Although there are over 10 members of the Istiophoridae family, three main species of Marlin inhabit Panama waters. Makaira nigricans or Blue Marlin, Istiopax indica or Black Marlin and Kajikia audax or Striped Marlin. Istiophorus platypterus or Pacific Sailfish are also a regular occurrence in our waters and average about 90-120+lbs. Yes they run big here! They are a fun quarry to pursue on light tackle and poppers. Blues are mainly caught over deep and open waters. Black Marlin can be found closer inshore and frequent shallower waters up to 100'. Black Marlin are very often caught around Cebaco Bay, Panama at our famed Aguja Reef. Most are caught trolling either plastics or with live bridled rigged bonito. Marlin here average about 400 - 450lbs but specimens up to 700lbs have been caught on occasion. Best months for Marlin are Dec - Mar, with bigger fish during Aug - Sept.
Nematistius pectoralis or Roosterfish is a very beautiful fish characterized by a 'rooster comb' with seven spines on its dorsal. It is the only member in its family. Roosterfish have a unique adaptation where their swim bladder is connected to their brain and makes contact with their inner ear to amplify sounds. Roosterfish are plentiful in our area can be found all along the shorelines of Cebaco bay and are caught regularly on poppers and stick baits. They can be seen at times cruising around the mothership but are hard to hook and land there. On occasion when they are shy, we may troll live Cojinoa for them. The average size is about 50lbs with many juvenile fish being caught as well as the occasional larger fish up to 70+ lbs. There's nothing more beautiful than a lit up Roosterfish with comb fully extended chasing down a topwater lure. We always release all Roosterfish caught at Cebaco Bay.
Thunnus albacares or Yellowfin Tuna are an important and common species in our area. There are always large schools of them around Cebaco Bay. Sometimes as close as 5 mins from the mothership. We've even seen some specimens cruising around the aft deck of the mothership. From schools of 'footballs'(15-35lbs) to 'cow sized' fish up to 200+lbs, which can often be seen boiling under sardines over Aguja Reef, Hannibal Bank and Jicarita. On such occasions, they readily hit poppers and stickbaits. Yellowfin Tuna fishing is much akin to hunting, where you'll be looking for and chasing down birds and dolphin pods. The larger tuna will test your spinning gear and physical endurance to the limit. Making you almost afraid to throw your lure into that boiling melee of huge tuna. Smaller specimens are also caught on jigs regularly around some of our reefs. Fresh sashimi at dinner time everyday is not a bad thing!
Lutjanus or Snappers are a large family of fish found in almost all warm to temperate oceans. The species that are most common in the Cebaco Bay area are the Cubera Snapper, Mullet Snapper, Barred Snapper, Yellow Snapper and the Silk Snapper. All are great eating fish and can easily be caught on jigs and surface lures. Cubera or Dogtooth Snappers - Lutjanus cyanopterus grow to impressive sizes and are most often targeted with poppers along the rocky coastlines. It's not unusual to see specimens up to 50lbs landed regularly. All the other species generally inhabit reefs in large schools and very readily take jigs presented correctly. They seem to be partial to short stroked, fast erratic retrieves focused on the bottom 30' of the water column. Cebaco Bay's nearby Ariel's Reef supports a very healthy population of these fish. It is always a last stop for many of our clients to pick up some 'groceries' before heading in.
Siriola dumerili or Amberjack are part of the Carangidae family. Of which also belong the Almaco Jack or Siriola rivoliana. Although both are found in our waters, the Almaco is much more prevalent around our reefs. They are amazing sportfish and can readily be caught on jigs and fast sinking stickbaits that are allowed to sink to the shallower reefs. Their cousins the Jack Crevalle Caranx hippos exist in good numbers and can be counted on for some arm twisting action. Also abundant in our area are the Bluefin Trevally - Caranx melampygus. Also called 'Omilu' in Hawaii. These beautiful electric blue colored fish always show up when popping or trolling for Cuberas and Roosterfish. Alectis ciliaris - African Pompano with their long thread like fins have regularly been caught off the back deck of the mothership and Ariel's Reef. All of the jacks except the Crevalles are excellent table fare.
Mycteroperca xenarcha - Broomtail or Mangrove Grouper and Epiephelus quinquefasciatus - Goliath Grouper are an excellent eating fish but are also slow growing and mostly resident so we try and release as many of them as possible. These gorgeous Broomtail Groupers can be found in good numbers on a few of our reefs near Sombrero Rock in 80-100' of water. They particularly like smaller 80g slow fall jigs presented slow pitch style. Some of our clients have even landed 20-50lb specimens here using tackle designed more for bass fishing. Goliath Groupers on the other hand are little more rare but can grow to epic sizes. You're in for a fun time if you manage to drag one off the bottom. They seem to like structure much more than the Broomtail and often go right into them when hooked.
Acanthocybium solandri - Wahoo. Rated as one of the fastest species of fish in the ocean. Just behind the Black and Blue Marlin, and Sailfish. Attaining speeds up to 48 mph, these extremely aggressive predators are found nearshore where good blue water meets drop offs. If they want your bait or lure it is impossible to reel fast enough to get it away from them. Who would want to anyway? They are excellent table fare and will smoke your drag when hooked. We usually encounter them around Isla Jicarita and Aguja Reef. Although they are mostly caught trolling fast deep divers like Williamsons, Nomad DTX Minnows, Rapala Magnums and Ilanders, we have also hooked them while blind casting fast sinking Prohunter Béito Minnows for Yellowfin Tunas. On popping tackle these speedsters will make your line throw up a roostertail as it slices through the water. A rush indeed.
Coryphaena hippurus - Dolphinfish, Dorado or Mahi-Mahi, depending on where you're from. These brilliantly colored speedsters are like the gangsters of the ocean. They show up in groups when you least expect them and hangout near logs, planks or any floating structure. We rarely target them but they are mostly encountered May to December. They grow exceedingly fast so those little 'chicken' dophins in May might be bruisers by the end of the year. They are really fun on light tackle and make first class Ceviche. Leave the first one you hook in the water to keep the school around. We often slap and stir the water with our rods tips to incite a shy Dorado to turn and attack the lure. Huge 100lb Bulls have also been caught while trolling for Billfish and Wahoo. Considered one of the most beautifully colored fish in the ocean, take a moment to really enjoy them before their electric colors fade.