Panama is one of the most unique landscapes in the world. Bordered by two oceans from the north and the south, you’re going to find some of the best marine life here. If you like fishing, you’ll find a whole new world of marine fauna abundant in the waters of Panama.
Panama has some of the greatest variety of gamefish in Central America. You’ll find some of the biggest and most exotic fish in the world in its waters. You can fish almost all year round, finding big game like marlins, snappers, and amberjack. Superb fishing spots include Lake Gatun and the Azuero Peninsula.
Are you into fishing? If you are, visiting Panama is a satisfying country to visit. Want to learn more about what and where to fish in the isthmus? Give this comprehensive guide a good read so you can see where you can enjoy fishing in Panama.
Give it a go.
Why Fish in Panama?
Before anything, let’s answer a crucial question first. Why would you want to fish in Panama? We’ll give you that question back: why wouldn’t you?
For starters, Panama enjoys one of the best geographical positions in the world. To its north, the Caribbean Sea borders its islands, providing some of the biggest fish in the world. To its south, the depths of the Pacific ocean offer among the most exotic fishes you won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re more of the freshwater fishing enthusiast, you’ll find Panama’s waters will be sufficient. There are many different river channels, lakes, and locales where you can find the best fish.
Why fish in Panama?
- Wide variety of fish to catch
- Productive coasts, islands, rivers, and seamount areas
- Calm waters for easy fishing
- Trophy fishing haven
- Easy to enter and stay for a long time
- Near-infinite amount of fishing resorts
Panama is a fisherman’s paradise. Even the name itself means “abundance of fish.” Here’s why you need to go around Panama and enjoy fishing in this beautiful country.
1. Wide Variety of Fish
Panama has one of the biggest varieties of fish in the world. With the Pacific and the Caribbean as its fish source, Panama enjoys an expanse of fishing options. Its waters are up to you to enjoy.
For starters, it’s not uncommon for you to get a yellowfin tuna, a snapper, a grouper, and amberjack in one trip. You can find some of the most beautiful game fish out there, including the black marlin and the pacific bonito.
If you want to go on freshwater fishing, you can enjoy some of the best in the region too. You’ll get a ton of the best fish in the world, including peacock bass and tarpons. If you like to go angling in Panama, expect to have some of the best experiences ever.
2. Productive Coastline
If you’re the type who’s looking into getting several days’ worth of good fishing, go for it. Panama’s oceans are productive, with some of the most consistent action out there. For pelagic aficionados, you’ll find a good chunk of fishes floundering about every day.
Fishing spots like Montuosa, Jicaron, Contadora, San Telmo, and Isla Parida have a lot of action. Get the best wahoos, trevallies, and swordfish without many headaches when you go sportfishing.
You can get action almost everywhere in Panama. Visit river line estuaries, major lakes, large rivers, and even blue offshore coasts. You’ll see how many pelagics are there for you to catch.
3. Calm Waters
The Pacific and the Atlantic are not always a flat ocean to fish in. Even then, fishing in Panama is calm and easier than most places. It’s hard to get a blowout on your boat, and we’re sure you’d enjoy the calm waters most of the time.
Even when you’re fishing during rainy days, you’ll see the waters can be flat and domesticated. This can be awesome for you, considering you can fish all year in Panama.
4. Trophy Fishing Haven
For trophy fishers, the waters of Panama are an abundant source of the best fish in the world. Whatever species of fish you want, you’ll find some of the biggest that you can show off. If you see many fishing enthusiasts show their “catch of a lifetime”, chances are it’s from Panama.
A flight to Panama is not too long, usually around as much as a domestic flight. From Miami, we’re talking about around 3 to 4 hours give or take. You can connect from almost every major airport in the US and drop down to Panama City itself.
From there, you can choose from a bevy of beautiful fishing spots, lodges, and fishing charters. Whatever fishing adventure you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the isthmus.
5. Ease of Entry and Stay
Entering Panama and staying for an entire adventure is not hard in Panama. Unlike many countries, Panama has accessibility right at its fingertips. The country is not too big, and almost every major island has a fishing journey you can enjoy.
Many nationalities can stay as tourists in Panama visa-free – many as long as 180 days. Countries that don’t have the visa-free status in Panama can also get one for around 90 days. This length is sufficient enough for many to test the waters of this beautiful country.
If you’re going on a journey, everything is accessible too. The primary currency in the country is equivalent to the US Dollar, so there are no complicated conversions. The capital itself has many tourist-friendly facilities that offer potential tourists the freedom to go anywhere.
From the capital, you can go to almost every island in Panama. All you need is a boat charter, some gear and a place to stay. You can even backpack in the country and expect a safe, wonderful adventure without much fuss.
6. Superior Accessibility
When you’re adventuring, you’ll see that almost every corner of Panama has a place you can stay. Many resorts, lodges, and charters offer services for the right price. They will have fishing boats, fishing gear, and even guides who can bring you to that high action fishing spot.
What makes Panama great are the people you’ll find in these dwellings. You’ll see tourists who make the area a familiar territory. You’ll see other enthusiasts who can be potential friends that can share your passion.
The best people you’ll find in these lodging, however, are the locals. Locals are friendly and willing to help tourists in need. Many local Panamanians will have their secret fishing spots that have the best fish. Some are even willing to share it with enthusiasts who would want to get their fair share.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch in Panama?
So, what kinds of fish can you catch in Panama? The waters of Panama are full of different kinds of fish. The local saltwater and freshwater species offer different levels of game to people who want to enjoy it.
Panama is almost always a one-sided affair. The Pacific is easier to access than the Caribbean Sea, but it doesn’t mean the north is not a good place to fish. In the waters near Bocas Del Toro, the biggest draw to anglers are the tarpons and the common snook.
The Caribbean Sea off Bocas does not have big banks to speak. You’ll notice a lot of pockets of deeper waters between depths of 100 – 300 ft (30.48 – 91.44 m). Before you get to a continental shelf, you’ll see a lot of unexplored reefs. If you’re able to go beyond the strong north winds, you’ll see some of the best surf out here.
We’re talking about black groupers, gigantic kingfish, cubera snappers, and yellowtail amberjacks. Once the reefs go into deeper waters, you’ll find the best blackfin and yellowfin tuna. There are also lots of tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo as long as you can brave these unexplored waters.
Fishing on Pacific Panama
Fishing on the Pacific side of Panama is like swimming in a vault of gold coins. On this site, you’ll see one of the most abundant locales to catch big game fish. If you’re a sports angler, you’d love it here.
For starters, you’ll find some of the most abundant black marlins in the area. You’ll find some of the biggest wahoo, jacks, and even dorados. It’s not going to be too hard to top any previous trophy that you have back at home.
Going around the archipelago, you’ll find more fish that are swimming around in warmer waters. You’ll see the seas with a ton of red snappers, amberjacks, and even groupers. If you go to famous fishing hot spots, you’ll find some of the superb big fish. You’ll find yourself some sailfish, tuna, and even giant trevally.
Some spots in Veraguas will have pacific sailfish and swordfish waiting for you. If you go farther inshore, you’ll find yourself some beautiful rainbow runners. In many local estuaries, there are sierra mackerel, and even jack crevalle waiting.
Freshwater Fishing in Panama
Let’s say you’re not into saltwater angling. You want to go along rivers and find wilder fish, Panama still has many of those. Panama’s freshwater fish population is stellar, thanks in no small part to its lakes and rivers. Places like Lake Gatun are a fisher’s wet dream, and you’ll enjoy it for sure.
One of the most common fish is the peacock bass, which many fishing charters offer. Peacock bass is among the apex freshwater predators, which can give you a big catch. They’re quite invasive, but you’ll find many of them hungry for your bait.
Another type of fish you’ll find on Panama’s freshwaters is the large tarpon. People who go to Panama surprise themselves fishing tarpon as they never see ones as large as those here. We’re talking somewhere between 30 to 40 inch (76.2 – 101.6 cm) tarpons among the more common ones.
There are also thousands of fish species in Panama’s river and lake waters. Exotic fish like the Jaguar Cichlid and even rare Oscars.
Where Can I Fish in Panama?
Now you know what to catch in Panama, the next question is a matter of location. Where can you catch fish in Panama? We have several famous locales and some that we know you’ll love. Whether you’re looking for a popular destination or a more secluded area to fish in, we have some for you.
Some of the best fishing spots in Panama include:
- Piñas Bay (Bahía de Piñas)
- Gulf of Chiriqui
- Isla Coiba and Hannibal Banks
- Los Frailes, Pedasi
- Pearl Islands (Archipelago de las Perlas)
- Azuero Peninsula
- Tuna Coast
- Lake Gatun
- Rio Bayano
As you can see, there’s a long list of fishing spots you can visit, each with their advantages. While the fish between these locales don’t vary from extreme to extreme, the conditions will be better in some.
Piñas Bay is one of the most remote, all-inclusive fishing spots in Panama. It’s among the most exotic, found east along the southern coasts of Darien province. You can only access this area by plane or boat, so chances are you’ll find the best fish here.
From Piñas Bay, you can access Zane Grey Reef, which is home to some of the best fish in Panama. The seamount can drop between 120 to 350 ft (36.57 – 106.68 m), supporting a multitude of aquatic life.
There are lots of aquatic life that go around Piñas Bay, from rays to sharks. There are at least four varieties of billfish that you can catch by sports fishing. These fish include essential sailfish and three types of marlins.
Other local predators that you would want in your catch include yellowfin tuna and dorado. You’ll notice them swimming with a lot of baitfish and large, high-value game fish. Some include bonito, rainbow runners, and jacks.
Gulf of Chiriqui
Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui is among the premier saltwater fishing locales. The location offers almost two dozen species of pelagic and even inshore game fish. While the Gulf of Chiriqui has Isla Coiba and Hannibal Banks in it, other locales are also available. These places have more privacy than most of these famous fishing spots, giving you a good time to relax.
The Gulf of Chiriqui has some unique geological structures that even other fishing spots don’t have. The strong underwater current brings most of its marine life northwards. This movement allows for a tighter fishing space that has an abundance of fish.
Chiriqui has a good, mountainous region that forms small rivers, swamps, and estuaries. You can visit these places not only to forage but to get special gamefish too. You can find tarpons, snooks, and roosterfish in abundance.
Coiba Island and Hannibal Banks
Coiba Island and Hannibal Banks offer a special experience to anglers who would go here. With a charter, you can visit it for deep sea fishing trips for the year-round marlins swimming. Like many fishing spots in Panama, the waters of Coiba Island are rich with gamefish.
You have over 20 species to discover in these waters, with sea mounds and banks that have varying depths. The waters can go anywhere between 26.2 – 328 ft (8 – 100 m), giving you a variety of choices. There are a ton of baitfish that you can catch for food, but the game fish here is as extraordinary.
Apart from the tuna and sailfish, you’ll find yourself along with mullet snappers and sierra mackerel. There are also blue jacks, crevalle jacks, yellow snappers, and even black marlin.
Pedasi and Tuna Coast
Pedasi and Tuna Coast share almost the same waters along the Azuero Peninsula. These waters have some of the best sports fishing options in Panama. The sheer number of fish and their unprecedented size always attracts tourists here. It also helps that some of the best surfing spots and resorts in the area.
You’ll find a lot of baitfish in these areas, but also some of the biggest you can angle. For starters, you’ll find a ton of tuna, blue and black marlins, and amberjack. Tuna Coast and Pedasi offer different advantages to two different types of anglers.
Tuna Coast has no continental shelf, which results in deep waters. Extreme depths of 600 – 1000 ft (182.88 – 304.8 m) are common after 3 miles (4.8 km) from shore. Pedasi, on the other hand, has a short continental shelf that has a sharp drop. This gives this area an abundance of pelagic game fish, including cubera snappers and dorado.
Home to an almost innumerable number of islands, the Pearl Islands has much fish for you to catch. The locale is rocky, which makes the area a slight challenge. Fish are big and abundant, but also powerful and savage. All this makes the entire fishing process worth it.
Among the first fish that will greet you in Pearl Islands are mullet snappers that are the size of a small human. You’ll also see dorados, blue runners, and sierra mackerel. Expect to find yourself a good chunk of blue runners too.
From spotted cabrillas to African pompanos, your catch doesn’t stop at billfishes. You get the best variety here to fill up your list. You’ll even get to watch whales play while you fish.
Lake Gatun and Rio Bayano
Lake Gatun and Rio Bayano are two of the most viable freshwater fishing spots in Panama. They offer easy access to many quality fish that you can take home and enjoy with your family.
For people fishing Rio Bayano, you’ll find many tarpons and snooks swimming around the area. Many of these fish will be as big as some you can catch in the ocean. Lake Gatun has a variety of fish too, with the peacock bass being its most prominent inhabitant. Other marine life includes large-mouth bass, carps, Nile tilapia, and Oscars.
Be careful, however, as there are crocodiles in Lake Gatun and Rio Bayano.
Do You Need a Fishing License in Panama?
With all this fishing in Panama that we’re planning, do you need a license to fish? Are there any requirements?
For starters, Panama fishing is the strictest across the entire region. Commercial fishing is under heavy regulation and even bans many different fish species. Billfish like sailfish and marlin, for example, are strictly catch and release only. Killing or exporting a marlin, sailfish, swordfish, or spearfish is punishable by law.
Panama also bans long line vessels from operating, allowing for sports fishing to flourish. Anything else is fair game, so you can play and fish as much as you want. You don’t need a fishing license, but a boat used for fishing needs an updated permit.
If you’re a tourist fishing in Panama, it’s best to charter a boat so you don’t have to bother.
When Are Fishing Seasons in Panama?
Is there a fishing season in Panama? You can go around Panama’s waters all year and catch fish without a problem. There are no limitations to what you can catch, but some species have a definite “season” where they’re abundant.
Tuna Coast is the busiest from January to April, with a lot of feeding frenzies in Tuna around March. During this time, billfish like marlin are migrating in the area. Cubera snappers and roosterfish will start becoming a part of daily catches by February.
By May, you’ll experience warmer seas and calmer winds. You’ll find cubera snappers and roosterfish with more regularity, together with baitfish. Punta Naranjo and Aguja Reef become very viable starting around this time.
June is the start of the most viable month to catch pacific sailfish, with still a good tuna and marlin population. By July, dorado will start to be plentiful, together with the black marlins. August is also a great time to catch billfish, together with the start of wahoo season that lasts until later in the year.
By October and November, some lodges in Tuna Coast will close down for maintenance.
What Type of Equipment Do I Need for Deep Sea Fishing in Panama?
When deepsea fishing in Panama, most of your equipment will come from your charter. They will have some ready for you, which means all you need is pay. If you insist on bringing your own, you need to prepare some strong equipment.
For the essentials, you need:
- Long sleeve shirts
- Polarized glasses
- Sunscreen with at least SPF 50
- Sun cap
- Dry bag
- Insect repellent
For your rods, you want to have at least three types of rods with you. You would need a strong casting rod that can handle 60 – 80 lbs (27.2 – 36.3 kg) of fish as your primary. These rods are strong enough to handle cuberas and most tuna. You can also go higher with 60 – 100 lbs (27.2 – 45.36 kg) quality rods.
You would also want to have a medium casting rod that can handle 40 – 60 lbs (18.1 – 27.2 kg). A 60-lb (27.2 kg) jigging rod is also a vital piece of hardware.
As for reels, you want the best of the best. The PENN Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel, KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel and the Shimano Stella 14000 are some good choices.
You would also need lures, small tackles, poppers, and slow jigs. You would want a line that can handle up to 140 lbs (63.5 kg). Jigging lines are best at around 100 lbs (45.36 kg).
Panama Charter Fishing Rates, Best Charters and Lodges in Panama
The average rate of fishing charters and lodges in Panama varies depending on the locale. For charters, the price varies depending on different factors. These include:
- Type of charter (bareboat to all-inclusive)
- Type of boat used
- Number of anglers
- Number of days
- Fishing area
The standard price goes at around $8000 – $2000 for deep sea fishing, which can go higher or lower. For example, big yachts start at around $1800 – $2000 per day. Smaller boats will cost around $1000. Inshore and freshwater charters will cost you around $500 – $800 per day.
Some of the best charters in Panama include:
- Charter Boat Freedom
- Panama Gem Charters
- Pesca-Arenosa Fishing Charters
- Come Fish Panama
For lodges, you will find the best of them sprinkled around Panama. Most lodging rates are less pricey than charters because you’re paying all-inclusive. Lodges will have fishing charters in their packages, together with everything from meals to equipment.
For example, lodging rates will go between $4000 – $8000 per person for a 6-day, 7-night package. This package includes equipment, boating charter, premium lodging, meals, and transportation. You would also need to prepare extra cash for tips for the lodge and boat staff.
Some of the best value for money fishing lodges include:
- Tropic Star Lodge, Pinas Bay
- Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge
- Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge
- Panafishing Adventure
- Peche Panama
When going to a fishing adventure in Panama, it’s best to bring friends and family. Rates go much lower with a bigger group.
If you plan on having a fishing adventure, Panama is one of the best places in the world. Panama has among the most abundant and thrilling fishing scenes in the entire world. We’re sure you’d enjoy every moment that you spend here.
Catch only the best and the biggest gamefish in the world and get your personal records. Panama has an abundance of tuna, marlins, sailfish, and jacks that will excite a seasoned angler. All you need is to have the right equipment and finances to help you go around the country.
Charter a boat or go into a fishing lodge and experience their sports fishing packages. Fish all year long in Panama without a worry in the world. See the most majestic marine life and enjoy the thrills of the country’s lively fishing scene.
Panama is your fishing paradise and we’re sure you’d fall in love with its beauty. The marine life of Panama is yours to catch. When are you going?
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