Big Tuna from my kayak in Panama

I have so much blogging to catch up on, still need to get up the photos and reports from our trips to Georgia, Florida and Mazatlan. On the road so much just not enough time to get everything I need done, but I will get on it ASAP.
In the mean time I hope you enjoy this video of my catch of a 120 pound yellowfin Tuna while kayak fishing in Panama. This was the toughest fight I have ever had from my kayak.

Panama Trip follow up

Game On 2 Kayak Fishing in Panama

I have received a few emails asking for more details on how the trip was run and some logistics.
We arranged out own flights into Panama city all other flight and transfer arrangements were handled by Pesca Panama
We flew into Panama City; we were met by a driver that took us to a very nice hotel Casino for the night. We were up early and met in the lobby at 5:00 am the next morning and were driven to a smaller airport to jump a plane to David. This was all arraigned by Pesca Panama and is included in the price of the trip.
For those making this trip be prepared to cough up some extra coin for your baggage at this point. Your Rod tube better not be much over seven feet or it may not make it on the plane and there are fees for bags over 30 pounds.
After the one hour flight we were met in David by several drivers to pick us up and load our gear. It was just a ten minute drive to the barge. I am reluctant to call it a barge because it was very nice.
We loaded and prepped our kayaks and gear put them on the small boats and headed out fishing by 8:30 am. The barge then moved to an island where we met it that night. We were never near any populated areas after that and saw no one other than our group of five fishing boats, and rarely saw them other than back at the barge. You could fish from dawn till dusk if you chose to, we usually were the last ones off the barge each day. Wanting to let the paying customers get going without us in the way, yeah right, we were just too tired to get going after spending 12 hours in the kayaks.
Here is a shot of the fishing boats.
Pesca Panama fishing boats
As soon as the last fishing boat was away from the barge it would head to another location were we would meet it later that night.
The accommodations on the barge though not five star were very comfortable, though a little cramped when we were all trying to get ready to go. We slept four to a room with two bunk beds in each room. Take a hint get in the room first and get the bottom bunk.
cabin on Pesca Panama
The crew on the barge and the fishing boats were all top notch and were there to help us at every turn.
Most every night the bar tender, Jamie, was at the rail handing us our first rum and coke as we stepped off the fishing boat and would have your second one in your hand at the first sound of clinking ice cubes. Meals were served as you arrived in the open air on the front of the barge.
dining area on Pesca Panama
The food was awesome, generally some form of fresh fish, seared Tuna, baked Wahoo etc… We were often served ceviche or sashimi as an appetizer. Breakfasts were served as you awoke and again it was filling and good.
One night we got slammed by weather and ate inside then watched a great movie called Game On 1, you may of heard of it. 🙂
inside Pesca Panama
They had a nice flat screen TV and a library of movies. We really didn’t use this area of the barge much just on that rainy night.
We had our lunches out on the boats which were generally sandwiches or burritos and snacks, there was also a well stocked cooler on the boat loaded with waters, sodas, juices and beers.
This place is made to fish and you spent little time on the barge and a lot of time out fishing in some of the most spectacular areas I have ever seen. Picture fishing next to a waterfall for snook while listening to Howler monkeys in the jungle, simply amazing.

Ken fishing for snook

Jim fishing for snook

There were two showers on the barge and each night you could just toss your clothes in the hamper and they would be clean for you the next afternoon, meaning we could have brought a lot less clothes with us then we did. This was a great addition to their already fantastic service.
Unfortunately the trip came to an end all too fast and the process was reversed on the last day. We fished till noon, which gave us five and a half amazing days of fishing, then ran all the way back to David where we met the barge, had lunch, packed, plane back to Panama city, Hotel for the night and head home.
In Panama City I am sure you need to treat it just like any big city but we all felt very safe there.
What a great trip it was. I would go back in an instant.
If you plan on making this trip as a kayak angler, you can expect to out fish the bigger boats on the incredible inshore fishing, many of the places we hit the boats just couldn’t get to and these fish had never seen a lure. These fish hit hard and pulled hard so expect to lose a fair number of lures, bring strong gear and load up with Powerpro and at least 40 pound leaders, even then you will get hit by fish you just can’t stop before they bust you off.
The kayaks they have there are OK Trident 13’s with seats and two flush mounts. I found it very nice to have my Shimano bait tank with me, not as a bait tank but as extra rod holders and storage. It was also great to have a portable fish finder to stay in safe areas. There were spots that seemed very safe then the bottom would jump up and you would have large breaking waves out in the middle of a large bay.
For those long days on the water you will appreciate an extra seat pad and your own Carbon fiber paddle. I have a Lendal that breaks down to five pieces that makes it great for travel.
Feel free to contact me directly if you have any specific questions about the trip.
I know this location is going to make a great segment to Kayak Fishing Game On 2.

Game On 2 in Panama a photo report

Photo report from Game On 2 Panama shoot.

What a great operation they have at Pesca Panama. This is our floating lodge or floating bar as the case may be. They would move it every day to a new location while we were out fishing.
Pesca Panama home base
I don’t seem to have any photos of the support boats but they were top notch. Twin four strokes, full electronics and a huge bimini top to keep the sun off while on the boat. This was huge as when the sun was out it was blistering hot. Lucky we had plenty of cloud cover to keep the heat down a bit. Water temp was 86.5
We are talking long fishing days also, basically fishing dawn till dusk or even later if you take too long on a fish.
We were all very excited to get on our kayaks as we were told we would be the first kayak anglers to fish much of these amazing waters.
The first day of the trip we got into some real nice Roosters with my biggest being close to forty pounds, unfortunately no still shots of that fish but here is one of the others I got on a live bait.
Jim and Roosterfish
Here is Ken Releasing another
 Ken releasing roosterfish

We spent a lot of time fishing the inshore structure with Sebile poppers and magic swimmers, and you never knew what might hit.
Sometimes Jack Crevalle
Jim Sammons and Jack Crevalle
Cubera Snapper
Jim Sammons Cubera Snapper
Blue Trevally
Blue Trevally

We were fishing in some nasty neighborhoods and these fish were tough, wanting to pull us into the rocks and the surf. We lost a lot of lures to these fish in the rocks. You basically just buttoned your drag and at times would have to paddle the fish out of the surf zone. The pictures don’t do justice to just how gnarly these spots were. It sure was nice to be in our Ocean Kayak Trident 13’s has they handle the rough conditions so well.
Blow hole
fishing the rocks
fishing the rocks
kayak fishing the rocks in Panama
When it wasn’t hot it was raining
The Storm is coming
Paul kayak fishing in the rain
Our Videographer/Director Will in a down pour
Will Richardson getting wet in Panama

As we were moving from one island to another we saw a huge school of porpoise and swung by to check it out. Saw some tuna jumping so we tossed the kayaks in the water to give them a shot. Chased some boils and tossed out a surface popper right on top of one with my little Shimano 300 Calcutta and got slammed on the first crank.
Rather like taking a knife to a gun fight.
Jim Sammons Kayak Fishing for 38 pound tuna
Paul and I each got one his going 42 pounds and mine 38, note the porpoise behind Paul.
Paul Lebowitz Tuna and dolphin
Paul Lebowitz and Jim Sammons Kayak Fishing for tuna
Back near one of the islands we were told about a spot they called the Snook hole for a good reason. These were our first Snook ever.
Paul Lebowitz kayak fishing for Snook in Panama
Jim Sammons first kayak fishing snook

After fishing the Snook hole we decided to investigate a small tidal river. As soon as we got on the water we spotted a couple of very small crocs sinking out as we approached.
Hunting for saltwater crocs
Paul and I each caught small snappers in the river.
As we came around this bend a VERY LARGE salt water Croc Flew off the bank which was about four feet high and landed just a few feet off my bow. I think I levitated out of my kayak; needless to say this is where we turned around. The camera was rolling at the time so I am dyeing to see if they got it on tape.
The croc spot

One of the spots that I was really looking forward to fishing while in Panama was the famed Hanibal bank. This place is famous for big tuna and billfish and I really wanted to try our luck out there for a couple of days. As we would be the first kayak anglers ever to fish this spot. Unfortunately there was a medical emergency on the barge which kept it in one location for an extra day so all we got at the bank was one late afternoon. That turned out to be enough.
As we pulled up to the bank several of our other fishing boats from the barge were just leaving saying that no fish had been landed all morning. I made the comment to Paul and the rest that once they left the kayaks would take over and do some business. We all put out live baits and trolled the area in the kayaks in the 97 degree heat, which Ken was really having a hard time with, what do you expect from a Canadian. The baits we were using were large live Bonita, if we were going to get hit it would be by something big. An hour into trolling my bait go nailed and instantly popped off. You never know how many chances you will get so I was bummed. I pinned on another Bonita and was off again. The issue I was having was that with these big baits it was hard to get the lever drag reel set in a good spot to hold the baits in place but not be so tight that the fish couldn’t run with it. Well I saw some bird working in the distance and decided to head that way, I tighten down the drag a bit so I could paddle harder and got hit and popped again. This time I was pissed, the other guys had not been hit at all and I didn’t know how many chances I would get. I put on another bait this time a smaller goggle eye which would let me troll a bit faster. I was chasing the bird very hard for over a mile and was really running out of steam by the time I reached them in the extreme heat. I had just slowed down to rest a bit and got SLAMMED. I let it run a bit threw it in gear and it was Game On.
I don’t think I have ever pulled this hard on a fish, thank God for the Shimano Tiagra 12 two speed reel loaded with 50 pound PowerPro braided line I was using. The fish had my rod pegged to the rail for much of the fight ad that two speed allowed me to still gain line. In these clear waters I think the Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leaders really helped us get bit.
Jim Sammons Bendo on a BIG tuna from his kayak
I had the fish to color in a little over an hour and when I saw how big it was I was amazed. I had the guys from the camera boat toss me a gaff and I gave it my best shot. It was rather like gaffing a stick of dynamite as when the gaff it the fish it just exploded.
Jim Sammons attempts to gaff a large tuna from a kayak
I think all I really did was piss the fish off, as it smoked off a ton of my line not to be seen again for another two hours.
By the time I got the fish back up to color my body was a wreck, my arms were dying, my hand were cramping and the always problematic muscles in my back were one big knot. The sun was starting the set and we did not want to lose this fish or fight it into the night, you would know why if you saw some of the huge Bull sharks we saw and the fast approaching lighting storm heading our way. I had the boat come in close and let them stick the gaff in the fish, good thing too because again the fish exploded and it took two gaffs to get it in the boat.
Jim Sammons with 120 pound tuna on the deck of his kayak

Happy Landing

Happy Landing

Jim Sammons with 120 pound tuna on the boat
We were not able to weigh the fish but our boat captain estimates the weight to be 120 pounds. All I know for sure is that I could not lift the fish from the deck of the boat. The picture about does not do the fish justice because its tail is still on the deck with a good bend in the fish. Great fish and a great day.

Many Rum and cokes followed up this catch and lots of Motrin for my sore muscles.
Panama is my new favorite place. The fishing and scenery were absolutely off the charts.

On a side note you will notice that in most shots we are not wearing PFDs, I am a strong proponent of wearing a life vest when out on the kayaks. The reason we are not wearing them is that the Kayaks, paddles and PFDs were all shipped to Panama in advance of our trip and the PFDs simply didn’t show up.

On another note, in this picture you can see my new favorite fishing shirt. The Exofficio Neptune.
Jim in the Exofficio Neptune shirt
It kept me cool in the blazing sun but also after getting blasted with fish blood washed up like it was brand new.

Panama is definitely a place I want to go back to, even though we put in very long hours on the kayaks I know we barely scratched the surface of possibilities on what a kayak angler can do here.

Kayak Fishing: GO 2 Texas by Jeff “Birdsnest” Herman

(Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – 9th March 2009) I am convalescing on the flattest, calmest piece of Pacific Bay I have ever seen. I am convalescing from a fantastic week on the water in Texas. Okay, maybe “convalescing” is not the appropriate verbage. How about: “Rehabilitating”? Nay… the constant stream of Rum Punches being brought to my beachside chase lounge makes “rehabilitation” most disingenuous. Ahhh, mobsters…. Here it is… I am refueling. Yep, filling a drained tank after a glorious week of fishing, filming, and, friends.

Jim Sammons, the king of west coast kayak fishing and the infamous videographer extraordinaire Will Richardson (the coolest Canadian this side of the Cobham River) came to Texas at the close of February. Texas was scheduled to be the first stop for Game On Part 2, and we planned to fish the Hurricane Ike -battered but unbowed -upper Texas Coast.

We set up camp at Pointe West Resort, on Galveston Island. A great home base for various fishing options on and around Galveston, and we were definitely going to need options. February weather is so unpredictable in Texas, that targeting a specific species is dubious at best. In planning for the film I had multiple locations mapped and at the ready for whatever Ma Nature threw in our direction.

The crew:


My best bet for good fishing was putting the crew, which included Perry Trial from TPWD, on to big trout. However with a week of unseasonably warm weather, I had a hunch that the trout would be dispersed and instead that red fish may be skittering about the shallow marshes. The water was warm enough for sure, and if the bait fish were around at all, I knew the reds would be too.

On day one of our fishing I went with my gut and took the crew over to a Christmas Bay canal and salt marsh. We choose our location well because everyone whacked good fish the first day. Reds of all sizes were caught. There were plenty of undersized “rats”, as well as some nice slot redfish between 23 and 25 inches netted for the cameras. As a bonus, some very respectable flounder were brought to hand too. The big flounder were unexpected as usually you only catch juveniles this time of year. All in all it was a great start to the trip.

Jim with a great flounder (I say it was the lucky Lendal hat!):

Perry with a nice red:

On day two we rolled the dice and went to a deep water spot to see if any trout were still hanging around. Jim had a red and a flounder under his belt, and I felt duty bound to get him on a speckled trout so he could complete a proper “Texas Slam”. (Texas Slam = Red, Trout, and Flounder.)

How’s that old adage go? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Well, our road was unpaved/destroyed by Hurricane Ike, and getting everyone to the trout launch spot was a time consuming affair. Poor Jim and Will were basically 4 wheeling in a Chrysler rental car that was so low to the ground yellow stripes in the road were trying to duck and cover. Alas, we all made it to the launch and set out for fishing. We grinded for a few hours, but with a late start and unseasonably warm waters, the trout hole was a swing and a miss.

Bird on the move:

Pardon. My drink has been long empty and our waitress Elda has seemingly vanished? I must find my sandals and make way to the beach bar for refills. More soon on our Texas Fishing Adventure, after proper refreshments have been secured….

—Bueno Amigos… mas aventura de pesca Tejas…

On the afternoon of day two Jim and I headed back to Christmas Bay for more marsh fishing, while Perry and Will went to meet a pilot for shooting some aerial footage. Our pilot was no ordinary prop jockey. Nay my good friends, we secured the services of Walker – kayaker, fisherman, pilot, privateer (seriously, it’s on his business card), and just a genuinely cool dude. Walker flew half the crew over Galveston Island, Follett’s Island, and Bolivar Island while Jim and I fished. We each caught some reds, but it wasn’t as hot and heavy as the day before. Regardless, we had quite a time watching Walker fly low circles over us sans passenger doors. Perched precariously, Will hung out the door by his safety belt to shoot video. Cool stuff indeed.

Return your seat backs to their upright and locked position:

Whose shooting who?:



On day 3, we shook off the cobwebs from a night of trading fish stories and drinks. As the big winds were increasing steadily, everyone decided marsh fishing was again the first-best option. Fishing was marginal with no big fish caught and an inconsistent bite. But, everyone went bendo a few times, albeit no bragging rights were cemented.

Wind and Waves:

After breaking for lunch we headed for another spot in the lee of the wind. I still needed to find some trout and figured this particular spot in West Bay would produce. Bah, the wind started humming to 20mph and we fought it and a bigger than expected tide. No joy, no luck. As the sun started to go down though, I suggested we blind cast a marsh on the way back to the launch. With the grinding potential of our blind casting we were finally rewarded with a speckled trout to complete Jim’s slam. It wasn’t a monster sow trout, but it was a respectable keeper caught as the sun was setting. How can you not like that? It was a cool moment. A genuine moment. A moment when potential and opportunity combine into a worthy flash of Experience (capitalization intended). For me, that’s fishing, mobsters…. Not the fish, but the potential of the fishing, the potential of the trip, the potential of the next cast, the potential of experience.



The sun has set here in old Mexico. The battery on the lap top is almost drained along with my drink. I am back on the rod and reel tomorrow…. My better half Angee and I have secured a panga and the services of Captain Jose for a morning of trolling for bonitos, spanish mackerels, and jacks.

The recounting of the Texas trip was only half over when I stopped above. It was a great experience already, and it was about to become even richer. Hell, it become profoundly richer and the actual fishing was terrible by professional angling terms. However, it turned out to be some of the best “fishing” I’ve ever had the privilege to participate in.


Next time: Heroes on the Water. Fishing with wounded veterans at the Manske Ranch in Vanderbilt Texas.