Fishing the Lonely Pacific Coast of Colombia

We discover what sport fishing is like along arguably the least-fished Pacific coast in the tropical Americas.

Most American saltwater-fishing enthusiasts who travel to fish Central or South America head to Guatemala, Costa Rica or Panama. But Colombia’s not really on their radar. It wasn’t so long ago that violence in the country made it a place to be avoided, not visited. Nor has any infrastructure related to tourism developed significantly on its coast.

But as to the first concern, Colombia is a far safer place now and, with customary cautions for travelers anywhere, has much to offer tourists. And the second, as I discovered, means its coast is unspoiled and little visited (or fished). These photos offer some idea how I fared on a visit to fish Bahia Solano, west of Medellin, for a few days in early April.

Revealing the appeal of Colombia’s pristine coast, the photos shows a rare place where anglers can tangle with big cubera snapper just off waterfalls tumbling down jungle-shrouded slopes.Alejandro Linares / Sport Fishing Colombia
We flew from Miami into Medellin, which struck me as surprisingly modern and clean, its downtown laced with many green spaces.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
After a 45-minute flight west to Bahia Solano, on the coast, we hopped on a boat waiting to take us to the Playa de Oro Lodge, which we approached here.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Within a half hour after leaving the beach on our first morning, we found birds, bait, dolphins and yellowfin. Here, Paul Michele’s popper is smashed by a tuna, and he’s on.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Michele hefts the yellowfin he just landed on a Rapala Xplode popper (not available in the U.S.) while trying out Okuma's high-end Makaira spinner, designed to take on heavy tuna and even billfish. Holding the rod is Milo Marulanda of Sport Fishing Colombia.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Hooked up, again: Michele and Marulanda tussle with a brace of tuna on the grey but calm Pacific. Running and gunning with large poppers kept crew and anglers busy much of the morning.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Marulanda eases a big yellowfin to the boat.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
A variety of gear with 50- to 80-pound braid served us well on this coast, with its considerable variety of game fish around rocky islands and reefs. At center and far right are two of Okuma's new Azores Blue spinners. I used one in a 6000 size with 50-pound braid most often and was amazed at how smooth and reliable it proved, its very reasonable price tag notwithstanding.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
While Paul Michele works a big popper, Alejandro Linares of Sport Fishing Colombia casts a metal jig toward the rocks where yellowfin were busting moments earlier.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Linares helps deal with a big cubera boatside after Paul Michele, with Navionics, scores again on a big popper.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
After a day or two of hard use, the Rapala Xplode popper began to sport an array of tooth marks.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
The waters offshore of the coast around Bahia Solano were littered with logs of many sizes but this was the only bit of bamboo forest we encountered, an unlikely sight so far from land. Unfortunately, our casts to it came up dry.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
But while running at speed nowhere near any flotsam, we did spot the peacock colors of a mahi. The captain turned us around, and Paul Michele made ready to pitch a live scad. The hookup was immediate.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
The result was a bull of impressive proportions.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
After the mahi, as we continued to head back, sails started popping up. We saw, on the slick-calm surface, several and approached them quietly so Michele could pitch a livey in front of them. He did so on three different occasions but the sails showed no interest. Several days after we left, Milo Marulanda (who had stayed on) reported at 18-sailfish day.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
But Alejandro Linares had better billfish luck, here releasing a blue marlin.Alejandro Linares / Sport Fishing Colombia
Morning ritual: After breakfast at Playa de Oro (man, those Colombians really do make superb coffee), anglers hop aboard a little panga for the 30-foot “run” to the waiting center console — a 32-foot Angler brand made in Colombia, outfitted with twin 115 Suzukis.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
On the second morning, we make a stop at Sport Fishing Colombia’s live-bait barrel; mate Andy Villalba pulls it into the boat to pour live scads into the baitwell.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Artisanal handline fishermen anchor over a bit of bottom relief in about 160 feet to fish for snapper.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Cubera from 60 to 100 pounds certainly patrol these near-coastal waters. Accordingly, Alejandro Linares has rigged this freshly caught striped bonito with a huge circle hook to slow-troll for a behemoth snapper.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
My first fish of the morning, an ornery Pacific horse-eye jack, slammed an Ocean Born Flying Pencil lure as I skipped it over the calm surface in the current between rocky outcroppings.Paul Michele / Navionics
The coast north of Bahia Solano is pockmarked with stark rocks, around which various species can be found.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Handle with care: Big houndfish seem to be particularly abundant near shore, aggressively attacking lures and baits.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
African pompano proved relatively numerous along these shorelines. Paul Michele hooked this one on a live scad trolled with Okuma’s new Tesoro star-drag reel.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
This African held by Michele was destined to be our dinner that evening at Playa de Oro.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
I put down the camera long enough to make a few casts with a 9-inch Z-man tail as we slow-trolled live baits near the shoreline. The result was this handsome orangemouth corvina. The reel is an Okuma Helios.Paul Michele / Navionics
When conditions are right, snook fishing near river mouths can be most rewarding, as Alejandro Linares shows here.Alejandro Linares / Sport Fishing Colombia
Linares struck again, when this splendid bluefin trevally swatted the metal jig he cast toward the rocks in the background.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Paul Michele coaxes a good Sierra mackerel back to the boat as Capt. Tirso Villalba looks on.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
A happy Michele hefts his prize.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Some 15 pounds of brute force about to be released, as Milo Marulanda holds a hefty Pacific crevalle jack caught by Michele on the Tesoro.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing