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March 14, 2011

Fishing Panama's Forgotten Coast

A vast Caribbean wonderland of rivers and reefs invites exploration by anglers

Tripping to Tranquilo
Panama TranquiloGetting there: 1) Fly into Panama City (PC) from many U.S. cities via several carriers. We've had good luck with Copa (copaair.com), which offers the convenience of direct (nonstop) flights into PC from New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. (Dulles), Miami and Orlando (note that at press time, checking fishing rods in a case longer than 5 feet will entail a $75 charge each way); 2) Fly from PC to Bocas Del Toro, about an hour on a prop-driven commuter plane. Aeroperlas (aeroperlas.com) offers the convenience of two flights in/out most days. Time your flights right and, if you'd like, you might be able to avoid the necessity of an overnight stay in PC; and 3) Jim and/or Jay will meet you at the Bocas airport; from there, they'll take you and your gear the half-hour run in one of the resort's outboard boats to Tranquilo Bay.

When to go: While there's no "bad" time to visit this Caribbean milk-and-honey land, when serious fishing is the goal, the choices are clear: spring and fall. Specifically, April, May, September and October are normally hands-down the best choices. Not only are most game fish most active then, seas tend to be flat, day in, day out, Kimball says.

What to bring: The resort has tackle, and while it might suffice, I'd recommend bringing some of your own rods/reels appropriate to the species that you most want to catch (keeping in mind the inshore and offshore fisheries). Ditto for lures. Any of your favorites are likely to produce; unlike more-discriminating fish in heavily fished areas, these have not seen many artificials.

What to expect: Great food - of course - great company, a well-stocked bar, and accommodations in air-conditioned cabins that offer solitude and privacy. The resort's water, ultrafiltered and UV-treated, is absolutely drinkable. The hospitable main lodge itself offers always-available high-speed Internet as well as a U.S. land line with a Houston area code.

More to do: For you and/or your family, keep in mind that Tranquilo Bay offers a great deal of options beyond fishing. Guided jungle/mountain/beach hikes with the resort's full-time ­naturalists, snorkeling gin-clear reefs, visiting indigenous villages, surfing, bird-watching, and kayaking mangroves and white-water rivers are among the options here, many of which fall within the popular umbrella of "eco-tourism."

For reservations or more information: www.tranquilobay.com; ­713-589-6952.