species in a week, and you can fish using any method or technique you prefer.
Apart from the Tropic Star Lodge in the far east, which has a fleet of 31′ Bertrams, the vast majority of fishing lodges and charter boats are center consoles. These are the ideal boats for inshore fishing in Panama because they can take you to different fishing spots quickly, they can maneuver in much closer to to rocky islands and river mouths than the big diesel offshore boats, and they allow multiple anglers to be fishing at the same time as opposed to being crammed into the cockpit at the back of a larger sport fisher. Every captain has a different personality and every operation has different pros and cons, so trust our local knowledge to hand pick the perfect fishing charter for your group. All Panama inshore fishing charters are private so the boat is 100% yours, we do not set up shared charters with strangers. All Panama fishing charters include bait, tackle, gas, lunch, snacks, and drinks (beer/water/soda). A quality tip for your crew is generally 15%-20% of the cost of the charter.
Panama Inshore Fishing Techniques
Panama is a paradise for inshore anglers because we have two oceans, thousands of miles of coastline, hundreds of islands, and over 30 different species to catch. Inshore fishing in Panama also offers anglers the freedom to fish a variety of different methods, a healthy fish population as all roosterfish and cubera snapper are catch and release, and still a relatively low pressured fishery as there are no major marinas or beach towns to flood the waters with tourists. No matter what species you are after or how you want to fish for them, few places in the world can hold a candle to the inshore fishing that Panama offers.
Fishing with Live Bait
Without any doubt, the best way to get bit when inshore fishing in Panama is fishing with live bait. Just as there is no shortage of game fish, there is no shortage of bait fish most mornings either. Our Panama fishing charters will be equipped with livewells and/or tuna tubes, so keeping fresh bait on hand is never an issue. The preferred live bait on the Pacific are blue runners, but we’ll also use lookdowns, mackerel, and sardines. If you want to land one of the giant trophy cubera snapper that Panama is famous for don’t be surprised when the mates bridle a circle hook to the top of a large bonito and send it down – big bait, big fish!
As effective as fishing with live bait is, it seems every angler has the dream of watching their top water popper be crushed by the orange explosion of a cubera snapper or to be followed by the dorsal comb of an excited roosterfish. It varies by day, but generally poppers in the 4″ to 8″ range do the trick and blues, purples, blacks, greens and the red/white combo always get the job done. These need to be cast up tight to the rocky islands or directly over reefs to entice fish to rise up and get them.
Stick Baits, Swim Baits & Crank Baits
Another favorite among light tackle enthusiasts are stick baits, swim baits and crank baits. These can often be more effective than poppers, especially if conditions are a little choppy, as they get a bit deeper in the water column. Typically 1′-3′ divers are devoured, but having a few deep divers is always good in case you fish deeper water or can’t get that stubborn snapper to leave his cave. Again colors that mimic their natural prey like sardines, bonito, and mackerel are ideal.
Jigging continues to grow in popularity as it’s extremely hands on and technical. Jigging in Panama can be anything from dropping irons down deep for snapper & grouper, working a butterfly jig through the water column, or even using soft baits in hopes of landing a snook or sea bass near a river mouth. Most anglers who want to exclusively jig on their fishing trip to Panama bring their own gear, so we recommend 60# to 80# braid on all reels with a variety of colors and sizes in your jigs.
Last but not least, if it’s been a slow day without bites, if the sea conditions aren’t ideal, or if you are simply tired from casting or jigging all day you can always set a spread and go trolling. While not the most interactive type of inshore fishing, it does allow you to cover a lot of ground and try a new technique if the others haven’t worked. More often than not, the best way to catch wahoo is to speed troll over some of our underwater pinaccles (with wire leaders of course!).
Where is the Best Inshore Fishing in Panama?
Being the thin isthmus that connects Central America to South America, Panama has been blessed with two lush coastlines on two different oceans. Panama’s ‘S’ shaped geography makes each one about 1,000 miles long, so there is no shortage of pristine habitat for various inshore species. From expansive mangrove systems and river mouths to rocky islands to underwater pinnacles, the inshore fishing in Panama is varied, technical, and incredibly scenic. While the inshore game fish can literally be found all over the country, the four main destinations we focus on when inshore fishing are:
1) Gulf of Chiriqui
Located in Western Panama, the Gulf of Chiriqui is home to over 200 different islands which provide perfect habitat for these inshore species. The muddy bottom gradually slopes from land out to the continental shelf, so the various volcanic rocks and reefs provide habitat and structure for bait fish and game fish.
2) Azuero Peninsula
The Azuero Peninsula is nicknamed the ‘Tuna Coast’ due to it’s proximity to the continental shelf and being able to catch yellow-fin tuna in pangas just a few miles from shore, but it’s actually the inshore fishing here that has made it a real fishing hot spot. The rocky coastline features river mouths, mangroves, and reefs that are home to incredible variety. The inshore fishing is so good here we even have a ‘lures only’ fishing lodge that exclusively offers popping and jigging trips.
3) Bocas del Toro Archipelago (Caribbean)
Panama isn’t known as a tarpon hot spot like Costa Rica and Belize, but it’s Caribbean Coast does offer great fishing. The Bocas del Toro archipelago is picture perfect with coral reefs, mangroves, and major river mouths that hold tarpon and snook.
4) Piñas Bay
Home of the famous Tropic Star Lodge, Piñas Bay is more famous for it’s marlin than anything else. This pristine corner of Panama offers much more than just marlin as the roosterfish and other inshore species don’t see anywhere near as much pressure as other destinations.
When is the Best Panama Inshore Fishing?
With two 1,000 mile long coastlines on two different oceans, the weather and fishing seasons vary as much as they do from east to west as they do from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Fortunately for us anglers, the vast majority of the inshore species in Panama are not highly migratory so they can be enjoyed 12 months a year. That said, some months tend to be better than others based on sea conditions, the presence of baitfish, and seasonal patterns so you can review our Panama fishing calendar below. Once you contact us and we have a better idea of what you want to fish for and when you are visiting, we can customize a package to put you in the right spot, at the right time.
Panama Inshore Fishing Species List
We have over 30 different species of game fish that we catch when inshore fishing in Panama. In addition to the trophies like roosterfish and cubera snapper, we have lots of great eating fish like groupers, various varieties of snapper, snook, and seabass. Whether on purpose or as a bye catch, we can also catch small sharks like black tips and nurse sharks.
Panama Fishing Lodges & Accommodations
Anglers have been traveling to Panama for decades so fortunately there are plenty of options to fit almost any travel style and budget. Your choices include affordable boutique hotels, luxury beach resorts, and all inclusive fishing lodges including an island-based lodge and our 70′ mothership that spends all week 50 miles offshore. We even have one fishing lodge in Panama that is 100% dedicated to lure fishing so they specialize in inshore and bottom fishing. As a luxury vacation outfitter, we only work with the nicest 3, 4, and 5-star operations that meet our expectations for quality, reliability, and service. Being local experts, we have personally visited every single property we represent so we’ll use our personal experience to hand pick the perfect fit for your group.
Panama Day Tours & Non-Fishing Activities
Our Panama Inshore Fishing packages don’t need to be all fishing, all the time. Panama has so much more to offer than just sport fishing such as great history, lush rain forest with incredible wildlife, beaches, islands, and of course the Panama Canal itself. Whether it’s an off day from fishing or for the non-anglers in your group, there are several great eco and adventure tours available. We can also customize your Panama fishing vacation so you spend a few nights in different locations throughout the country so you can see how diverse it is. The list includes:
- Canopy zip-line tour
- White Water Rafting
- Horseback Riding
- Guided tours of national parks
- Island Hopping Tour
- Coffee plantation tour
- Bird Watching
- Cultural & Historical Tour of Panama City
- Panama Canal Tours
All Panama Inshore Fishing Packages booked with Central America Fishing include the following:
- Free Vacation Planning (no fees + direct rates)
- VIP Airport Meet & Greet upon arrival into PTY
- Private, air-conditioned transfers with English speaking driver.
- All in-country domestic flights
- Luxury accommodations in your choice of all inclusive fishing lodge, luxury beach resort, or a boutique hotel.
- Private fishing charters
- All Panama taxes
- Free quotes on travel insurance
- Pre-arrival assistance with dinner reservations, tee times, pre-stocking your condo or villa, hiring a private chef, and special requests.
- 24/7 support once you are here in country