Fishing for Peacock Bass on Lake Gatun in Arenosa, Panama
Arenosa is a small town on the west end of Lake Gatun, only 70 km from Coronado. The lake was created by a series of dams built during the construction of the Panama Canal. The lake is big, it covers over 160 square miles and it is stocked with Peacock Bass, along with a couple other varieties of fish. Sitting 85 feet above sea level, the lake provides fresh water to the canal. Over 52 million gallons of water is needed for each ship that passes through the Canal.
Arenosa is only an hour drive from Coronado, driving towards Panama City. The turn to Arenosa is about 5 minutes after Capira. You will pass two delta gas stations, at the third delta gas station at the top of the hill you will make a left before the walking bridge over head. Look out for the Estrella Azul factory which will be on the left hand side before the turn.
After making the left hand turn, the road will continue on for about 25 km. This road will take you all the way to Arenosa, though rolling hills and pineapple farms. Just before the 25k mark there is a sign that will tell you Arenosa is to the left. You can’t miss it, if you go too far some guys will probably wave you down at the bus stop and let you know. There is a bus stop and a chino on the corner. Honk if nobody is around and someone will come over and help you out.
Finding a guide & Going Fishing
It is quite easy to find someone to take you fishing in Arenosa. If you drive up around 7:30 there are guys waiting for potential fishing trips. You can also book ahead. There are a couple different people you can call to book a trip in advance. If you are looking for a boat that can accommodate a larger group (up to six) Dennis Melton is the guy to call. He has a 24 foot pontoon boat and will rent it out $150.00 for a full day. This cost does not include cost of live bait, use of spinning tackle or having the fish cleaned. He also recommends a 10 – 15% tip for the guide.
If you are a smaller group 2 – 4 call Pacho, a local guide recommeneded by Dennis. For $80.00 (group of 2 people) Pacho provided live bait, spinning tackle, and had someone ready to fillet our fish at the end of the trip.
Pacho knew the river well. He took us to several spots where we were catching fish on every cast! In total we caught about 50 fish. We kept about 20 all weighing between a 1/2 lb and 2 lbs. Peacock bass can get big; Pacho said the biggest one he’d ever caught weighed about 7lbs. Expect the majority of your fish to weigh in and around 2 lbs, but you never know, you could be the lucky fisherman who catches the 7 pounder.
What to Bring
It’s a good idea to bring a cooler, cold beverages and snacks make the day more enjoyable. Prepare for both sun and rain; bring sun block, a hat and a rain jacket or a sweater.!
Restaurants in the area
If you are looking for something to eat after a long day of fishing, you won’t have to look far. Wednesday through Sunday La Escondida Restaurant serves fresh fish with patacones, yucca or papas. Plates are well priced, for $6.00 you can get a filling meal, cold beer is served for a dollar.
You can also ask to have the fish you caught that day cooked up. They will clean it and cook it for you right at the restaurant for about the same price as a meal.
Book a trip though Pacho by calling (507) 6682-2401. Pacho only speaks Spanish.