The subtle rise and fall of groundswells under the piece of yellow plastic that separated my butt from the deep blue Pacific Ocean was almost soporific. I drifted close to a mile offshore of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula — a remote and rugged, jungle-covered stretch of coastline —appreciating the tranquility, as I finished tying a popper onto 80-pound fluoro leader with a loop knot.
That tranquility proved short-lived. Minutes later, one of the other five kayak anglers around me, each bobbing about on a brightly colored Hobie Outback in the muted late-afternoon light, shattered the peace.
“Fish on! Tuna!” one screamed.
I took in the hard bend of his live-bait rod as well as several yellowfin crashing the surface just beyond. As I pedaled toward the action like a maniac, I flipped the bail on an Okuma Raw II 80 spinner, filled with 80-pound braid, ready to cast.
Other kayakeros were hooking up. I made it a point to stay well clear of Kevin Nakada, fishing-team coordinator with Hobie, fighting a yellowfin on the popper he’d cast off his bow, while leaving his live blue runner trailing behind: He now had two crazily bent rods, each pointing off opposite ends his kayak!
Chaos Amid Busting Tuna
As I neared the area where I’d seen the commotion, nothing broke the surface. Had I missed a fast-moving school? I recalled that Pascal Artieda, who operated his “wild coast” kayak-fishing camp, had advised us to make casts with poppers even when tuna weren’t busting.
I did, and halfway back to the kayak, a tuna burst from the surface 20 feet behind the Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bull. I gazed in awe as it chased down the lure and clobbered it.
A yee-haw! battle ensued that had the kayak variously sleigh-riding ahead and spinning, toplike, as I pedaled around the circling tuna in an effort to keep the rod pointing off a bow quadrant and never behind me.
Ultimately, I released a 40-pounder or so (that release made easier and safer since I’d replaced the treble hooks on most lures with strong singles).
Then I pedaled quickly over to Chris Russell of Denver, with my GoPro in hand and ready to shoot the 60-pounder he was easing into his kayak to disengage a popper.
In fact, all anglers were busy hooking, fighting or releasing yellowfin — the best sort of chaos.