Central America

The Ranch

The Ranch

Cubera Snapper, quite possibly the meanest reef fish on the planet. When we weren’t out chasing fish in the blue all my attention was focused on trying to hunt these bruisers.
Took me almost a year to finally crack one over 20kg & on this particular trip I think it’s safe to say I definitely earnt it!
Our destination was literally deep in the Panamanian Jungle, a mates ranch only accessible by a three-hour boat ride and super sketchy beach access with pounding ten-foot surf or a ten-hour horse back ride through the jungle.
On the day of departure we had to seriously think about canning the trip due to the swell. I’ve had a saying for years “Stupid stubborn spearo’s” the pursuit of big fish often clouds ones judgment…
Jessie, Julie, Kelsey, Brandon, Brad & I loaded into two pangas and negotiated our way through the 10ft surf on our way down to “The Ranch” we were so paranoid about flipping the boat we tied our floatlines through all our gear and connected to a pile of 3ATM floats.
Brandon, Brad & I swam in to access the best place for the boats to land.
The ranch has a caretaker that lives there all year, just one man, a couple hundred chickens and a herd of cows. No power, no phone, he doesn’t know who or when anybody is coming or how long they are staying. He heard the Sound of the engines and came and met us on the beach with a horse and cart to take our gear up to the ranch. This was as remote as it gets, the sense of adventure in the air was thick.

“The Caretaker” with a few hundred of his friends.

After unloading all the gear we decided to try and get out for a dive, the group was a bit undecided with the swell but like I said before, stupid stubborn spearo’s prevailed.

Stupid Stubborn Spearo’s…

Girls in one panga, boys in the other we held the twenty-foot boats in the pounding shore break waiting for the right gap in the sets. The girls timed it perfectly and waited out the back. We weren’t so lucky, the timing was wrong from the start; our seventeen-year-old skipper dug the nose straight into the first wave that jacked up. Half of the Pacific Ocean spilled into out boat, knocking the fuel tank over, (a plastic drum with a pool noodle in the top to hole the fuel line in.)
There we were, dead in the water, flooded almost to the gunwales, in the middle of a ten-foot set. Things went from bad to worse as the boat turned side on to the next wave. A mountain of water jacked and I see the captain leap out of the boat, so much for going down with your ship. Brad and I followed and Brandon stayed in as the boat was tipped into its side dumping half our gear into the brine. Gear floating everywhere, the surface covered in a slick of petrol. The surge was so strong rocks the size of watermelons were rolling back into our shins, it wasn’t the best time to find out our skipper couldn’t swim. All alive and back on the beach we sifted though all our floating gear for a stock take. The only thing missing apart from a few oil bottles and an esky lid was my big UW video camera, still loaded with footage I hadn’t downloaded…
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That flip-flop managed to survive…

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A bit of quiet reflection…

It took a few rums that night to heal the wounds…
The next morning I wasn’t as upset about my lost camera, to this day I’m still hoping someone will stub their toe on the beach, dig it up and somehow reunite me with all the footage. Got to have dreams!
The swell had died down overnight and we made it out without a hitch, unfortunately we were greeted with two meters visibility but at least we were diving. You could hear the tail thumps of big fish in the murk but rarely saw them. On one dive I managed to land in-between two massive boulders, two dark shapes came in quick to check me out, with a #130Euro in two meters vis I quickly shot from the hip completely stoning a stud Cubera! As I pulled the fish to the surface I knew for sure I’d finally cracked my twenty-kilo Cubera, tipping the scales at 21.5kg. Shortly after I was hit with severe heat stroke and spend the rest of the day throwing up in-between photos. I skipped dinner that night and Jessie was kind enough to cut the jaws out and boil the jaws for me, still one of the most epic sets I own. What an adventure, with a great bunch of people, a huge thanks to Jose for letting us stay in his slice of Panamanian heaven, it’s a trip I will never forget!

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