Highlights of the 2016 Season from Tropic Star Lodge,
Piñas Bay, Panama
FROM THE FISHING DIRECTOR:
The Tropic Star Lodge team is happy to report a very successful 2016 season. I would like to share some of our highlights and fishing tales from this past year with you. I trust that our guests’ excitement will inspire you to join us for our forthcoming 2017 season.
Tropic Star Lodge has held a special place in the heart of sports fishermen for many years. For the guests lucky enough to have fished the waters off Piñas Bay, they have had their fishing stories pass from myth to legend. For the anglers who have yet to experience Tropic Star firsthand, they will find that it is a place unlike any other. It is a destination where Her Majesty the Black Marlin puts on an epic aerial show year-round, giant bull Dorado engulf live baits, Blue Marlin head for the horizon, Pacific Sailfish attack the spread in packs, and wild Yellowfin Tuna feeding frenzies explode at the surface. Inshore; colossal Roosterfish and monster Cubera Snapper tear up anything looking like a wounded baitfish. Tropic Star Lodge is an essential destination for all anglers!
Situated on the Pacific shores of the Darien Jungle, the waters of Piñas Bay are teaming with life. The Humboldt Current, the largest and most nutrient rich current on earth, is one of the reasons for our fish phenomenon. Another is the surrounding underwater structures like the famous Zane Grey Reef and the continental shelf, at just five and eight miles from the Lodge, respectively. Thanks to these attributes Tropic Star Lodge is known for its outstanding fishing and is famously known as the home of the Black Marlin. An angler has the opportunity to release the species every day of the year. However, as our guests know all too well, Black Marlin is not all that is going to be bending your rod and flexing your muscles.
I always like to say that Tropic Star Lodge is a family run fishing lodge for fishermen by fisher- men. Friendships are made over fishing stories on the patio while enjoying our famous piña coladas and Dorado fingers. Our crews are wizards at their craft and known to be some of the best live bait fisherman in the world. They are always ready to back up the most experienced of anglers or expertly guide novices. Our friendly staff will be considered family after a few hours. And my favorite part of the guest’s adventure is seeing someone tick off that bucket list fish and hearing their story of the reel screaming and how thrilling the catch was. The whole experience happens here, at our little piece of heaven in the Darien Jungle. And that ́s what I believe keeps our family coming back to see us, because after you have been here once, it is part of you and will be in your blood forever.
Please enjoy some of the thrilling stories from our past season of fishing. It was an amazing year and we can’t wait to see you next season for some exciting fishing and good laughs.
Tight lines and fair seas,
Capt. Richard White
November 2015 to March 2016
Our season began over Thanksgiving weekend with the annual Tropic Star Billfish Tournament benefiting the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. This is the time of year where the Black Marlin take up their annual residency and the sheer numbers we see coming through is remarkable. The Black Marlin are here in exceptional numbers from November through March and when Neptune is being kind occasionally they stay into April.
We see the bigger females in January and February making for some wicked big fish releases. Dorado follow the same current and are feeding their insatiable appetites during the same time. We catch them in that fantastic arm stretching XL size, and getting a bull of 50 lb. is a common occurrence.
December has always been a very good time to fish offshore at Tropic Star Lodge and this year was no exception.
The seas have been mostly calm and the weather has been absolutely beautiful both offshore and inshore. The trash lines were teaming with life and daily stories about monster fish were common on the porch when boats returned.
We released 29 Black Marlin, 168 Blue Marlin, and 274 sailfish in December. Billfish were not the only species bending rods and giving our guests a workout. Guests consistently caught Dorado over 60 lb. along with Yellowfin Tuna in the 50 lb range. As we all know, both of the species are delicious eating and it was fun to hear the tales of our guests’ fight with fish as we enjoyed their catch-of- the-day over dinner.
Returning guests Wayne Knapp and Karen Fox were back for their third trip to the Lodge and they had some spectacular fishing; releasing 10 Marlin and 8 Sailfish. On their best day they returned to the dock with four blues and four sails released!
The Marlin action in January was second-to-none. Tropic Star is the best place in the world to get a Grand Slam and in January, we had 4 personal and many boat slams to brag about. Our guests experienced multiple hook ups on most days. The stories of 800 lb. fish released were common as the sizeable females migrated to the area.
The legendary Zane Grey Reef was on fire and when the Black Marlin show up in high numbers with thick concentration it is truly exceptional. Black Marlin were not the only species coming to play. Blues were present in hard-to-beat numbers as were the Dorado.
This month we welcomed back Charlie Brammer and his son Chad who brought 33 of their fishing buddies down to Tropic Star Lodge with them. This trip had them scoring big– releasing 46 Marlin and 108 Sailfish over six days. Some of the noteworthy catches from this group were by Kevin Murray, Wes Barry, TJ Brammer, Caleb Brammer, John Wright, and Harry Morales who all released their first Blue Marlin in the 300 lb. range. Both Scott Young and David Keatley released a pair of big blues in the 400 – 450 lb. range. It was a fun week of fishing, not to mention the horde of monster Dorado they all brought in over the week.
Our guest, Mark Weeks, traveled across the globe to Tropic Star Lodge to attempt what is often called an impossible task: to successfully catch and release a marlin on fly-tackle. During his last trip a year ago, he managed to get the hook in a few marlin but, no luck getting her to the
boat. This time he hooked several marlin and after a few hard luck attempts he finally got his first Blue Marlin release on fly. The fish was estimated at 220lb. and although it was an impressive fish and a stupendous accomplishment on 20 lb. tippet; the IGFA record stands at 288 lb and to date no one has ever broken the 300 lb. barrier.
Mark also successfully released 11 Pacific Sailfish, seven of them on fly. I think it is safe to say, his trip was stacked with some major accomplishments. Congrats Mark; we look forward to seeing you next year and hope that you hit the magic 300! Ryan and Thomas Rogers along with Lee Leboeuf joined us at Tropic Star for a week of fishing. These gentlemen experienced real fishing magic. Thomas scored his first Black and Blue Marlin as well as his first Pacific Sailfish, all in one day for a Grand Slam! Ryan released his first Blue Marlin and Pacific Sailfish.
While on the topic of Grand Slams, Rick Cannon, a Florida Tarpon guide, was a guest of the Lodge and he too recorded a Grand Slam with a Black Marlin, Blue Marlin and Pacific Sailfish. All caught and released in a single day. Steve Fancsy accomplished his first Grand Slam on this, his eighth trip to Tropic Star. Joe Jimenez achieved a Marlin Grand Slam releasing a Striped, Blue, and Black Marlin.
Guests Jason Datillo and Allen Gailor had some wonderful fishing on their trip to Piñas Bay. Jason released his first Black Marlin and Blue Marlin both estimated at 400 lb. and released his first Pacific Sailfish. Bill Rivard scored his first Pacific Blue Marlin estimated at 400 lb. and a first Pacific Sailfish. And notably, Jim Miner completed his Royal Slam releasing a Pacific Sailfish.
I would like to give a special mention to Kayla Fitzgerald who caught a huge Yellowfin Tuna that fed us all with sashimi for the week. The fish weighed in at 110 lb. and fought almost two and half hours on 30 lb. test.
February started off hot. The Black Marlin action on the reef was relentless. We had many guests join us at the Lodge for their very first shot at the excitement of releasing a Black Marlin. On some days the weather patterns gave the Marlin a bit of lockjaw with fish coming into the spread just looking at bait. On other days the fish were hungry and ready to pounce on anything we put in front of them. Along the drop-off we released a few of the more uncommon Striped Marlin. Yellowfin Tuna began showing up, a clear sign of cooling water temperatures. By mid-month El Niño was in full effect. It impacted the fishing at the Lodge considerably with a reverse current of cooler water. The water temperature dropped just over 10 degrees’ Fahrenheit overnight. This cooler water caused the marlin bite to slow down, however, the Yellowfin Tuna preferring the cooler water began feeding in frenzies. Our guests caught over 300 Yellowfin Tuna in February just when the inshore species were making their first appearances. We released 65 blacks over twelve fishing days; not to
mention 20 Blue Marlin and a few Striped Marlin. Not bad considering how agressively El Niño showed up.
Michael and Gigi Stinson brought their daughter, Shannon, and her friend Regina Maze. The Stinsons were joined by friends Doug and Beverly and their daughter Alyssa. This group had some amazing success and everyone caught at least one marlin. This time of year we get some nice-sized fish and Regina released a hefty 550 plus lb. Black Marlin.
Doug, Alyssa, Gigi and Shannon joined the party; releasing their first Black Marlin estimated between 300 and 400 lb along with a literal boatload of big Dorado and plenty of Yellowfin Tuna. Thank you, Michael and Doug for all the fabulous photos and hope to see you all again soon.