Capt. Brant's Fishing Report
For those who may have interest in our Traveling Fisherman program, we now have our dates set for the 2010 trip to Panama. As posted earlier on the OIFC fishing report the trip is slated to visit the Paradise Fishing Lodge in Panama where we will be fishing the surrounding waters of Coiba Island, the legendary Hannibal Banks, and Montosa Island. The trip consists of 5 nights in the Paradise Lodge resort and 4 full days fishing. We will depart the US on Sunday, March 14th and arrive at the resort that evening. Fish days are Monday, March 15th thru Thursday, March 18th and the return trip to the US is Friday, March 19th. If anyone would like to stay longer that option is available. We have put this extraordinary trip together with the purpose of giving OIFC friends an opportunity to travel to one of the most incredible fishing destinations on Earth with a group of familiar faces with a common background of being Carolina fishing enthusiasts. In addition to researching and finding a great operation with top shelf fishing action, we have been fortunate enough to secure the trip at a bargain. The cost of the trip will vary depending upon how many you choose to fish on each boat. The recommended number of fishermen per boat is 3. The price per person for 3 fishermen per boat is $2600. This price includes everything including; three meals per day, boat food, boat drinks, evening drinks (includes alcohol), 5 nights in Paradise Fishing Lodge, and 4 days fishing. It does not include air fare from the US to Panama City, gratuity for the boat crews and gratuity for the resort staff. Also, we will be provided a charter bus from Panama City to the resort, which all travelers will share the cost. Once again we have 15 spaces to fill. In order to hold a space contact Barrett via email. For more details email me.
Trip Dates: March 14th, 2010 - March 19th, 2010
Cost: 3 Anglers Per Boat $2600 per person
Contact: Barrett McMullan
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Dates Set" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
March 14th, 2010 - March 19th, 2010
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Wrap Up" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
The dust has settled, my feet are back on the ground and I've had ample opportunity to reflect back on trip #1 for the Traveling Fisherman. It's funny, while in the moment you find yourself occassionally complaining about petty issues and making comments such as "if we had our equipment" or "if we had this fishing at home" ect. After you separate yourself from the moment though and have time to think back on the experience you see the trip for what it was meant to be and what it was- an adventure. If everything was just like home what's the purpose of traveling half way around the world for a new experience? My overall opinion of the Panama adventure aboard the Coral Star was that it was truly an awesome experience. We may have had our expectations set a little high, but when it was all said and done we had great fishing, great accomodations, great food, unbelievable scenery, and a unique opportunity to experience a part of the world that most will never see.
Fishing: From a pure fishing perspective I was anticipating more action, but not the quality of fish we encountered. What we lacked in quantity we certainly made up for in quality. Apparently with the use of such large baits (5-8lb bonitos), the sailfish action is diminished. I believe there are a ton of sailfish in that area, but most of the fishing is targeted mainly at marlin so we don't get as many bites as you would if fishing with smaller baits. And when you do get bites from sails they have a difficult time choking down the bait so the hookup ratio is not good. For me personally this was what I would prefer. I would rather fish all day for a couple marlin bites than catch 10 sailfish. But, that opinion probably differs from person to person. I would like to see the Coral Star operation equip their boats with tackle that would allow them to target sails if the customer desired. Such equipment would be ballyhoo, dredges, and smaller plastics. The rod and reels were completely sufficient. They had mostly Penn and Avet reels in the 30 to 50 wide range with Seeker rods. Depending on the angler's choice it'd be nice to have a better selection of light tackle. It's difficult though to pull out the light tackle when the next bite may be a grander black. The terminal tackle, and lures left a little to be desired. On my next trip I will carry an assortment of lures. The mothership deal is absolutely the way to go. Each morning we awoke, had breakfast, boarded the sport fish boats and were fishing within 50 yards of the mothership. There were absolutely no runs to the fishing grounds. In fact at times in the evening aboard the mothership you could watch billfish crashing baits from the uppder deck. At lunch time we would come back to the mothership grab something to eat, maybe a nap, cool off and then hit them again in the afternoon. Again, this is my opinion, but to me fishing is about more than just racking up the numbers and seeing how many fish you can catch. I put a lot of value in the style of fishing. While trolling plastics and ballyhoo seemed like a very effective method for catching sails and marlin, I much preferred the live baiting method. Once I figured out how to properly feed a bait back to a fish, the hookup ratio was much improved. It really put a lot more feel into when you have to free line an 8lb bonito into a slashing marlin's mouth. You could feel the difference between a sail billing a bait and a marlin sucking one down. Watching a big bonito get nervous and then seeing the tell tale bang on the rod was awesome. For the week the offshore fish captures are as follows:
3 Blue Marlin to 550lbs, 6 Black Marlin to 500lbs, 17 sails to 130lbs, 5 yellowfin tuna to 275lbs. The inshore fishing yielded snapper, roosterfish and jacks for most anglers.
Accomodations/Food: From the hotel in Panama to the living arrangements aboard the ship, I thought the accomodations were more than acceptable. The rooms and bathrooms on the ship were definitely tight to say the least, but we were usually so tired from fishing that it didn't really matter. We spent little time in our rooms other than to sleep. The upstairs outdoor dining and bar was where most of our time was spent while on board the Coral Star. Being more than 50 miles away from the mainland made for great sunsets and star filled skys which we took in nightly from the upper deck. Chef Andy treated us well on the meals. We had fresh fish most nights which was excellent. If we ate on the sport boats during the day we typically had ham sandwiches and fresh fruit. There was some difficulty each day in making sure everybody had their beverages of choice, but for the most part that was overcome.
Travel/Logistics: The getting to and from our destination was quite an undertaking. It seemed like we kept moving from plane, to bus, to boat, to bigger boat ect. This was definitely an adventure to some of the most remote areas in the world. With all the opportunities for logistical travel problems I thought everything went rather smooth. The Starlite travel group who guided us through Panama City was a major help. The only travel issues came from the sport boats that seemed to be on their last mechanical legs. To their credit though, the crew was resourceful. They kept their boats running with duct tape and bubble gum but never missed any fishing time.
Crew: I felt the sport boat Captains and their mates were great. They were super friendly, entertaining, and really cared about producing fish. After some initial jostling and sizing up they were very receptive to our input on fishing techniques and intricacies. Capt. Don, who was at the helm of the Coral Star kept us safe and navigated his ship to the closest safe anchoring location to the fishing grounds. He was very in tune to the conditions and kept the ship running in an orderly manner.
I very much enjoyed this excursion and I believe the rest of the traveling fishermen would concur. There are a few things I will do different when I return, but overall the concept is very attractive for serious fishermen who want to experience new fisheries and see new turf. A few things I might do different would be to bring more of my own tackle, try to arrange the trips where there would be no mates just us to run the cockpits, and lastly perhaps shorten the adventure by one day.
It's now safe to say The Traveling Fisherman program is a success. We had a great experience in Panama with a great group of OIFC fishing friends and we look forward to more adventures in the near future. Currently I am working on the late 08 and 09 Traveling Fisherman program. We are hoping to add a couple trips this year with excursions taking place in September, and then maybe a couple between January and March. If anyone out there has any suggestions on new and exotic fishing locations to check out please email me at mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org>. My criteria for selecting the next destinations include great fishing, peak season, unique fishery or fishing experience, remote locations, attractive fishing styles, and quality accomodations. I have several excursions in the works currently and as soon as I finalize a date I will post the details here.
Until the next adventure, Traveling Fisherman signing off
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Pics" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 8" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 8 Friday 2/15/08:
This morning the Starlite Travel folks woke us up at the Marbella and loaded us on their shuttle bus for the Panama City airport. We all ended up on the same Delta flight to Atlanta, which was on time and smooth. Back in Atlanta everybody collected their gear and went separate ways all heading for home in North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia. As for me I was ready to pet my dog and sleep in my own bed so I hit the highway and made the 6 hour drive back to good old Ocean Isle Beach. Although leaving 80+ degree sunny weather was difficult especially when returning to 40 degrees and raining, I am glad to be home. After being away from the US for over a week and pretty much secluded from real life as we know it, it is almost surreal driving up and down the highway seeing all of the commercialization and the organized chaos of our society. It's amazing that you can be removed from your typical day to day life for just a week and the affect it has. I feel like it's going to take a couple days to get my feet back on the ground and back in the flow. I'm going to take a couple days now to reflect on the experience and will report back with my opinions and thoughts on the adventure and what the future holds for the Traveling Fisherman.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 7" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 7 Thursday 2/14/08:
Today was our last day with the Coral Star. The game plan was to fish the morning until noon and then make the trip back up the river to David. From there we were to hop on a plane for Panama City where we would spend the night before returning to home. At breakfast Capt. Don shared some interesting info with us. Apparently there had been riots in downtown Panama City yesterday evening between the construction workers union and the police. He said they were still collecting information but so far the plan was to continue on with our original arrangements. It certainly made us a little nervous but I guess this is the type of things you potentially deal with when you travel to a 3rd world country. Everybody seemed to have a different fishing or travel objective so we scattered onto the sport boats and headed out around 6am. Ray Boyd, Jared Boyd and Yorke Pharr opted to get an early start on returning home so they left the Coral Star with Tito and returned to David. They jumped on Ray's jet and headed for home. Forest Taylor, Richard McCrae and Tony McCrae were with Juan and Juan decided to hunt the inshore fishing scene. Todd Helf, Brian Richard and Robert Hughes were with Capt. Alexis and also were on the hunt for rooster fish. Brant and Robby Dial were bound and determined to find a marlin for Robby so they went with Capt. Kidd and headed offshore to Ladrones. Rube, Tommy Lytton, Todd Schadd and I went with Capt. Chaca with a mixed plan of trying for marlin and sails at Ladrones early on the tide change and then switch over to bottom fishing the rest of the morning. Yesterday evening several of the guys loaded up a floating live well with live goggle eyes and blue runners. Each of the boats that were inshore fishing or bottom fishing split the live baits this morning and headed out. We made the 45 minute ride from Paridas out to Ladrones first thing, located live bonitos and deployed a spread. We fished the bonitos for about an hour and a half with only one strike from an aggressive Cubera snapper. After making a good effort on the top water action we moved a little closer to the island dropped down live goggs and chunk bait for whatever was on the bottom. Interestingly the Capt's down there preferred to target snapper without any lead weights. They hook a bait and then just start free lining until a snapper strikes. We tried with and without lead weight but without seemed to work best. We caught a multitude of bottom species including 3 different types of snappers. We didn't find any monster cuberas and the action wasn't red hot. Around noon we headed back in and up the river towards David. About half way up the river we saw Capt. Kidd limping in as they had encountered an engine problem. After a valiant effort to fix the problem the decision was made that we were running short on time so Brant and Robby jumped on board with Capt. Chaca and us and made tracks for David. They had fished hard all morning but never were able to find that elusive marlin for Robby. We arrived back to the Coral Star which was already in port at David about 2:00pm. The cook Andy had a farewell barbeque going for us and we quickly ate, packed our bags and said our goodbyes to the Captains and crew. Robert, Todd and Brian had a successful day on the inshore circuit catching 2 nice roosters and a big cubera. Forest, Richard and Tony also had success inshore fishing with action from rooster fish. Sam, Capt. Tito's, mate extraodinaire and airport manager guided us through the small airport and David and sent us on our way. We arrived in Panama City this evening and were once again met by the Starlite Travel group. They helped us locate our luggage and got us back to the hotel Marbella. Most of the team walked down the street for a nice dinner in bustling Panama City. There was no evidence of any unrest or hostility in our area from the previous day's riots so were able to explore the nightlife. After dinner we ventured to the casino one more time where Robert and Forest schooled me on the intricacies of crapps. After I lost my money I headed back to the hotel and most of the other guys did the same as everyone is pretty worn out and ready to head home. We have another early wake up tomorrow with our flight departing Panama City for Atlanta at 8:30am. It's been quite a journey and awesome experience so far. I'm sure once I have time to reflect on the entire trip I'll have an even greater appreciation for all aspects of the adventure. For now, I'm glad to be heading back to the US.
Thanks to Brian Richard for the pics.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"More Panama Pics" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 6" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 6 Wednesday 2/13/08:
Today we got another early start. After a Capt. Don original wake up call, Andy had a big warm breakfast ready to go. We were on the water by 6:15 and had bait and fishing for marlin and sail by 6:30. I was aboard Capt. Alexi's boat with Rube and Robby Dial. The weather was perfect today. The temps were still warm but it was overcast which made the heat much more bearable. Today the plan was to fish around Montosa until about 2pm and then we had to start making the run back to Paridas a couple hours away. The action started quick for us. Right off the bat we missed a sail that couldn't choke down the big live bonito we were using for bait. Just a few minutes later the excitement really began. I had brought with me a shimano Trevalla jigging rod with a Shimano Torsa reel spooled with 500 yards of 80lb braid. These rods are extremely slinder but unbelievably strong. I had decided that today I was going to give her a chance and put a live bonito on the combo. I had the bait on this rod placed in the short position when the rod tip gave away the signal that a bill had just struck the bait. I quickly threw the reel in free spool and the fish definitely was carrying the bait away. Then all of a sudden the line went slack. I knew the fish had my bait so I advanced the drag and tried to come tight. At the same time the outrigger bait popped out of the clip and Rube freelined it. About that time the Capt gunned the boat I had come tight and a beautiful 300+ lb blue marlin broke the surface right behind the boat. Rube also had now come tight and we were both hooked up. We quickly figured out the same marlin had eaten both of our baits so we gave him the double team. The fish went ballistic as he ran and jumped so fast away from the boat he caused the Avet reel that Rube was using to heat up so much that it left a burn mark on the inside of his arm the size of a baseball. In the madness the acorbatic marlin had made a b-line towards a 65 foot Viking private boat that was fishing nearby. The fish showed no signs of stopping and actually jumped and hit the side of the huge sportfisher. The fish then went down for a few seconds and resurfaced jumping again right in the middle of the sportfish's spread. Nevertheless we both stayed tight and proceeded to gain back our line. Within 20 minutes the 30lbs of drag I had on the marlin slowed him down and inched him to the boat. At the boat the fight took on another life as the mate and Capt. Alexis grabbed the bill and went for a ride. Eventually the hooks were removed and off he went. Marlin are incredible fish. Personally I'd rather fish all day and catch 1 marlin than catch 10 sailfish. We put the lines back out and again it didn't take long until a sailfish came barrelling through our spread. He disappeared for about 5 minutes then my rod's bait went suspiciously slack and I free spooled. After 20 seconds of feeding I came tight on the sail and Robby Dial went to work and quickly handled the 100+ lb sail. This sail was unique in that it didn't have a bill. I went to grab his bill to bring him in for a picture but due to a deformity this sail had no upper bill. We took a few pictures and sent him on his way. About an hour later the big school of porpois moved into the area which meant tuna time. Several of the other boats nearby hooked up on big tuna but we never got the bite. However, we did end up in the middle of blitzing yellowfin in the 30 to 80 lb range. They were jumping all around the boat but weren't big enough to eat our baits. So Rube took a surface popper on a spinning rod and cast into the school. No sooner did the lure hit the water did it get eaten. Rube made short work of the 40lb yellowfin on spin gear. We fished a couple hours more missing one more sail that was tailing. It was then time to make the 2 hour run back to Paridas. On the way back we stopped at another set of islands called Ladronas or "Island of Thieves". We fished for a short time but had no success. We made one drop on a piece of bottom on the way in and captured a rock snapper about 8lbs. When we returned to the mothership at our original location at Paridas we found we had new company. The mothership and sportboat from the Go Fisch operation had anchored right next to us in the protected cove. The Go Fisch is the operation that you see on ESPN on salt water Sunday that travels around the world to the most secluded and incredible fishing destinations. By dark all of our crew had returned and we took our positions at the upper deck bar and began the run down from the day's activity. Brian Richard, Todd Helf and Robert Hughes had a slow day catching only one dolphin and losing a big yellowfin for a total of 1 point with Juan and Juan. Richard McCrae, Tony McCrae and Forest Taylor caught one sail, three dolphin and missed two other bites with Capt. Chaca for a 5 point total. Tommy Lytton, Yorke Pharr and Todd Schadd caught one sail, three dolphin and missed an incredible nine billfish bites for a total of 5 points with Capt. Kidd. Rube, Robby and I ended with 7 point with Capt. Alexis. Today's winner was Brant, Jared Boyd and Ray Boyd fishing with Capt. Tito and Sam. They won with one fish an estimated 500lb black marlin that Jared did battle with. We had mixed results today with some boats having significant action and others just didn't find the fish. Tomorrow is our last day. We will fish until about noon and then make our way back up the river and to David where the mothership will be at port refueling. Some of us are going to give the offshore fishing one last try around Ladrones while others are going to hit the inshore scene and try for roosters and cubera snapper. Montosa was an incredible fishing destination. There probably aren't too many places in the world where you can go and have shots at multiple marlin day after day. We never really busted into a large number of fish but the quality made up for the lack of quantity. We'll give it one more shot tomorrow but I think everybody is just about ready to get their feet on solid ground. It's been a long, fun week out here but there's no place like home.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"More Pics" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
So far I have been posting pictures from the Panama trip that I had taken with my camera and also pictures from Yorke Pharr's camera. I just got in a whole new set with pictures from Brian Richard. Brian fished with Todd Helf and Robert Hughes all week and had a variety of catches. I'll continue to post pictures as I receive them.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 5" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 5 Tuesday 2/12/08:
Today we woke up a little earlier around 5am so we get on the water sooner. The bite has been best in the morning and we wanted to try and take advantage of all the daylight. At 6:00am I was boarding Capt. Chaca's boat with Brant and Robby and Dial. We started the day like the others before by trolling small squid squirts for bonito that we needed for bait. Within a few minutes of leaving the mothership we had 4 lively bonitos kicking in the tuna tubes. Capt Chaca picked up speed and headed offshore of Montosa about 2 miles. He spotted a massive school of porpoise and zigged and zagged through the school. We couldn't really figure out what he was doing but all of a sudden he says "aqui' aqui'" which means here here. We dropped 3 baits in the water. Two were on 50 wide Avet reels and one was on Brant's OIFC custom combo with a 30TLD and custom gulf stream rod. Apparently Chaca's plan was to find the very front of the school of porpoise and then deploy baits. He later told us that the big yellowfin tuna stay underneath the porpoise. They come thru in waves, feeding and moving fast. He likes to put baits out in front of the porpoise that way the whole school will pass by our baits. Less than 10 minutes later 2 baits get nervous. When you're fishing with 5-8lb bonitos you know when a bait gets nervous. Then at the same time both baits get whacked. It's not like a billfish bite that picks the bait up and carries it away. These fish nail the baits and stripping them from the hooks and off they go. Chaca explains "grande tuna". Before we had time to try and figure out what happened the third bait gets hammered. This time we free spool for 20 seconds and Chaca hits the throttles. The drag is advanced and the rod doubles. He's on! The 50 Avet is smoked as Robby takes his place in the fighting chair. For over an hour Robby does battle with the huge yellowfin tuna. The fight of the the yellowfin is exactly the same as that of a bluefin tuna. The fish runs hard at first staying up. Next he darts around confused as to what is going on. Finally he goes deep and begins the tuna spiral. After just over an hour Robby inches the fish to within sight. This is by far the largest yellowfin I've seen and looked to be in the 80" range. We guessed the fish to be in at least the 275lb class. The mate took hold of the leader and right as he had the yellowfin coming to the gaff the 300lb leader popped. It was an official catch and the monster tuna swam back down to the depths. We fished another hour or so without anymore action and decided to head back to the mothership for lunch and a short siesta. On the mothership we met with several of the other guys who all had a good morning fishing. Rube, Ray Boyd, and Jared Boyd were headed out but they were going to explore Montosa first. They took a fishing boat close to the island and then swam in the rest of the way while the tide was slack. Brant, Robby and I grabbed some lunch and then a nap. About 2:00 we jumped back on with Chaca and went for round two refreshed and ready for action. It didn't take long for the plan to pay off. Brant's OIFC custom setup gets popped. He free lines the big bonito for a few seconds, feels the fish take the bait then advances the drag. He came tight on the fish and the fish headed for the high country. About 300yards away he broke the surface and revealed he was a 300lb black marlin. The combo was spooled 450yards of braid and mono and we needed every inch. Finally we got the boat turned and ran down the angry marlin. He jumped at least 10 times while Brant did everything he could to keep the line tight. Within 30 minutes the massive marlin was boatside where we took some video and sent him on his way. The rest of the afternoon we jumped off two sails and caught 1 dolphin. Back at the mothership we enjoyed fresh tuna sashimi and started the story process from the day of fishing and exploring. While most of us were fishing Ray Boyd spent the afternoon on Montosa talking with the "squatter" on Montosa. By the time he left he was in deep negotiations to buy the island. On the fishing front it was another decent day for everybody. Tommy Lytton, Yorke Pharr, and Todd Schadd caught only 1 dolphin but missed 3 billfish bites and 2 other bites with Tito for a total of 1 point. Rube, Ray and Jared missed one sailfish, caught a small yellowfin tuna and Jared landed a monster yellowfin estimated at 275lbs for a total of 3 points with Capt. Lexi. Todd Helf, Robert Hughes, and Brian Richard fished with Capt. Kidd and Grouper and had a decent day. Brian landed a 160lb yellowfin tuna and then just 5 minutes later they were attacked by a 400lb blue marlin that ate a trolled plastica and this time Todd Helf was on the rod. They caught one more small yellowfin and missed another marlin for a total 7 points. Brant, Robby and I ended the day with one giant yellowfin, one dolphin, and one black marlin for a total of 8 points. The day's winner for a second time this week was Forest Taylor, Richard McCrae, and Tony McCrae who fished with Juan and Juan and caught 2 sailfish and an estimated 550lb blue marlin. Richard was on duty for the enormous marlin and had him whipped in 45 minutes. This team accumulated 12 points. Dinner tonight was fresh seared yellowfin tuna that cook Andy prepared just right. Tomorrow we are fishing around Montosa until about 2:00pm and then we have to start making our way back to Paridas. We're going to get an early start again tomorrow so we can get as much morning fishing in as possible.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"More Day 4 pics" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
More Pics from Day 4 in Montosa
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 4" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 4 Monday 2/11/08:
Today was our first day of waking up at Isla Montosa which was just a few minutes from fishing grounds. We woke at 5:30 and Andy once again had an impressive breakfast for us. By 6:30 we were loading all of gear, food, and drinks on the boats for a full out fishing effort off Montosa. As soon as we cleared the mothership the lines were put in the water. Today I fished with Rube and Robby Dial with Capt. Kidd and his mate Rupert a.k.a Grouper. Kidd and Grouper were a totally different story than what I had experienced the day before. These guys were on point and it was obvious they had plans to catch some fish today. Kidd spoke a little English so I was able to get his philosophy which differed a little from the other Captains. He liked pulling plastics and other lures especially if he had ballyhoo. He had been in Costa Rica the week before and brought back a few ballyhoo that we were using. Kidd and Grouper put out 12 lines including the lures used to target bonito, large plastics for billfish and one small islander with a ballyhoo. It didn't take long for this approach to payoff as less than 1 mile from the mothership we found the dolphin. For the next couple hours we trolled and hammered the dolphin all in the 25 to 30lb class. In the middle of the dolphin chaos we were attacked by sailfish 3 times and finally made one of them pay. Robby Dial did work on his second sailfish in two days and second one ever. He made short work of the 100lb bill and sent her on her way. Once that sail was caught it seemed like the billfish really started to show. Until about 11:30am we saw marlin in sailfish everywhere we looked. Some would come through our spread, some were free jumping and some were hooked up on other boats. Sometime around mid morning I was standing in the tower looking out front of the boat where I had already seen a few free jumpers when the water exploded about 400 yards ahead. It was then I saw the largest fish I had ever seen. I don't have a lot of experience guessing weights on billfish but this black marlin greyhounded twice and his head was more than 3 feet from top to bottom. It had to be in 800+lb class. We trolled towards the jump, but were not able to get the bite. Less than an hour later our turn finally came on a marlin bite. Rube had the ballyhoo rig in his hand on a small Avet reel with 100lb braid when the big boy came thru. He made one swipe and then headed for the high country. Rube held on while line disappeared off the reel. For 30 seconds the fish burned it down then he jumped and spit the hook. We learned quick it happens fast and you have to be watching all the time. Most of our action was before noon as we spent the afternoon trolling looking for activity. Kidd and Grouper entertained us with stories of their lives and families. At day's end we had captured 10 dolphin, 1 sail, missed 5 billfish bites and seen a total of 11 billfish. Fishing was good today. We returned to the mothership about 5:30 and greeted the other crews as they returned. Everybody seemed to have a good fishing just on first reports. However, Yorke, Tommy, and Todd were not back yet. By 7:00pm everyone had returned and the fish stories began. Todd Helf, Robert Hughes, and Brian Richard were with Capt. Tito and Sam and managed 3 sail releases, 1 dolphin, missed a marlin and saw another marlin for a total of 7 points. Next was Ray Boyd, Jared Boyd and Brant fishing with Juan and Juan. They captured an impressive two black marlin one at 300 and one at 400lbs plus one sail and missed 5 other billfish bites for a total of 10 points. Third place was yesterday's winners Forest Taylor, Richard McCrae, and Tony McCrae with Capt. Alexis. They had 7 dolphin, and 1 black marlin estimated at 450lbs caught by Richard. According to Forest the black crashed a trolled plastic and drug Richard across the deck where the back of the boat stopped his momentum. They had the fish whooped in 30 minutes. Rube, Robby and I came in second with 12 points with our 10 dolphin and two sails. Today's winners were Yorke Pharr, Tommy Lytton, and Todd Schadd fishing with Capt. Chaca. The reason they were late getting in was that around 6:00 just a few hundred yards from the mothership they had 400+lb black marlin visit them. Tommy was on rod duty and battled the beast for 30 minutes before bringing him alongside for release. This crew accumulated 17 points with 9 dolphin, 1 black marlin release, 2 sail releases and they reported missing 3 more marlin and 4 sails. Overall the action was steady for everybody. We all missed a bunch of fish but I think we are mostly missing sails that are having trouble getting the large baits in their mouths. After another great dinner we had a team meeting to discuss a variety of topics. First it is agreed the tournament rules need some adjusting. We limit the amount of dolphin and tuna that count towards your point total to 3 per boat. Next most of us decide that we will come in for a couple hours during the middle of the day and eat lunch and take a nap. The heat in the middle of the day is tough and the fishing seems to be dead so taking a siesta is a good plan. Ray Boyd, Jared Boyd and Rube negotiate with the Capt and get approval to go explore Isla Montosa tomorrow. They will take one of the fishing boats in close then jump off and swim to the island. After all the business is taken care of we all shared stories of the day's events. By 9:00 I'm exhausted and ready for bed. Today was a good day. The fishing was much better, the equipment held up and everybody's spirits were up. Hopefully tomorrow will bring more of the same.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 3" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 3 Sunday 2/10/08:
It is our first morning waking up on the Coral Star. Our wake up call consisted of Capt. Don banging on doors and announcing "we are buring daylight" at 5:30am. Sleeping is difficult the first night probably due to the excitement of the day's fishing ahead and the sardine can of a room with 2 inch mattresses on the beds. That problem would soon go away as I'm sure we are going to be exhausted after a day of fishing. After wake up we head to the dining room where we enjoy a full breakfast whipped up by Andy in the galley. By 6:30am we are loading onto our designated sportfish boats. Anybody who brought some of their own gear loaded it on their boat, but for the most part all the boats had a good selection of rod and reels. They carried Penn reels, Avet reels, and Seeker rods. Today I was fishing with Ray Boyd and Jared Boyd aboard Capt. Tito's 28' Pursuit. We left the protected waters at Paridas and made the 2 hour run until we were within a few miles of Panamas most remote island Isla de Montosa. According to Tito this is where most of the action had been occurring over the past few weeks. Apparently Hannibal Banks, where I thought we would be fishing, had not been producing due to current flow. All 5 of the sportfish boats in our group spread out over a 10 mile stretch in hopes of locating the fish. When we stopped we threw in two rods with small squid squirts that we were using in hopes of catching bait. Also we put in a standard cedar plug and a couple big marlin plastics and started trolling about 7 knots. The idea I came to find was to troll around until you ran across a school of bonito and then try to catch 3 or 4 and put them in the tuna tubes on the back of the boat to keep them alive. Next they slow the boat down to about 3 knots and put out a spread of live bonitos. It's very similar to live bait king mackerel fishing just with much larger baits and on 50 wides. We started pulling around our spread and passed a longline boat. A few minutes later I spotted a large group of porpoise and birds feeding. We trolled all over the activity and were quickly rewarded when the cedar plug went off. I had it tied on a Shimano Torsa and Shimano jigging rod with 80lb braid I had borrowed. This little setup is pretty awesome. It is very light weight yet extremely powerful. Jared jumped on the first bite and just a few minutes later put a 30lb yellowfin in the boat and more importantly scored a sashimi dinner for us. We continued to troll the area and caught 6 more smaller yellowfin. While Jared and Ray were catching the tunas off the back I had taken a Yo-Zuri Bull GT popper to the bow and started casting to the tuna. The tunas were all over this thing but I quickly opted to put it away when at one time I looked down while we were moving slow and saw a school of about 20 yellowfin swim under the boat that were in the 200+lb range. I knew my spinning rod wouldn't be the answer. We trolled a while longer and couldn't hook up on a big tuna so we picked up and made our way to the official fishing grounds which was about 1-2 miles west of Montosa where there were numerous underwater pinnacles that the big game fish hung around. We trolled our squid squirts for a short time before we captured several bonito. Capt. Tito and his mate Sam quickly bridled the baits and deployed them. We trolled most of the day around a very fishy looking area with bonito schools crashing the top and birds and porpoise everywhere. Surprisingly there were 10-15 other boats fishing the area that were from other outfitters or private boats. The top water action was extremely slow for us and for everyone else. We missed one bite that could have been a billfish but no guarantee. The method of fishing is interesting. The large 5lb bonitos are bridled with a circle hook and deployed. The drag is set extemely loose but tight enough to keep the bait in place. If a bait gets very nervous or drag comes off the reel is thrown into freespool until you feel like the fish has taken the bait and eaten it. Next the Capt. and mate start screaming in several languages, run in circles, jump up and down and slam the throttle to the corner as the angler advances the drag and reels like mad. Although we didn't hook up today I believe I understand the process. Near the end of the day we got a knock down on a bonito and we do the freeline deal. I'm on the rod and the Capt. nails the throttles. I reel hard and the line comes tight except that it's not ripping off the reel like I was expecting. Nonetheless the crew is screaming and reeling everything in. I look back behind the boat and see whatever we have hooked up is not real big because it's spinning with the boat making 12 knots ahead. The crew regains composure and Jared takes over angling the 30lb Dog Snapper to the boat. That was it for us today. It was very disappointing as I visions of double digit sailfish and grander marlin. Oh well maybe the bite will be better tomorrow. I did see a few other boats hooked up to marlin and sails so there are fish here. We headed back to the mothership around 5:00. The others make their way in behind us and we convene on the upper deck for tuna sashimi appetizer and happy hour. Dinner tonight was steak and lobster- no complaints. The mothership is anchored in the lee of Montosa about 1 mile offshore. The landscape of this island is incredible. It's very mountainous but has white sand beaches lined with palm trees just like something out of a movie. We are told it is uninhabited except for two people claiming squatters rights who have built a small grass shack on the point of the island. After a great dinner we come clean with what each boat caught today. Tommy Lytton, York Pharr, and Todd Schadd fishing with Juan and Juan on the 28 Albemarle captured 1 30lb dolphin, 1 30lb cubera snapper, 4 mullet snapper and missed 1 marlin and 1 sailfish for a total of 1 point. Rube, Brant, and Robby Dial were fishing with Capt. Alexis aboard his 28' Pursuit and caught 1 dolphin 30lbs, 6 snapper up to 30lbs and Robby caught his first sailfish at 130lbs for a total of 2 points. They also missed one other sail that came up on a kite bait that Brant had set out which we brought from home. Todd Helf, Brian Richard and Robert Hughes caught 6 dolphin to 20lbs, 3 mullet snappers, 1 hammerhead shark, and raised two sails for a total of 6 points with Capt. Chaca. Ray Boyd, Jared Boyd and I ended up with 6 yellowfin tuna, 1 30lb snapper, and 1 missed billfish with Capt. Tito and Sam for a total of 6 points. Today's tournament winner was Forest Taylor, Richard McCrae and Tony McCrae who caught 2 dolphin to 30lbs, 4 sailfish and missed 2 sails with Capt. Kidd for a total of 10 points. There was some talk of disqualification though as we learned Capt. Kidd had ballyhoo on his boat and that was the ticket for the sails. We all hung out on the upper deck until about 9:00 and then started hitting the sack. Fishing off the back produced more blue runners but no big fish. Most everybody is too tired to mess with it anyway. Today was not a real good fishing day. I was not very impressed with the techniques or tackle on my boat. Most everybody else echoed the same thoughts. The condition of the sportfish boats was not great either to say the least. 3 of the 5 boats had mechanical problems today but to their credit, the crews are extemely resourceful as all the problems were fixed and no fishing time was missed. Hopefully the fishing will get on track tomorrow. Wake up is at 5:30.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"More Day 2 Pics" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
More pics from Day 2 in Paridas
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 2" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 2 Saturday 2/9/08:
The 6:15am wakeup call at the Marbella came early. Several of us were eating breakfast in the street side lobby when we spotted the missing crewmembers making their way back from a long night in Panama City. We finally rounded up all 13 in the group and the Starlite folks had our bus waiting to take us to the airport. We were once again quickly processed through the airport lines and boarded on a plane to the port city of David. A short scenic 45 minute plane ride through Panama led us over mountains, rivers and the Panama Canal. We arrived in David around 10am and met with Capt. Dan and his crew from Coral Star Expeditions. They loaded our luggage into the shuttle bus and we headed to Taz marina about 5 minutes away. At Taz we met up with the remaining 2 from our group Ray Boyd and his son Jared who flew direct from Atlanta on their jet. The Captain was anxious to get on the road becuase of a low tide issue as he explained the tidal swing on the river we would be traveling was 18 feet. Taz was little more than a couple docks tucked away in the deep jungle. We loaded the 5 sportfish boats with luggage, three passengers per boat a captain and mate. The sportfish boats are very slow, maybe 15 to 18 mph. We take another scenic hour and a half ride down the river out to the mothership that was waiting at an island called Paridas. The landscape is incredible with volcanic formed islands everywhere you look. At some point in time a serious geological event had taken place here. Once aboard the mothership we drop off our luggage, go over a quick safety briefing, grab some snacks and we're off again. This time we're headed out for some afternoon inshore fishing around the numerous rock islands. All 5 boats were targeting roosterfish, snapper, and jacks using top water plugs and live bait within a couple miles of the mothership. I was aboard Capt. Tito's 28 Pursuit with Brant and Robby Dial. In a few hours of fishing we caught a jack crevalle, missed a couple roosterfish and last several big snappers in the 30 pound range on the rocky bottom. The snappers would come to the surface and take a surface popping lure that we casted towards rock piles and then make a b-line to the bottom. Todd Helf caught a nice 25lb rooster with Brian Richard who also caught a 20lb snapper and Robert Hughes aboard Capt. Chaca's Pursuit. Tommy Lytton, Yorke Pharr, and Todd Schadd caught a small rooster and a couple snapper with Juan. Forest Taylor, Tony McCrae, and Richard McCrae caught a nice snapper with Capt. Kidd. Rube, Ray Boyd and Jared Boyd caught a couple jacks with Capt. Alexis. It was a nice warmup day for us. A good day to get our sea legs under us and get used to the boats. Once back on the mothership we were served snacks and took in happy hour as the sun set over the beautiful island of Paridas. Capt. Don struck a deal with a family passing by on their hand carved canoe for a 5 gallon bucket full of lobster we would eat for dinner the next night. Andy, the very talented cook, prepared an awesome fresh snapper dinner that Forest had caught just a couple hours earlier. After dinner Capt. Don gives us the gameplan for tomorrow, which was for the sportfish boats to take us out to Isla Montosa a couple hours away and begin our serious big game fishing. While we were fishing the mothership would move to Montosa and anchor on the lee side assuming the weather stayed nice. Next we figured out who would be fishing on what boat for tomorrow and we established rules for the tournament. We planned to have a new tournament each day. The tournament was between the 5 boats and would be based on a points system. 4 points were earned for a blue or black marlin release, 2 points for a sailfish release, 1 point per dolphin, tuna, or wahoo. Double bonus points were awarded if the marlin was estimated over 500lbs by the Capt. and for tunas over 100lbs. A few from our crew brought satellite phones and made contact with home. Darkness fell and most of the team opted to hit the bunks for some much needed rest before the real fishing began. The living quarters were not much to brag about but functional. There was a set of bunk beds in each room with a small bathroom. On the main deck was the living room, kitchen and dining room. Upstairs was the outdoor bar, eating area and sun deck. Not too many frills to the mothership, but certainly nice enough to call home for a week. Before we knock off for bed Brant, Tommy, Robert, Bryan and I try some fishing off the back of the mothership. The water is about 40 feet deep. We quickly found that the lights around the boat had attracted a multitude of fish including goggle eyes and blue runners. We had no where to store the baits so we let them go except that we put one on a balloon and one on the bottom for a few minutes. Neither bait yielded any action so we cashed in and rested up for the day ahead.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Panama Report Day 1" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
Day 1 Friday 2/8/08:
Finally after months of planning and anticipation our fishing excursion to Panama is here. I've been in Atlanta for a couple days visiting family and friends, but now it's time to start making progress south. I met up with fellow travelers Yorke Pharr, and Tommy Lytton at my dad's house in Atlanta for a carpool to the Atlanta airport. At the check in we ran into three more crewmembers Forest Taylor, Richard McCrae, and Tony McCrae who had driven down from Rockingham. We checked our bags including my fishing rod carrying case at the Delta International counter. We made our way to the concourse and found everything in order. Our plane was on time and waiting, the remaining fishermen from our group, minus Brant, had arrived, and the airport bar was conveniently located directly across from the gate. The 3 hour and 45 minute flight was relatively smooth and uneventful except for the "chicken" or "fish" option at dinner. We arrived in Panama City, Panama around 10pm and were immediately greeted by our in-country travel guide Starlite Travel Company. We received rock star treatment as they hustled us to the front of the customs line and through it in no time. They then showed us to the VIP lounge where we waited while the luggage was retrieved and packed onto our transport bus. By this time we have also met up with Brant who came in on an American Airlines flight from Miami that arrived about 20 minutes before ours. The group now 13 strong is loaded onto the shuttle bus and taken on a 20 minute ride through Panama City to hotel Marbella. The city is bigger than most of us expect with numerous high rise buildings, bright lights and construction everywhere. At Marbella the Starlite folks sort us out into our rooms and make sure all of our luggage is in the right place. Within a few minutes most of the team decides to check out the nightlife in downtown Panama City. Just a couple blocks down from the hotel is the heart of Panama City and a bustling casino. The people in this place are dressed to the 9's, the atmosphere is vibrant and cultural diversity is very apparent. Our team equipped with fishing t-shirts and jeans made themselves right at home in no time. Some opted for the bar, others for gambling, and the rest just took in the sights of this "different world." After an hour or so several of the crew walked back to the hotel for sleep while the others were last seen high fiving at the craps table. Tomorrow's, well I guess it's now today's, wake up call is at 6:15am.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"In Route" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
A quick update on the road to Panama. Our crew has successfully navigated a night in the bustling metropolis of Panama City (some better than others :) Everyone made it back from their evening excursions by departure time this morning at 7:30. Currently we are waiting at a small airstrip near Panama City for our plane to take us to the port of David where we will meet the boats. So far so good. Nothing a dark pair of sunglasses and a quick power nap can´t heal. The temperature is about 75 degrees this morning and warming quickly. We should be on the boats by noon and fishing this afternoon. We´ll try to give as many updates as we can. Signing off for now from Panama- Traveling Fishermen 2008
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Changes in latitudes, Changing in attitudes" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
The time has finally arrived. We're out of here! This evening, along with 14 other OIFC'ers, I'll be heading south to Panama City in Central America on our first Traveling Fisherman excursion. By this time tomorrow we'll be making 6 knots and keeping watch for lurking billfish underneath teasers. It's my understanding that so far this year aboard the Coral Star operation the marlin fishing has been excellent. Both Brant and I are equipped with all kinds of electronic media devices so that we're sure to bring back evidence with our stories. I will be keeping a day by day journal of the expedition and will post that journal on the Traveling Fisherman link off our website upon our return next week. Wish us luck.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"Now Booking Panama!" | OIFC 1- 36 | 04/10/08
After several months of logistical planning and conferring with the owners of the Coral Star Operation we have our first trip to Panama planned for 2009. The fishing days will take place February 15th - February 20th 2009. We've had tremendous interest in this trip from those who followed our adventure this past February so I expect the slots to go fast. We have room for 14 fishermen or fisherwomen on this trip. Booking is now underway. If you have interest email: email@example.com or 910-575-3474 ext. 4. Click here for more details or click underneath Trip Information.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan
"The Countdown Is On!" | OIFC.com- 36 | 04/10/08
For all you folks who follow this website I'm sure you've seen information on the exotic fishing expedition we are heading up to Panama in a couple weeks. In fact we are now exactly 2 weeks away from departure and the anticipation of a fishing paradise has all of us "Traveling Fishermen" fired up. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's February and cold enough to freeze sea spray to the bow rail at home while we are headed to a sub tropical 80+ degree billfish mecca. I apologize if my fantasizing is making anyone sick but the point is we are all excited to go to Panama and hopefully the fishing lives up to its reputation. Capt. Brant and I are going to take this opportunity fishing the fertile grounds of the Hannibal Banks to put on our journalist caps and take as much video and still shots as possible. When we return we will be posting a daily journal with pics and videos on OIFC.com to give those following a clear picture of our experience abroad. There are 15 Traveling Fishermen taking part in this excursion all of whom are "OIFC fishing friends" and cover a broad variety of backgrounds. We have the "contractors", the "real estate guys", "the "sales guys", the "fishermen" and several other categories. I'm sure there will be some sort of internal tournament competitions arranged once this crowd gets together. The standard method of big game fishing in Panama is trolling live bonita on flat lines targeting blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish and huge yellowfin tuna. We are also likely to run into giant snapper, grouper, wahoo, roosterfish, mahi and who knows what else. Keeping true to form we plan to shake things up a little from a tactical fishing approach on our excursion. While we know we can fall back on standard live bait trolling with bonitas and hopefully experience incredible action we plan to bring a little home cooking innovation OIFC style to Panama. We hope to try a few new things including top water plugging, vertical jigging, kite fishing and possibly night time swordfishing while we are there. We'll probably go to the billfishing capital of the world and catch king mackerel! We are truly excited to experience this incredible fishing destination once again and even more excited to expose our fellow Traveling Fishermen to a fishing experience like no other. There are already plans in progress for the Traveling Fishermen in late 08' and 09' so next time don't miss out on an opportunity make an escape from the winter doldrums and head to warmer latitudes!
Here is an email report we received from George Whitaker who recently traveled to Panama and fished out of another operation near our Coral Star excursion.
"Thought I would let you guys know some friends and I just returned from 4 days fishing around Coiba and Montousa. Caught 7 black marlin from 250 to 500 lbs., plus 5 sails in the 130 lb. range, plus numerous dorado and cuberra snapper. We fished out of Panama Big Game Club, which is well run with great food and accomodations. Also, I wanted to add that numerous boats from a mother ship (don't know which one) also fished around Montuosa, with everyone hooked up with marlin or sailfish at one time or another. The bite was best early morning, up till about 11:30. Then dead for a couple of hours, followed by another bite. Bonita were plentiful, and ballyhoo showed up Wed. of last week. Capt. Lee Campbell of Panama Big Game Club reported that our catch of 7 blacks made their total through January 16th come to 27 blacks for the month. One party prior to our arrival on the 12th caught a 250 lb. yellowfin."
More reports to come. Stand by.
- Capt. Barrett McMullan