> THE TUNA COAST
After working in Egypt for ten years, mainly with Nile perch fishing in Lake Nasser, Pascal Artieda took a break. He travelled to Panama for six months, looking for the perfect location to set up his new fishing operation. In the small village of Pedasi he convinced a local fisherman to take him out for a day. Popper fishing around Isla Iguana he hooked and landed a roosterfish of more than 40 kilos. That’s pretty much how and when he knew, he had found what he was looking for. And the rest is history…
At GetAway Sea Angling we knew of Pascal’s new ventures through our mutual Egyptian friend Negrashi, and we kept a close eye on things right from the start. Shortly after his lodge was finished, we formed a strong partnership and took over bookings for most of the European market. We also produced the DVD ‘Panamaniacs’, which was a huge success for us. Panama is, and probably will be for a very long time, our best-selling saltwater destination. No other destination can match the mix of great fishing, great atmosphere, great operation and –compared with similar products – a reasonable price.
In 2014 Pascal sold the lodge to French couple Clemence and Pierre-Andre. He then moved to his newly built house in the back of the garden – so while he is still our neighbor in Panama, from now on Clemence and Pierre-Andre will be the ones welcoming you to the Tuna Coast.
SEASON: Year round.
FLY TO: Panama City.
Day 1: Arrival in Panama City, transfer to airport hotel.
Day 2: Transfer to the Tuna Coast (Pedasi).
Day 3-9: Seven full days at the lodge, six full days of fishing (fishing on lay over day possible).
Day 10: Transfer to Panama City for the flight home.
Longer, or shorter, trips possible.
PRICE: From €2660 ($2900) for a six nights, five days fishing package.
INCLUDED: Five full days of guided fishing (three anglers per boat), first night at the airport hotel, six nights at lodge, all meals, water, tea coffee, round trip from Panama City to lodge.
NOT INCLUDED: International flights to Panama City, gratuities (approx. $150 per angler)
The fishing grounds at the Tuna Coast can be divided into three different categories: Inshore popping spots, offshore popping spots and off shore jigging spots.
When we fish poppers or stick baits inshore it is either about casting towards rocks or along the beaches. Here, we mainly fish for rooster fish and jack crevalle (though there are many other possible bonus catches). Without too many obstacles on the bottom we can usually let a hooked fish run and therefore get away with fishing tackle that is lighter than when we fish off shore.
The off shore popping grounds can be several miles out to sea. Either around island or more often just where the seabed rises into small underwater mountains or plateaus. Again, the rooster fish is one of the main targets but out here we also find the vicious cubera snapper – the main reason for bringing heavier popping tackle to the Tuna Coast. When fishing on the off shore popping grounds we can run into lots of different species. Though certainly not the norm, there has even been marlin hooked on poppers out here as these spots are surrounded by deeper water. More normal and most welcome by catches include wahoo, sharks, yellowfin tuna, various snappers, bluefin trevally, jacks, groupers, sailfish, dorados and amberjacks. Just be ready and hold on – you can never be sure what grabs your stick bait or popper out here…
Jigging is also carried out at different hot spots off shore. Don’t get mad at your captain is he decides to leave while the action is still good. We are careful not to fish these hot spots too hard; then the amberjacks, groupers, snappers or whatever we are catching will leave the spot for good so after a few good fish it’s better to save something for another day.
Apart from the three different types of fishing grounds mentioned above we also chase yellowfin tuna off shore, chasing diving birds. As you can imagine, a week at the Tuna Coast can pass all too quickly.
The lodge has four boats but never fish more than three so there is always one back up boat ready. There are two TwinVee 26′ power catamarans and two Caribepro 25′ center console boats. All of them are fully equiped for sport fishing and powered by twin engines (Suzuki four strokes). Each boat has VHF radio, GPS and sounder, livewell and tuna tubes. The boat’s captains has been with the lodge right from the start in 2006 and are by far the most experienced in all fishing techniques on the Tuna Coast.
The lodge is located outside of the town of Pedasì, some four to five hours from Panama City. There are four rooms, each with private bathrooms and air condition, a swimming pool, dining area and a kitchen that is known for its simple yet delicious cuisine.
Panama has a tropical climate with daily temperatures averaging around 27-28° C and maximum daily temperaturs in the low thirties. Should you want to take a swim, the sea is between 28° and 29° C all year. The dry season starts in December and ends in May but the season is year round.
We mainly do group trips at the Tuna Coast from January to April, and again from during October and November. This seems to when most of anglers wants to escape Europe but there are plenty of good fishing opportunities all year round.
For heavy popping, we recommend a quality rod with a casting weight of around 150-180 grams. That will basically cover all your fishing with larger poppers and stick baits. There are lots of good rods on the market and for a while we have been fishing new three piece rods. They are much easier for travel as you can fit them into a larger suitcase or duffle bag but being a bit shorter (usually between 7’ 6” and 8 feet) they don’t cast quite as well as the longer (8’6”) two piece rods. Still, we think it’s a fair trade off.
When it comes to reels we think a fixed spool reel like Shimano’s Stella 14000XG (or 10000SW) is the perfect size for the Panama. There is no need to bring bigger (and heavier) models.
For light tackle you should consider bringing a fixed spool reel in the 6000 size and a lighter popping rod casting up to 100 grams.
The choice of line is a matter of personal taste but we prefer 80-100 lbs braid for the heavier popping tackle and 50-60 lbs for light tackle.
For jigging we use a short rod of a little over five feet with a recommended jig weight of around 300 grams. We use a fixed spool reel the same size as when popping (10000 or 14000) but find it is easier to get away with a less expensive model than the Shimano Stellas or Daiwa Saltigas when jigging.
Quality tackle can be hired at the lodge but make sure to let us know in advance if you plan to do so.
The lodge has some lures for sale but we recommend that you bring some of your own, too. Good poppers are Heru Cubera, Dumbell Pop (L), Orion Fraser Pop and Sebile Splasher 190. Of course, many other poppers in the 100-180 range will work well too. Stick baits of 20 cm and up that will cast well also do really well in.
NOTE: It’s possible to rent quality tackle for popping and jigging at the lodge. Just informs us so we are sure the have it set up and ready for you when you arrive.