The deep waters of the Pacific, just off the rugged coast of southwest Panama, attract some of the largest game fish in the world. This productive big-game fishery is a driving reason the town of Cambutal is home to the Los Buzos Resort kayak-fishing lodge. Kayak anglers from around the world travel to Los Buzos to toss out a line and try their luck for massive saltwater roosterfish, cubera snapper, and on rare occasion the ultimate sportfish. On May 23, 2022, angler Scott Mutchler fought and leadered an estimated 600-pound black marlin from the seat of a kayak.
Mutchler is just the second kayak angler at Los Buzos to fight and leader a marlin. The first being guide Adam Fisk. For Fisk, the fight back in 2019 lasted five hours and pulled him 12 miles. Mutchler’s battle was an intense 45 minutes, which you can watch in this video shared by Adam Fisk.
A week after Scott Mutchler’s hookup with the 600-pound marlin, the angler shares with us his man and the sea kayak fishing tale, and the fight of a lifetime.
KA: What was the atmosphere on the water leading up to the marlin?
Scott Mutchler: For three days prior, the rain was intense. Rivers were dumping silt into the ocean, and the water was a brownish-green in front of the Los Buzos lodge. We made the decision to mothership the kayaks to a spot 30-minutes east, to an area called Morro, where offshore currents were bringing in clear, blue water ideal for pelagic fishing.
When I arrived at Morro, I got in the kayak and headed to Boya, a spot a few miles offshore of these mountains that come down to black, sand beaches. The spot was once marked by a white buoy, hence the name. The water is 140 to 170 feet deep there, and usually a jig-fishing paradise.
The bite was slow. There was only one bait school 100 feet down, which we found out were bonita.
Just about the time I started trolling a bonita there was a lot of screaming from one of the 30-foot panga boats. “I got a marlin,” Josh Thao, another angler, screamed. Then, a black marlin jumped out of the water and threw the hook. Everyone started getting excited.
KA: Can you tell us about the moment you hooked up with this monster?
Mutchler: A few minutes later my live bait line slid sideways about 25 feet. At first I thought it was caught in the rudder of someone’s kayak. Then it shot 25 feet in the opposite direction, and it was clear it was something big. Within a few seconds it was breaching the surface.
I screamed, “Marlin!” The other kayakers parted to make room. The marlin breached again and I could see it was as a massive black. It made a screaming run offshore. I tightened the drag to strike, and swung the rod toward the front of the kayak.
KA: Was that tactic imperative at the moment?
Mutchler: Yes, when fighting a large fish in a kayak, it’s crucial to fight the fish out front. If a large fish gets a kayak angler sideways, it almost immediately results in the kayak flipping.
Within about 30 seconds, the kayak was moving at four miles per hour and generating a decent wake.
KA: This fish took you for a ride. Alright, keep going, we want to hear more about fighting a 600-pound marlin by kayak.
Mutchler: At first I was just trying to keep tension on the marlin. After about five minutes I began to slowly pump the rod to put pressure on and tire him out. I was able to move him to just under the kayak multiple times. He would get about 10 feet under the kayak and then the increased pressure of the line would cause him to make quick, deep runs.
After the runs, the marlin would come back to the surface and breach. It was exhilarating. This fish had some massive shoulders. After about the fifth round, I got the marlin to the kayak, and was able to leader him.
I was so focused on not screwing up, and losing him, that when I finally leadered him there was this massive release of emotions followed by a surreal feeling. I could not believe that I did it all in about 45 minutes.
At this point the rod was handed off to a panga fisherman who fought the marlin for an additional 10 minutes. Once the marlin was unable to move the 30-foot panga, like it did the kayak, it took some blistering runs and ultimately broke off.
KA: Incredible, and serious, big-game angling. Would you encourage fellow kayak anglers to pursue fish of this size?
Mutchler: I wouldn’t recommend taking on a marlin in a kayak to a novice. But with some offshore kayak experience, and knowing a few key techniques, it’s achievable by a large number of anglers.