It had been an incredible May trip to Panama for Scott Mutchler, age 52, of Jupiter, Florida. It was his seventh trip to the Pacific Coast spot. On May 23, he’d caught a massive 600-pound black marlin from a kayak.
It seemed nothing could compare to that incredible angling achievement, which was recorded on video.
But two days later on May 25, Mutchler continued his fishing hot streak.
He and a dozen other anglers in kayaks and pangas were fishing the same area where he’d caught the marlin, but this time they were deep jigging for snapper and other species. Mutchler was jigging from a panga with a pair of captains from the lodge.
“We were in a place called Morro Puerto, about 15 miles away from the lodge, and it’s a legendary fishing location,” said Mutchler, a south Florida data scientist and dedicated kayak angler with 20-years of experience. “In past trips I’ve caught huge cubera snapper there, and there have been billfish and even wahoo. It’s part of a series of ocean mounts that rise up and attract a lot of bait and gamefish.”
The anglers were “slow-pitching” with flutter jigs, an innovative Japanese-designed lure with top and bottom hooks. Mutchler was using his favorite Shimano butterfly jig in sardine pattern, weighing over 4-ounces.
“We made two drifts across the sea mount area, and I caught a couple yellow snapper of about 7 pounds,” says Mutchler. “Then on the third drift I dropped my jig to the bottom and it got hammered at just about the same place where I caught my marlin two days previously.”
The fish fought doggedly deep, refusing to rise with Mutchler putting plenty of pressure on the fish. He used 30-pound braided line spooled to a 7.4-to-1 ratio Shimano revolving spool “Ocea jigger 1500XG” reel on a 6-foot, 3-inch “JYG Pro” rod—all specially designed tackle for slow-pitch deep jigging.
“Everyone thought I’d hooked a shark, which sometimes hit deep jigs,” says Mutchler. “So, my buddies in the kayaks and another panga left me to go about their fishing. But about 10 minutes later I started moving the fish up, and I knew it wasn’t a shark.”
About 20 minutes into the fish fight Mutchler figured he was battling a huge cubera snapper, which was his targeted fish species that day.
“I kept slowly working him to the surface,” he explains. “The fish would run about 20 feet, and I’d lift him with my rod, he run again, and I’d lift again until we could see him in the clear ocean water below the panga.”
When the fish surfaced the two long-experienced Panamanian captains in the panga gasped, as they’d never seen a cubera snapper so big. It took both captains all they had to lift the massive, bright-red snapper into their boat.
Mutchler decided to release the cubera. But they didn’t have an official IGFA measuring device on board, so the fish was measured with fishing line. Then the snapper was released.
“The fish had the bends, its belly was about the size of a basketball,” Mutchler says. “We tried several times getting the fish down to decompress, even swimming with it deep, and trying to use a descending device. None of that worked. We finally had to pop its air bladder and swim down with it, which worked and the cubera swam off very alive.
“It took about 25 minutes of working to get the fish to recover strong enough to swim away. They’re tough as sea monsters, and we’re sure he made it okay.”
The fishing line used to carefully assess Mutchler’s Pacific cubera snapper taped at 53.5 inches in length. The current IGFA All-Tackle Length Record for the species is 47.2441 inches. Mutchler’s fish, however, was not photographed on a specialized IGFA measuring board, which is required for this record. So, Mutchler’s cubera is not recognized as a new world record catch by IGFA.
The current IGFA All-Tackle World Record for Pacific cubera snapper weighed 78-pounds, 12-ounces, with a length measurement of 53.15 inches. That fish was caught in 1988 off Costa Rica by angler Steven Paull.
If Mutchler had killed and weighed his cubera on certified scales and officially measured it, his fish possibly would have topped the IGFA species record for both All-Tackle weight and All-Tackle length.
But Mutchler insisted on releasing his remarkable catch.
“The local economy there in Panama is based on catching and selling cubera snapper and I wasn’t going to impact that in any way,” he says. “I caught the fish. It was measured and witnessed by top anglers and guides, and we had the great satisfaction of catching and admiring the fish, and releasing it, too.”
If you’re interested in targeting cubera, read our how-to article and hook up.