Panama is a world-class fishing destination known for its fast and furious reeling-in of monster species such as blue, black, and striped marlin; yellowfin tuna; and wahoo and swordfish. Fishing takes place year-round; however, marlin and tuna are more abundant from January to April. The Pacific Ocean is where the best fishing is -- there's also fishing in the Caribbean, but the infrastructure (marinas and such) isn't well developed. Anglers looking for a sure bet can't beat Lake Gatún for peacock bass -- throw your line in and within minutes you'll snag one, guaranteed, making this a good excursion for kids. In addition to the information provided below for Lake Gatún, Gamboa Rainforest Resort offers fishing trips for guests and even for visitors not lodging at the resort.
Fishing charters are available for day and multiday excursions, either as part of a trip organized by a competent operator, or by simply hiring a local boatman to take you out on the water. Custom sport-fishing tours head to the Pearl Islands, the Gulf of Chiriquí (around Coiba Island), and Piñas Bay -- the latter is home to the Tropic Star Lodge , and when they're sold out, a fishing charter is a good second option. Charters typically include transportation, meals, fishing gear, and bilingual or native-English-speaking guides.
Exploration Panama (tel. 720-2470; www.explorationpanama.com), an American-run company based out of Boca Chica, in the Chiriquí Gulf near David, operates a 15m (50-ft.) refashioned U.S. Coast Guard vessel with a capacity for six overnight guests. Their all-inclusive day excursion around the Gulf of Chiriquí costs, per person, $225 (£113); their 1-night, 1-day excursion is $275 (£138); and their Coiba Island 2-night, 3-day fishing excursion is $950 (£475); they can custom-build a trip to the Darién area, too. Exploration Panama also offers scuba diving and snorkeling during fishing trips. They have land-based lodging at their Wahoo Willy's hotel and restaurant at Boca Chica.
Pesca Panama (tel. 800/946-3474 in the U.S.; www.pescapanama.com) is a U.S.-based company that offers inshore and offshore sport fishing in the Gulf of Chiriquí, around Coiba and Hannibal Bank. Pesca guests stay aboard their "floating lodge," a 21 by 9.1m (70- by 30-ft.) barge with a maximum capacity of 12 guests (four beds per room). Rates range from $2,795 to $3,895 (£1,398-£1,948) per person for 5 nights, and dates are set, not customized.
Panama Fishing & Catching (tel. 6622-0212; www.panamafishingandcatching.com) has custom charters with prices that vary according to group size and desires, but on average they charge $400 (£200) for two for a day tour leaving from Panama City, and $850 to $1,850 (£425-£925) for multiday offshore fishing charters (price runs from bare bones to all-inclusive).
Panama Yacht Tours is a more luxurious, and more expensive, option for fishing charters, and they have capacity for small or large groups aboard one of their 11 to 37m (36- to 122-ft.) yachts. This company focuses on the Chiriquí Gulf, the Pearl Islands, and Piña Bay.
Cahill Fishing (tel. 877/800-1690 in the U.S., or 314-9000; www.gamboaresort.com) offers fishing excursions on Lake Gatún.
Tropic Star Lodge (Bahía Piña, Darién; tel. 800/682-3424 in the U.S.; www.tropicstar.com). This prestigious fishing lodge is considered the best saltwater fishing resort in the world for its monster black and blue marlin, sailfish, and more. American-run, the lodge has been around since the early 1960s, and is located on the remote shore of Piñas Bay, in the Darién Province. The lodge draws famous VIPs, but is homey enough for families with kids.
Islas Secas (Gulf of Chiriquí; tel. 805/729-2737; www.islassecas.com) is not a fishing lodge per se, but sport fishing and spear fishing for marlin, billfish, and tuna are among the most popular activities at this elegant ecolodge, situated on 16 private islands in the Pacific.
Gone Fishing (Boca Chica; tel. 6573-0151; www.gonefishing.com) is a new fishing lodge with comfortable, ranch-style accommodations on the shore of Boca Chica, and friendly American owners. The focus is on fishing around the Gulf of Chiriquí, aboard one of their two 9.4m (31-ft.) open boats, and other activities for non-fishing guests.
Panama Big Game Sportfishing Club (Boca Chica; tel. 866/281-1225 in the U.S.; www.panama-sportfishing.com), like the aforementioned lodges, is American-owned, in this case by two retired charter-boat skippers from Miami. The club is located near the Gone Fishing Lodge in Boca Chica, and they have four upscale teak cabins perched high on a hill, offering lovely views. The lodge has four fishing boats to accommodate all guests.