Headwaters Fishing Team News

Panama Kayak Fishing Trip: by Matt Whisenhunt

Dan Arbuckle - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Off the Jungle Shore

We launched from the beach at the crack of down on the search for an elusive trophy fish before catching a plane around 11 am. The previous 3 ½ days had been spent paddling miles of the extremely scenic shoreline that borders one of the most impenetrable jungles in the world: The Darien.  This southern region of Panama has no roads, the only way in or out is either by boat or plane. It is wonderfully remote, with nary a tourist in sight, other than ourselves of course.  There are no roads, only one truck in the village.  The river is the life-blood of the community, one which consists mainly of Indigenous peoples and Colombian refugees. The living is simple, with most people subsisting on the fish they catch and the food they grow.


                  Sunrise over the Darien

Hennie Marais of Paddle Panama runs kayak fishing adventure trips all over the Pacific coast of Panama.  He had recommended Jaque, a remote frontier town a stones throw from the Colombian border for my wife and I, catering to my wife’s physical limitations that prevent travel by car.  He is very knowledgeable about the country and found a trip that is fly in, and then a short walk to a house on the beach.  I cannot say enough about the lengths he went to make sure we had a trip that we both would enjoy, taking special care to design something that accommodated my wife’s limitations as well as my need to spill blood on the yak.

Normally in February the offshore winds blow, causing an upwelling that brings the fish in.  Unfortunately, they were not blowing ,and the fishing was slow.  We did manage to catch dinner every night, and had shots at a couple Cruberra Snapper, which can reach trophy sizes in these waters.  I managed to hook into one casting a popper in and amongst the wave beaten rocks and experienced one of the most thrilling fish of my life. There’s nothing quite like a 20+lbs beast towing you into the breaking waves of a giant boulder garden.  15 minutes of avoiding becoming a stain on the reef while trying to not only keep the fish on but out from under the rocks is quite the rush. Eventually, the abrasion strength of the line succumbed, but not without providing that “aha” moment that THIS is what kayak fishing is all about. I’ve caught some big fish on the kayak, but I had never experienced anything quite like this.

               Miles of uninhabited jungle shoreline

So, with time running out and armed with the leftover adrenaline from the previous evenings snapper, we set out to find and land the trophy that had so far eluded us.  We managed to get some live bait, rigged with a bridal circle hook rig and set out to slow trolling around one of the larger islands offshore, and tossing poppers here and there.  After a couple of solid hours we still had zip, so I paddled up to Hennie and let him know that I was heading in. Our plane was leaving in an hour and I still hadn’t packed up. As I departed, I said to him, “Maybe I’ll catch a miracle fish on the way in”. About a mile later I hear the clicker on the lever drag reel screaming. Count to 10, engage the drag and FISH ON! This was the one we were looking for. After a good long fight and a nice tow the mile back to where I had left Hennie, the 35+lbs Rooster was in my lap. Performed CPR (catch, picture, release), a few moments of basking in the aftermath, then high tailed it back to the beach. Load the suitcase, walk to the plane, and leave Jaque fully satisfied.

The Stealth in action

The ideal way to end a trip

This is a beautiful region of Panama, and the kayaking was excellent. When I needed a break, just grab the mask and snorkel and swim among schools of tropical fish in giant boulder gardens below towering cliffs. The fishing, though slow for us, is world class evidenced by the Tropic Star Lodge located one bay up in the only other village in the region.  Highly recommend Hennie and paddle Panama to set up an awesome kayak fishing adventure.

Who needs all this gear when a hand line and a 18” wide

Dugout will do!

The fleet

Hennie hooked up

Sea cliffs and caves dot the coastline

Not a bad place to spend a week

Sunset over the pacific

So long, Jaque

Hennie Marais commented on 26-Mar-2014 05:52 AM
Matt we had a awesome time with you guys, The Darien and its people are amazing, the fishing untouched. We are lucky to be able to have such a amazing kayak fishing destination. The Stealth kayaks are perfectly suited for the beach launches and there speed are un matched to get offshore.
We are looking forward to share Panama and its amazing kayak fishery with all enthusiastic and adventure kayak fishermen out there
You have to fish Panama once in your life in a kayak , once you did you'll be back
Tight lines and paddle hard
Hennie Marais
Hennie Marais commented on 18-Feb-2015 07:52 AM
I have just spent another week kayak fishing at Piñas Bay in the Darién and was thinking of you. This time I was once again with Jim Sammons who was returning after visiting this time last year and filming an episode for his Kayak Fishing Show with me at Bahia Honda in the Veraguas province of Panama.

I'm not yet sure when the TV show from the Darién will be shown but you can keep looking at the program schedule.

For information about joining my kayak fishing expeditions in Panama please visit my website page

#kayakfishing #yakfish

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