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February 19, 2014

Kayak Fishing Panama

Panama's wild coast kayak adventure -- a new wilderness outpost camp puts anglers in the middle of memorable action off Panama's remote Azuero Peninsula.

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.