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  • Writer's pictureBrett Ragghianti

Hicaco Fish Market - best prices with locals near Lago Bay

Lago Bay is located around some of the best fishing in Panama. Several nearby towns have small markets in which wholesalers arrive and supply the larger towns, such as Santiago, with fresh fish, prawns and lobster. Hicaco consistently has a good supply of fish at a good price. Only 4 kilometers from Lago Bay, we recommend not only the catch of the day, but also the experience of a local market.

At the market, you'll find three businesses. Two are family-run operations with the third being a Co-Operative. Many local fishermen are members of the Co-Op. All three businesses specialize in wholesale distribution, but will always take the time to sell individual customers the catch of the day for their dinner.

On the road from Lago Bay towards Santa Catalina

In the above video, we give you tips on how to discern the signs of an ultra fresh fish. Also, more or less the prices in the market (2024) and some of the variety of fish that you may expect to find at the Hicaco Fish Market.

Fishing Around Lago Bay

Fishing Around Lago Bay is diverse and abundant. Lago Bay, along with close-by towns like Hicaco and Lagartero have the advantage of being at the mouth of the Gulf of Montijo with close proximity to the Island of Cebaco. This gives the advantage of having a variety of both open water fish and estuary fish.

An estuary like the Gulf of Montijo is at the mouth of an area where freshwater rivers meet the ocean. Here, because the salty ocean mixes with freshwater sources, there is brackish water in which many fish, shellfish and prawn species thrive. The beach here at Lago Bay is well known the the general area as being the best place for butter clams. Food sources coming from the Gulf attract a variety of species that act as a food source for an abundance of fish.

Fishing boat at Lago Bay.  Fishing Santa Catalina.

The local fishermen in the area don't have an easy time. Like the video (above) suggests, most fishing teams go out in small pangas (local-style boats) for multiple days. Fishing with small nets and full-on sun can be exhausting. These guys are experts in tide changes, the seasons and the temperature of the water. Sometimes the color of the ocean water can also indicate whether it's a good time to 'launch out' or 'wait it out'. These guys need to use their experience on not only when...but where. Luckily there are plenty of options with both estuary and open water having different attributes and challenges. Other challenging factor includes regulations that are now being strictly enforced. Local laws prohibit fishing with certain nets and at certain times of the year. That keeps the local fish industry here sustainable for everyone!

Some Varieties that you may find at the Hicaco Fish Market:

Snook (Robalo in Spanish)

Snook (Robalo in Spanish) is one that immediately comes to mind. This high value catch lives in completely freshwater (like here in the lakes of Lago Bay) or in completely open-water ocean. It seems to reside primarily in brackish water, however. That makes snook high on the list at the Hicaco Fish Market. This white and tender variety is especially good for a pan fried style and great for ceviche.

Price: $2.25/lb

Hicaco Fish Market

Sea Bass (Corvina)

Sea Bass (Corvina) is another fish variety always found at the Fish Market. Panama's most popular fish because of it's versatility on the plate. It is also one of the most common finds here at the Gulf of Montijo where it can find plenty of food in the bay.

Price: $2.25/lb

Mackerel (Sierra)

Mackerel (Sierra) is an undervalued fish that is also readily available at the Hicaco Fish Market. It is easy to find here in the bay and is also common in open water. Served fried grilled or sautéed, Mackerel is a very good fish for a variety of plates.

Price: $1.25/lb

Mahi Mahi (Dorado)

Mahi Mahi (Dorado) and Yellow-fin Tuna (Atun) are also possible...especially during July, August and September It helps to get out towards deeper water near or beyond Cebaco Island.

Price: $2.25/lb

Sport fishing near Santa Catalina.  Mahi Mahi.

Grouper (Mero)

Grouper (Mero) is another variety sometimes found at the Market. Although a bottom feeder, they often times get close enough for the fishermen to haul them in.

Price: $2.50/lb

Wahoo (Wahoo)

Wahoo (Wahoo) is probably my favorite, but it is not often found at the Fish Market. They are most often caught while speed trolling. That is not a traditional local style of fishing. If you are into sport fishing, however, plan your trip during May-September to get a good chance of trolling for Wahoo. There are few experiences in sport fishing more crazy than the incredible speed of a wahoo on the line.

Price: $2.50/lb

Most large species of fish that come to mind when thinking of sport fishing like Marlin are beyond the scope of the humble Hicaco Fish Market. For avid sport fishing, however, that action can be found on the far side of Coiba..especially at Hannibal Bank. The topic is beyond the scope of this blog, however, there are several luxury operations in the Santa Catalina and Cebaco Island area that offer multiple-day sport fishing trips.


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