Panama – getting dialed in

Our efforts were focused on deep water features our fourth full day out. Jim and James both had Raymarine Dragonfly set-ups on their yaks and when they found fish or structure they would sit on a spot and start vertical jigging. Without a depth finder I was just trying to follow their lead. The good thing was even when we weren’t jigging we still had freelined live bait in the water. Jim was a master at vertical speed jigging and he was constantly able to put himself on top of fish and get hits.  It was really fun to watch him work. He caught a few nice almaco jack and had a few other fish break him off that most likely would have been studs. Vertical speed jigging to me felt extremely awkward in a kayak, but Jim made it look easy, his rhythm was perfect. Luckily for me my live bait rod took off and I landed another nice bigeye trevally.

12625946913_df49fb8516_c(photo: Will Richardson)

12626258104_dcd5a482ed_k(photo: Will Richardson)

As the bite waned at the first spot we spread out to try and locate another productive area. Jim again had found it near a rock pile across the channel and continued to jig up more jacks. I moved in line with where he was positioned and was able to jig up an almaco of my own on the first drop.

Not a new species to me as I’ve caught them in the Gulf, but another new species on this trip. The bite here tapered off as well and again we spread. It didn’t take long for Jim to hook up, only this time it was unintended. While vertical jigging a school of manta ray swam under him and he caught one almost in the corner of the lip. James got some good under water shots with his GoPro and we slipped the jig out and let it swim off to join his friends. It was just a little guy but still pretty cool to see a manta up close.

After that I ventured into some shallow reef throwing a popper and dragging a once-live-now-dead bait behind me. I made a long cast toward some rocks and immediately got swirled on when it hit the water, no hook up though. I popped back in and made another long cast but this time started reeling in with a little pace and an aggressive pop. With the water being as shallow and clear as it was I got to watch a fish follow my bait the entire way back to the boat. I let the bait pause right at the boat and gave it that last twitch and the fish explodes on my bait, splashing me in the process! Not one of the bigger fish I caught on the trip but definitely one of the cooler moments as I pulled that yellow snapper in.

I began to make my way back to the support boat to change my dead bait for something fresh and not long into my paddle the bait takes off. Still being close to the shallow reef I wasn’t really sure what I had on because I haven’t seen any sizable fish come from that area, but the fight didn’t last long and soon enough I could see why. I had caught a dinosaur. A big, skinny needlefish that looked like the gar we catch back in Louisiana, except this thing was bright blue.

12625927863_91e6304ec0_k(photo: Will Richardson)

I think it is actually a houndfish, in the same family as the needlefish. Very cool looking fish and pretty too. The blue on it was electric and even the teeth and jaws were blue. Hennie told me the bones were blue too – our boat captain was quick to tell me to keep it. I don’t know if they are good to eat or if they just eat anything that comes out of the water in Panama, but if I could provide a meal for a local family I was more than happy to oblige.

After that fish we got separated from each other – Jim fishing one side of the island and James and I on the other trying to jig up jacks like we did in the morning. Eventually we get the “Fish On!” call from Jim on the VHF and all I can hear in the background is a reel screaming! There weren’t many moments when we weren’t all within sight of each other but this was one of them. James and I start making our way toward Jim and by the time we get there he had the biggest fish of the trip caught and released.

12625795805_2b39e78ea7_c(photo: Will Richardson)

12625899373_423113a87f_c(photo: Will Richardson)

It was a 70lb roosterfish – the first and only rooster landed on the trip and, Jim’s personal best. I’m bummed that I didn’t get to see it in person but very happy that Jim was able to corral that beast. It is pretty cool just being on the trip where Jim landed his PB rooster. The man has seen and done it all in a kayak, he deserved that fish with the amount of work he put in on the trip. Yeah it’s just fishing, but as I found out over the course of the week, fishing for fun and fishing for TV are two totally different things. 12 hour days in a kayak are tough on the body, no matter what shape you’re in. It amazed me the amount of work that goes in to make a 30 minute show. I know having this rooster on film made it all worth it. You would think that would be a good time to call it a day. Go out on a high note. Jim wasn’t done though because as we begin to work the area again, this time together, he hooks up for a second time. He lands the first African pompano of the trip. With that fish we knew we would be eating good that night.

12625880993_ddbc029a08_c(photo: Will Richardson)

It was awesome to have a day where everything came together. It felt like we had made it over the hump and finally figured this place out. Or it could have been that the fish finally cooperated for us. Whatever the case may be this day was much needed. We headed back to camp to eat some of Peter’s delicious grilled chicken(and pompano) and down some cold beers and rest up for the next day.

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