Panama Tuna Fishing Packages
Panama has gained the reputation as being one of the world’s top destinations to fish for yellow-fin tuna between March and August every year. The Hannibal Bank in the Gulf of Chiriqui provides opportunities for both quality and quantity as 200+ lb cows can be taken on bait while small to medium sized fish will crash surface lures with reckless abandon. Further west the Azuero Peninsula is referred to as the ‘Tuna Coast’ as yellow-fin tuna can be caught within a few miles from shore. Cast poppers on spinning gear into a school of boiling tuna, do some speed jigging, or slow troll live bait with 50Ws and 80Ws big game tackle you’ll get the fight of a lifetime. These Panama Tuna Fishing Packages will give you an idea of the kinds of fishing trips we organize, but please contact us to customize your dream Panama fishing vacation. 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!
Panama Fishing Paradise
The Best of Panama
Panama’s Tuna Coast
Affordable Panama Fishing
Fishing the Hannibal Bank
Panama Private Island Lodge
Panama Tuna Fishing Info
The yellow-fin tuna fishing in Panama is one of the sport fishing industry’s worst kept secrets. For decades, anglers have known about not only the quality of the tuna action but also it’s consistency. While no one can guarantee fish, chances are if you are fishing offshore in Panama in the spring or summer you are going to run into one of the favorite sights of any saltwater angler – the beautiful chaos that is a feeding school of yellow-fin tuna boiling at the surface. Local Panamanians call this a “lavadora”, which means washing machine.
The tuna fishing in Panama is phenomenal for numerous reasons. First would be the seasonal migrations that are, for the most part, very consistent year after year. There are always yellow-fin tuna present as there is a nice population of resident fish, but every year between March and August it reaches a level most places of the world can only dream of. The second, and the main reason the tuna pass through here year after year, is because of the incredible habitat and abundance of bait fish. In Western Panama in the Gulf of Chiriqui is where you’ll find the famed Hannibal Bank. This ocean shelf rises from several thousand feet deep to just a couple hundred feet below the surface, so when the nutrient rich currents run into it there is an upwelling that starts the food chain and creates epic offshore fishing for big marlin and tuna. Farther east, the Azuero Peninsula juts south out into the Pacific Ocean and puts you literally right at the edge of the continental shelf. This area is nicknamed ‘the Tuna Coast’ because here tuna can be caught within 5-10 miles of shore. Piñas Bay in the far east has similar geography that puts huge pelagic fish right on your doorstep. Essentially the combination of unique bathymetry, major ocean currents, and plenty of baitfish make Panama a paradise for the long-ranging yellow-fin tuna. The final reason is Panama’s management of it’s marine resources. In Jan 2019 they banned all purse seiners, both foreign and domestic, and long lining is prohibited as well. Certainly some people think the government can do more, but at least it’s a start. You also won’t find any major marinas in Panama, apart from the luxury pleasure boats in Panama City, so these fish aren’t under a ton of pressure. There are several fishing lodges in Western Panama that fish the Hannibal Bank on a daily basis in peak tuna season, but most operations have 3-5 boats total so the 3,000+ sq mile Gulf of Chiriqui is far from what you would consider to be over-fished.
Where is the Best Tuna Fishing in Panama?
Panama is the thin strip of land that connects Central America to South America. Being an isthmus, Panama has been blessed with long coastlines on two different oceans, each one about 1,000 miles long. Due to migratory patterns, major ocean currents, and incredible quantities of bait fish all the best tuna fishing in Panama is found on our Pacific Coast. The three main destinations where we do our tuna fishing are:
1) Gulf of Chiriqui
This area in Western Panama from Coiba Island to the border with Costa Rica. It is also home to some of Panama’s best and most famous fishing spots like the Hannibal Bak, Isla Montuosa, and Coiba Island itself. When anglers dream about tossing poppers into a school of hundreds of feeding tuna or catchign a 200 lb cow, this is the place to be.
2) Azuero Peninsula
Nicknamed the ‘Tuna Coast’, the Azuero Peninsula juts out into the Pacific and puts anglers right on the continental shelf. This area is known for it’s inshore fishing on pangas and center consoles, but when the school of tuna are just five miles off the coast it’s a no brainer.
3) Piñas Bay
Home to the famous Tropic Star Lodge, this is the farthest east fishing outpost in Panama. While it’s known for the incredibl marlin fishing, during the green season months they see plenty of yellow-fin tuna as well.
When is the Best Tuna Fishing in Panama?
One of the most common questions we field is “when is the best tuna fishing in Panama?” The short answer is the spring and summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. However, Panama’s S-shaped Pacific Coast is over 1,000 miles long so different parts of the country have slightly different seasons. One month may feature acres-wide tuna boils in part of the country while another may experience strong winds or heavy rains. Below is a Panama fishing calendar to give you a general idea, but keep in mind this is not exact science and can vary year to year slightly. Knowing when AND where to go for the tuna fishing you want to experience is of the utmost importance, so once you contact us we’ll work with you to build the perfect customized itinerary to put you in the right spot at the right time.
Techniques For Tuna Fishing in Panama
There are several different ways to fish for tuna in Panama. Based on sea conditions, or more likely whatever the tuna are feeding on, one method may prove to be more productive than another. You may not believe it until you experience it for yourself, but even during those chaotic, boiling feeding frenzies the tuna can be incredibly honed in on a specific bait and if you aren’t working with something similar you won’t get bit. There are days where our captains are running down tuna all afternoon only to return home empty handed, then there are other days where we catch so many we start releasing them after we’ve secured enough to take home. Tuna fishing, just like any other kind of sport fishing, is never a guarantee so it’s important to be flexible with your fishing techniques and choice of baits or lures. Below are the most popular and effective ways that we catch tuna in Panama:
Topwater Tuna Fishing
By far the most popular method of tuna fishing in Panama, it seems every angler dreams of landing a tuna on a topwater bait. Few things can match the excitement of speeding up to a boil of feeding tuna, wind in your face as you hang onto the center console with one hand and your rod in the other, your captain yelling “Get ready…!”, casting a popper or stick bait into a boil of feeding tuna, and giving a few hard cranks until the water explodes behind your lure and your reel starts to scream. The size and color of the most effective popper can change from one day to the next, so it’s best to have several on hand. In general pink, blue, silver, white/red seem to be the most popular as they mimic their normal prety like squid, sardines, and bonito and range in size from 4″ to 8″. If the water is a bit choppier a popper can be hard to see and difficult to work properly, so a stick bait that swims 1-2 ft below the surface is what is needed to elicit bites. Once again size and colors vary by the day, but in general a fast retrieve is needed because when the tuna are feeding on bait at the surface if your lure isn’t moving fast it’s going to look out of place. You’ll want a quality 1/0 – 3/0 treble hook on your lures as they are less apt to get straightened out or flat out snapped during a fight with big tuna.
Live Bait Fishing for Tuna
There are days when the tuna simply don’t have any interest in artificial baits and fishing with live bait is the only way to get any action. When fishing offshore, the best and most readily available bait is usually bonito. If your boat has a big enough livewell, blue runners also work well and sardines and can work in a pinch. For bonito and blue runners, they will be bridled with a circle hook on top of the head while sardines can be hooked through lips or back. For the masochists out there who want to do battle with cow yellow-fin tuna, one in the 200-300 lb + range, live bait is also the best wait to trick one of the monsters who tend to be at the bottom of the school. On slow days quality crews can “chum” the waters with dead sardines, which can spur them into action on some days.
Jigging for Tuna
This is one of the more technical ways to fish for tuna in Panama, but equally as fun. Unlike jigging chunk bait or soft plastics when bottom fishing, when jigging for yellow-fin tuna we use a technique referred to as “speed jigging”. This involves a rapid ascent and retrieve of your jig through the water column to entice tuna that aren’t feeding at the surface. In addition to being an exciting and hands-on way to fish for tuna, sometimes jigging can be necessary if the bait they are feeding on is 100-200 ft below the surface or if there are too many boats disturbing them at the surface they’ll “spook” and head down to quieter waters. Jigging isn’t a new technique, but it has had a bit of a revival in recent years thanks to new lures like butterfly jigs and improved tackle that can retrieve more line quicker. You should have varios jigs in blue, pink, silver, and red and in different sizes so you can do your best to match whatever bait they are feeding on. You’ll definitely want braided line (80 lbs recommended) so you can set the hook without any stretch in the line and a rod that is strong enough for the battle but light enough that it won’t tire you out after one or two drops.
What Do We Do With the Tuna We Catch? Can I Bring Fish Home With Me?
More often than not, our anglers want to know what to do with all the tuna they plan on catching on their fishing vacation to Panama. There are a lot of options, but the fastest and freshest way to enjoy your recently caught tuna would be fresh sashimi right on the boat. Not every boat will do this, but most of our higher end fishing boats in Panama will have soy sauce on the boat for this very reason. If you stay at a fishing lodge in Panama, you should expect that most of what you catch will be given to the lodge to feed not only your own group but also the other guests and staff. In peak tuna season it’s quite possible there will be more than enough to go around, but you should assume most of the tuna is ‘communal’ fish rather than your very own. If you stay at one of our boutique hotels on your fishing trip to Panama, the fish is yours (apart from what you share with the boat crew) but they will be glad to cook it for you for dinner however you like.
If you catch so much tuna that you have enough to bring home, which is very common, the answer is “YES” you are allowed to bring fish home with you. There is no dry ice or shipping company in Panama that will send it back to your doorstep, so the only way to bring it home is to do it yourself. You can bring down a soft sided, leak proof cooler or you can buy inexpensive Coleman plastic coolers once you are in Panama. Simply freeze your fish solid, wrap it in newspaper, and then pack your cooler full of ice and it should stay completely frozen until you reach home. It’s best to check with your individual airline before you travel to Panama to be clear on their rules and regulations.
Panama Fishing Lodges & Accommodations
Anglers have been traveling to Panama to fish for tuna for decades so fortunately there are plenty of options for accommodations to fit almost any travel style and budget. Your choices include affordable boutique hotels, luxury beach resorts, all inclusive fishing lodges on the mainland, on secluded islands, and even a 70′ mothership that spends all week 50 miles offshore. 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’s size and budget.
Panama Day Tours & Non-Fishing Activities
Our Panama tuna 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 Tuna 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.
- Luxury, private accommodations hand-picked and customized for your group. Choose between private condos & villas, luxury beach resorts, exclusive boutique hotels, and fishing lodges.
- Private fishing charters
- All eco / adventure tours you’d like to include
- All Panama taxes
- Free quotes on travel insurance
- Pre-arrival assistance with dinner reservations, tee times, tackle lists, and special requests.
- 24/7 support once you are here in country