Panama Tarpon Fishing
The sport fishing that made Panama famous is big game marlin and yellow-fin tuna fishing, even the exotic peacock bass on the Panama Canal, but most anglers probably don’t think of Panama as a tarpon fishing destination. While Panama may not have the fame of a world class tarpon fishing destination, it is one of the few places on Earth where you can catch tarpon on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the freshwater. Whether tarpon are your main focus or just one of the many species you hope to catch, we will customize your Panama tarpon fishing vacation to put you in the right spot at the right time. Trust our local expertise and see why almost 40% of our anglers are repeat and referral guests!
Fishing Highlights of Panama
Panama Canal Grand Slam
The Best of Panama
Panama Coast to Coast
Tranquilo Bay Lodge
Panama Tarpon Fishing Info
Tarpon inhabit the Western Atlantic Ocean from the East Coast of the United States down to Brazil, and Panama is certainly no exception to that swath of territory. Panama boasts a Caribbean Coastline nearly 1,000 miles long and with lagoons, islands, mangroves and major river mouths it has everything tarpon need to feel at home. The best tarpon fishing in Panama tends to be on the northwest side in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Close to the border with Cosa Rica, both resident tarpon and migratory tarpon are caught here. Although the water is pristine and Bocas del Toro offers some of the best snorkeling spots in Panama, the tarpon fishing here isn’t sight casting like in Belize but rather deeper water fishing near river mouths with sardines and jigs like Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Tarpon are such an adaptable and resilient fish they are unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. Their hard silver scales act like armor plating to protect against predators and camoflauge to their prey, they’ll eat anything, and most importantly their ability to breath air at the surface if they are in low-oxygen water. They are able to do this because their swim bladder is directly connected to their esophagus, so after tarpon gulp air at the surface they extract the oxygen from the swim bladder into their blood stream. As such, today tarpon are routinely seen on the Pacific Ocean from Columbia to El Salvador – and Panama is the reason why. Every time a ship transits the Panama Canal they use 52,000,000 gallons of freshwater as they go through the three sets of locks. This has been happening since August 1914 when the Ancon was the first ship to go through, and just a couple decades later local fishermen along the Pacific started reporting a strange silver fish they had never seen before. Enough tarpon moved through the locks and made the fifty mile journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific that they are now routinely fished for on the Panama Canal itself as well as the big Bayano River about 1.5 hrs east of the city. The presence of juvenile tarpon is evidence that tarpon have become so accustomed to life on the Pacific they are reproducing and enjoying their new home!
Where is the Best Tarpon Fishing in Panama?
Panama isn’t generally mentioned as a Central American tarpon hot spot like Belize, Costa Rica, or even Nicaragua, but that may be in part due to the fact that we don’t fish for them in the traditional places here. The best tarpon fishing in Panama is along our Caribbean Coast as you would expect, but we also fish for them along the Pacific Coast and in the Panama Canal itself. We can custom design your trip to have you fish any, or all three, of these tarpon hot spots in Panama.
1) Bocas del Toro
Panama’s Caribbean Coast is an ideal environment for juvenile and adult tarpon. Lined with mangroves, islands, lagoons and river mouths this area is home to smaller resident year round. The open ocean outside the reef is just a few miles away so the larger migratory tarpon are also seen in the late spring. Much of the fishing here is done in the mouths of the major rivers like the Changuinola and Sixaola.
2) The Panama Canal
This is the reason tarpon are now populating the Pacific Coast of Central America and Columbia, so there are certainly tarpon in the canal itself. Today Lake Gatun spans 166 sq miles so there is endless habitat, and with a dense population of peacock bass, plenty of bait as well. Anglers shouldn’t expect to jump ten tarpon a day in the canal as they can be hard to find, but the experience of battling a sliver king on one of the most recognizable and historic bodies of water in the entire wold makes it worth it.
3) Bayano River
The Bayano River was perhaps the first place on Earth where tarpon could regularly be targeted on the Pacific Ocean. Located about 1.5 miles east of Panama City, the massive river mouth seemed like a familiar setting for the tarpon who made the 50-mile journey through the Panama Canal so they established a permanent home. The fishing here is highly tidal dependent so timing is everything.
When is the Best Panama Tarpon Fishing?
Picking the best time to plan your Panama tarpon fishing trip all depends on where you are going to fish. The Caribbean Coast has clear weather seasons that would have an impact on your vacation experience and the fishing itself. On the Panama Canal and the Bayano River, the time of year doesn’t matter as much because these tarpon aren’t migratory and your trip won’t be affected one way or the other by afternoon rain showers. On the Caribbean 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 tarpon 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 Tarpon Lodges & Accommodations
We are fortunate that where we fish for tarpon in Panama are also some of the more popular tourist destinations so there is no shortage of quality hotels to enjoy. Tarpon fishing on the Panama Canal or the Bayano River will have you stay in Panama City, so we can choose between any number of luxury business hotels or upscale boutiques. On the Caribbean we have beach hotels and eco lodges, including our best tarpon lodge in Panama. 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 Tarpon Fishing packages don’t need to be all about every day if you don’t want. Panama has so much more to offer than just fishing such as Spanish Colonial history, lush rain forest full of wildlife, beaches, islands, and of course the Panama Canal itself. If you are fishing for tarpon in the Panama Canal or on the Bayano River you’ll have access to all the day tours out of the capital as well as easy access to head out to a different part of the country once you are done. If you are tarpon fishing in Bocas del Toro you can enjoy an entirely different set of tours on the Caribbean Coast. 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. Some ideas include:
- 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 Tarpon 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