Phenomenal Panama Kayak-Fishing Adventure

Wide-open action on Panama’s “wild coast”: Unforgettable!

July 8, 2013

Monster cubera snapper!

There are fishing adventures and then there are fishing adventures. Nearly a week recently spent fishing the teeming Pacific along the Panama coast from Hobie kayaks was — at the risk of sounding hyperbolic — one of the very best in a lifetime of memorable fishing trips. This gallery offers some idea of just how much fun this was. But while seeing may be believing, it ain’t experiencing. For kayak enthusiasts, I strongly recommend considering a visit to Pascal Artieda’s Panama Kayak Adventure. Pascal is passionate about yak-fishing and is now set up to accommodate groups of serious kayak anglers. Here, upwards of 60 pounds of cubera snapper about to gain its freedom from angler Keeton Eoff, director of strategic development for Hobie. Great catch from any vessel; amazing from a kayak. Jason Arnold (

At the beach, Pedasi

First morning and our group of five kayak anglers gets ready to go fishing! This is Pedasi, minutes from the lodge, on the quiet waters of Azuéro Peninsula; sandy beaches and occasional rock piles spell “roosterfish.” Doug Olander

A ton o’ tackle

Actually, this represents about four outfits per angler. Brandon Cotton (right) with Okuma helps Pascal Artieda untie gear; Cotton provided all these Okuma outfits for our use on this trip, and use ’em we did. Jason Arnold (

Last-minute outfitting

Anxious anglers try to make sure everything is set up before they launch. (From left, Kevin Nakada with Hobie, Chris Russell at that time with Eagle Claw and Brandon Cotton at that time with Okuma.) Doug Olander

Time to fish!

A quick discussion of strategy and it’s time to rock ‘n roll! The light offshore breeze is perfect and no worries of rain that morning. Jason Arnold (

Where pez gallo lurks!

The target! When you find any structure or rock pile along this shallow sandy shoreline, get ready for roosterfish. Like all the underwater images in this gallery, this photo was taken by Jason Arnold, a regular contributor to SF and one of the best. Jason Arnold (;

Rooster country!

Currents swirled around this rugged rock pile in about 30 feet of water, north of Pedasi; it produced numerous roosters, snapper and more for our group. Jason Arnold (

Trophy rooster!

The very rocks in the preceding photo produced this trophy 60-pounder. I knew it would be my biggest ever when cleared the water at the hook-set. Doug Olander

Time to re-bait

While roosters will hit poppers and trolled diving lures, nothing beats a lively blue runner. Jason Arnold (

Pedal power: perfect trolling machine

Keeton trolls a live bait along the shore near Pedasi. Hobies, with their “pedal power” Mirage Drives, are unbeatable for this sort of fishing since they leave both hands free to fish while underway. Doug Olander

Snapper for dinner

Another denizen of the rocks, this yellow snapper caught by Kevin came home for dinner. Jason Arnold (

Breakfast at the lodge

Here, breakfast is on the table as anglers get ready to fish Pedasi a second day, before heading to the “wild coast.” Guide and co-host Aurélien, behind the bar, helps prepare los huevos. Doug Olander

All this on one kayak!

My gear, to be distributed on my kayak for the day’s fishing. Fortunately the Pro Angler 12 has tons of space and built-in storage for four rods. Doug Olander

Caravan to a southern beach

On the road — it will be a two-hour drive from the lodge to the point where the trail ends at water’s edge. This is the beginning of our three day adventure to what the French lads call “the wild coast,” and where, after another two hours by skiff, we’ll arrive at their wilderness base camp. Doug Olander


Definitely not in Kansas: Our progress is suspended briefly while a herd of cattle lumbers along the road. Doug Olander

The end of the road

The end of the road — a large bay where we’ll be loading all five kayaks into two skiffs and launching for a two-hour ride west along the open Pacific. Doug Olander

Panga time

Fortunately, the sand is hard and the water calm (as it often is much of the year). Doug Olander

Fearless leader

Pascal Artieda at the tiller of one of the skiffs, loaded with kayaks, gear and anglers. The French lodge owner fell in love with kayak fishing some years ago and is excited about offering visiting anglers the chance for an unforgettable experience. Doug Olander

Base camp on the “wild coast”

Pascal’s wild coast outpost is located in a protected bay shown here, roughly halfway between Coiba Island and Pedasi. Courtesy Google Maps

Off the “wild coast” — time to fish!

We arrive off our protected bay at mid-afternoon — time enough to put kayaks in just offshore and start fishing. Doug Olander

A speck on the ocean

The Pacific is calm but, typically, characterized by groundswells very far apart. Click to enlarge the photo and you can make out a kayak’s white fishing rods just visible, on the other side of a swell. Doug Olander

Stretched to the limit

It doesn’t take long until everyone is hooking up with yellowfin smashing big poppers! Here, Chris tussles it out with tuna. Jason Arnold (

The wild coast — a.k.a. the tuna coast

Most of the yellowfin we hooked that afternoon were in the 30- to 60-pound range. Jason Arnold (

Tough to the end

This tuna, closer to 60 than 30, proved reluctant to have its photo taken. Unfortunately for Chris, he had left his fish gripper behind, so was bare-knuckling it. Doug Olander

Towed by a tuna

Brandon gets a ride! This area, also known as the tuna coast, offers consistent yellowfin action within a half-mile to mile off the rocky shoreline. Doug Olander

Tuna on top — doesn’t get much better!

Even I got into act. This fish came greyhounding from behind my popper to nail it. Everyone else was tied up fighting fish so I used my GoPro to get the shot. Doug Olander

Kayak seat = fighting chair

I had the chance to try out a new accessory Hobie’s going to offer for its Pro Angler models — a fighting cup that attaches to the seat and gives you something of a fighting chair (though I found that things may get tricky if a big fish suddenly darts toward stern). Jason Arnold (

Bluefin trevally

I caught this lovely bluefin trevally while trolling a live bait. We used Eagle Claw’s Trokar, super-sharp laser hooks. Jason Arnold (

Roosters always likely

It may be the “tuna coast,” but roosters are always possible. Kevin holds his catch boatside for a quick photo. Jason Arnold (

Wild coast base camp

Home sweet home for three nights: Each angler had his own tent; Pascal and Aurélien were joined by other staff to make sure everyone was comfortable — and being French, of course they served wine with dinner! UPDATE: Since 2015, Pascal has had a camp with four cabins, each with twin beds, lights and running water. Doug Olander

The jungle’s beauty

Panama’s jungle resounds with beauty. Doug Olander

Early-morning rigging at base camp

Before breakfast, next morning, Brandon rigs one of his rods while chatting with Aurélien. He had provided Okuma conventional and spinning gear filled with Western Filament Tuf-Line braid (30-, 50- and 80-pound) for all anglers on the trip. Doug Olander

Preparing to launch

Soon, all anglers and staff carry gear to the edge of the bay, where a river flows in, The small bay’s mouth is deep and makes accessing the ocean easy. Doug Olander

The fleet

We fished from an assortment of Hobie Mirage-Drive kayaks, including an inflatable model (farthest away) which performed flawlessly. Jason Arnold (

A wild coast indeed

Fishing from that inflatable, Kevin works the headlands of the rugged Pacific coast adjacent to our little bay. Doug Olander

100 yards out from base camp

Nearby, I landed this respectable rooster. Our bay (home base) is barely visible, almost dead center in the background — obviously one needn’t pedal far to find fish. Jason Arnold (

Cubera snapper: tough customers

Big cubera are abundant off the wild coast, but for every large one landed, many will be lost. Big ones may prove unstoppable, even on 80-pound braid. Jason Arnold (

Kayak catch of a lifetime!

Keeton’s man-sized snapper. (This shot also reinforces the inherent stability of Hobie’s Outback.) Doug Olander

Fearsome fangs

A fearsome visage! (And I am not referring to Keeton.) Jason Arnold (

Jigging up jacks

Pacific almaco jacks and amberjacks both thrive here and are among the likely candidates to slam a jig. Jason Arnold (

Whole lotta houndfish

Although it’s hard to get a hook into the long, narrow, tooth-filled jaws of a houndfish, Kevin did and found out they jump like little marlin. Jason Arnold (

African pompano surprise

I was trolling a small creolefish (a type of snapper) when this African pompano elected to make it dinner. Instead, it became part of our dinner, that night. My GoPro allowed me to capture this digital image. Doug Olander

Barred pargo

Brandon looks over a barred pargo, one of several caught during our adventure. Jason Arnold (

Another trophy cubera!

Another impressive snapper, this time for Kevin. Doug Olander

Reluctant rooster

This reluctant rooster proves a handful for Brandon. Jason Arnold (

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