The art of freshwater or saltwater sportfishing is a varied, complex and rewarding pastime appealing to millions of people from all walks of life. It is also lots of fun. Sportfishing or ‘Angling’ owes its roots to the invention of the angled fishhook. The word ‘Angling’ comes from the Greek ‘ankos glen’ (barbed hook), the Old English ‘anga hook’ or angled hook and from its definition – “to use artful means to obtain an objective”. The art of fly fishing was practiced as long ago as the 3rd century AD in Macedonia. The modern ‘Angler’ is very much like a ‘Bounty Hunter’ except his objectives and quarries are respectively far more admirable and honorable. However he must still search for, find and capture his quarry - a process that because of its sporting nature develops ingenious and artful methods. The creation and evolution of these methods are proven through the experimentation and results of individual anglers. Many find the sport truly interesting and worthwhile, developing a healthy appreciation for the natural environment. Higher human desires and goals not rooted in frenzied economic advancement or the frantic acquisition of food, fuel an angler’s honorable pursuit of game fish. The profound feeling of accomplishment achieved through angling is one of its rewards. All that is required to participate in this sport is an ardent interest.
The more you know about your quarry (gamefish) and his habitat (saltwater/freshwater) the better your chances are of catching him. To catch gamefish do you need a boat, what kind of boat, what kind of rod & reel, how do you hook him and how do you fight him? What fish are you after, where can you find him, what are his habits and what does he eat? These are good things to know but are not always generally known about all gamefish by all the anglers who pursue them. Different points of view further shroud the gathering of this information. For instance a novice aquarium owner might be satisfied with knowing that the fish lives in water and eats canned food. A scientist (marine biologist, physiologist, ichthyologist, oceanographer etc.) might have some of this information in such quantities, qualities and detail that it would be quite a chore to sift through and find, that which is specific to angling. Old time anglers attained this information by careful study and observation of specific gamefish over a period of years. In many cases this information was well ahead of its time and was kept secret. For example, it is a recent scientific discovery that billfish can see colors. Anglers have always known this and in the 1960’s when it was ‘scientifically proven’ that billfish could not see colors the only people unconvinced were anglers and maybe fishing lure manufacturers. With the advent of super communication, faster travel and tourism many of these fishing secrets are easier to obtain but finding out the most important secrets still rely on time consuming observation and practice. There is no ‘magic bullet’ - you have to be out on the water fishing to find out what you need to know.
Some gamefish are easier to catch than others but catching the largest specimens of any gamefish species is always difficult. Most people sport fish for the sense of accomplishment and relaxing entertainment it provides. Some species of fish are more ‘game’ than others and some gamefish are more difficult to find or fight, factors that contribute significantly to angling satisfaction. Satisfaction is many times gauged by the relative size of the fish caught as compared to the maximum size attainable by the species or how many decent sized gamefish can be caught in a day or a year and by which method of angling was employed. The larger sized fish within a species are always rare and are inversely proportional to its relative numbers. Mature large fish are always harder to find, fight and catch than their smaller brethren and usually render the most memorable moments in angling. These ‘fish of a lifetime’ or a ‘fishing trip of a lifetime’ depend not only on ‘how’ and ‘where’ but also on quality well maintained gear, angler prowess and frequently- a team effort. The capture of these gamefish is a serious event that makes boyish games like boxing and football pale in comparison. A rare event indeed but it doesn’t necessarily have to be like the passing of a comet happening once every 30 years. However each exceptional event usually requires intense planning, perseverance, practice and patience. The best way to accomplish these formidable angling achievements is to do some research and be prepared, as full sized gamefish are notoriously difficult make take a number and stand in line. Second chances are comparatively few and far between. To reliably ascertain ‘where’ and ‘how’ and to be sufficiently prepared you must seek local knowledge of the angling techniques and the specific gamefish habits in that particular area.
A gamefish’s general and local habits are his ‘Achilles Heel‘
and the best way to ‘angle’ for them. Acquiring the local knowledge necessary to consistently catch large gamefish can be done in one of two ways; either spend the time through trial and error (usually years) or seek instruction from someone who has already invested the time. ‘Education’ can prove expensive either way. However a good local
sportfishing guide can save you plenty of time, money and heart aches. Once you begin to reap the benefits of your sportfishing objectives you will become more aware of what a wonderful pastime this is and will naturally want to share it with those close to you. At this stage of angling development it is much easier to understand the catch & release concept. If you are or have been a sportfishing enthusiast you well understand what a worthwhile recreational resource we have to save for our children. For those of you who are not anglers I invite you to start enjoying this pastime and to ask your parents why they never took you fishing as a child. This is a question we should all be aware of as our children grow.
Time & Tide Will Tell- Capt. Tony Herndon
“As a freelance writer and outdoor photographer I have had the opportunity to fish in 18 countries from Thailand to Brazil. During these travels I also evaluate not only the quality of fishing but the total sportfishing operation including boats, accommodations, pricing, safety practices,
food service and other attributes that visiting anglers would find important to know about before committing to a remote trip. A key to the success and overall enjoyment of any fishing experience is the quality of the professional skippers that you will be spending most of your time with. Do they know the habitat, tidal movements of various species or preferred lunar phases of your favorite quarry? Do they easily understand different points of view and are willing to try new techniques? Can they maintain a boat? Can they put you in perfect position to make a cast with light tackle as well as maneuver the boat on a big black marlin with equal ease? And very important - is your skipper fun to fish with? Experienced anglers understand that fishing is not always good, that weather turns bad and sea conditions can scatter fish but if you have a good, reliable skipper at least you know you are giving it your best shot and with the very best skippers you can still have fun without catching much on occasion. Captain Tony Herndon is one of the very best skippers that I have fished with not only in Panama but also around the world. Capt. Herndon is extremely knowledgeable about his fishing ground which covers almost every body of water in Panama from the Isla Coiba Region, Tuna Coast, Gulf of Panama, Pinas Bay and the Atlantic Coast. His expertise extends into freshwater as well including the Gatun Lake system for peacock bass and the Rio Chepo for giant snook and tarpon found on the Pacific Coast. I have fished with Tony for many years and find him to be reliable, patient, enthusiastic, competent, knows his boats and tackle and is an engaging character full of stories to tell if the fishing gets slow. And yes - he is a lot of fun to fish with. I recommend him highly as a premier, independent fishing guide who will lead you to the best fishing to be found in Panama.”
“The Roving Angler”
Captain Tony Herndon has been catching fish since he was 3 when he caught a grunt with a hand line off a pier in Puerto Rico. His father John was a career Marine who loved fishing, fly fishing, hunting, sport-diving and especially exploring. Due to his military career he traveled the world extensively. Being an ‘old style marine’ he really couldn’t see things any other way than ‘his way’. He therefore assumed his children should love boating, fishing, camping, hunting, sport diving and especially exploring as much as he did. So from the time he could walk Tony went along with his father on all of his exploits. Consequently by the time Tony was 10 he was quite accomplished at all of the above and ‘just do it’ to him was not a marketing slogan for a shoe company. After WWII John married Panama’s most singularly beautiful woman and from then on was drawn to explore the country from a sportfishing and diving perspective. In 1968 he retired to Panama and continued his in-depth explorations fulltime. His forte was in discovering places hardly anyone had ever been diving or sportfishing. In areas of Panama such as the jungles, lakes, rivers & coasts of the upper and lower Atlantic coasts, the Darien region, the Bocas del Toro region, the San Blas Islands, Coiba Island in the Gulf of Chiriqui, thePerlas Islands in the Gulf of Panama and even into Costa Rican and Colombian waters. Obviously to accomplish this in an orderly military fashion expertise in hunting, camping, diving, fishing and handling boats of all types & sizes was essential. All the while Tony’s participation was mandatory. Well naturally, by the time Tony grew up he was quite skilled in all these arts but especially sportfishing of all types and particularly in Panama. Since 1981 Capt. Tony has been a professional sportfishing captain (250 ton), guide and owner/operator of several boats for the varied types of fishing to be found in Panama – inshore, offshore, rivers, lakes, bottom-fishing, blue-water trolling, popping, plug casting, fly fishing etc. He didn’t just recently come to Panama get in on the de novo sportfishing/tourist industry that has developed in the last few years rather he has been doing it all his life. He is well versed in the best methods to catch probably all of Panama’s gamefish species and knows where the fish were yesterday, where they are today and is well prepared for tomorrows fishing charter. More significant however is his concern for his client’s goals and expectations. He genuinely wants them to accomplish what they came to Panama for. In Panama today I cannot recommend a better sportfishing guide or captain!
Panamá Legislator 1990-2004
President National Assembly 2001-2002
Vice President Rep. of Panama 2004- 2009
The name of a Cueva Indian village discovered by either Vasco Nuñes de Balboa or Captain Antonio Tello de Guzmán around 1514-15, which was situated near the site of modern Panama City. From the Cueva Indian dialect meaning "place of abundance of fish", possibly from the Caribe Indian "abundance of butterflies", or possibly from another indigenous word describing the Panama tree.
In 1514 Balboa cut a crude road across the Isthmus to carry his ships from Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien to the Gulf of San Miguel in the 'Mar del Sur' (Pacific Ocean). Later, Pizarro used these same ships to conquer Peru. The road about 40 miles long had no villages along its route and was abandoned soon after the settlement at Panama was established. Balboa first informed King Ferdinand of new attractive lands named Panama and Coiba. In appreciation Ferdinand thought to reward Balboa by giving him charge of this western frontier, subordinate to Pedrarias. The latter countered by claiming that Panama was nothing more than fisheries on the South Sea, the word Panama meaning "fishermen," and that there was no land of Coiba, Coiba meaning "far away." Ayora had gone first to block Balboa from the west by sending a party into the lower Bayano valley under orders to make a settlement on the Pacific coast. By order of Pedrarias Ayora was followed promptly by Tello De Guzman using the road Balboa had created. Guzman relieved the men Ayora had left at Tubanama and continued west through the territories of the caciques Chepo and Pacora to that of Panama. (All these names are preserved in modern times.) Near the mouth of the Rio Grande he found a village of Cueva Indian fishermen who called themselves and their village Panama. Guzman said the Cueva word Panama meant "Place of Abundant Fish". These people showed Guzman a previously undiscovered trail north to Porto Bello on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus. Panama he found to consist of nothing more than fishermans huts. This probably established the discovery of Panama, a name, as in the case of Darien, applied by the Spaniards to a larger region.
From the lower Bayano drainage it extended west along the Bay Of Panama to the mouth of the Rio Grande and a little beyond. The Guzman exploration ran from the early fall of 1514 through the winter of 1515 and reached the southern part of where the modern Panama Canal Zone is today. Many Spanish at the time including Oviedo thought Guzman to be a cutthroat and little better than a pirate. Las Casas, followed by Herrera, detailed the outrages and the loot that was taken. (Tello De Guzman later took part in the pillage of Peru. His milder Lieutenant, Diego De Albitez, years afterward became governor of Honduras.) Before Balboa had notice of his assignment of Panama, Pedrarias had established his counter-claim by prior discovery and conquest.
A large Native American population inhabited Panama at this time. The distribution and size of these villages depended on geography and climate with the largest populations near the largest rivers of the Pacific slopes. Because of the way the Spanish described indigenous language and culture it is tedious to relate pre-Colombian groups to surviving tribes. From what is now the Colombian Border to an imaginary line from the Río Indio (Atlantic) Southeast across the Isthmus to Punta Chame (Pacific) existed a culture the Spanish called 'Cueva'. To the west of this there were apparently several languages and cultures indicating many different tribes. Most of the original tribes or cultures disappeared due to European diseases, the Conquest and racial mixing. This occurred rather quickly and by the mid 16th century the Indian population of Darién, Panamá and the Perlas Archipelago was sparse to the point that the Spanish imported Indians from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Perú, and the Antilles to work in the pearl fisheries. Today the surviving native American population is estimated at around 200,000 and includes 5 tribes speaking languages of the Chibcha family: the "Bribri", the "Ngwobe", popularly called "Guaymí", the "Buglé" or "Bokota", the "Tiribie" commonly called "Teribe", and an important group the "Tule" or "Kuna". Their languages identify two other groups, the “Wounaan and Emberá”. They originated from the Chocó region and therefore were popularly named "Chocó".