The Tropic Star Lodge Roosterfish Tournament takes place in Piñas Bay, Panama, every year in May. Book your spot at our 2023 Roosterfish Tournament – it is a great chance to qualify for the OWC while doing your bit for marine conservation.
Since the dawn of fishing there has been a competitive spirit between anglers, and each and every sports fisherman started fishing because of the joy it brings them. It is exactly these aspects of fishing that the Tropic Star Lodge Roosterfish tournament brings together. The tournament spans four days, with loads of fun and action-packed fishing. On arrival, we held the Roosterfish Olympics – this challenge determines the order in which the teams participate in the boat draw at the captains meeting on the first night. The first fishing day is a fun day, or practice day, depending on how serious you are. The next three days count for points, and to score points you need to successfully hook and release a Roosterfish. If competing anglers manage to bag a Roosterfish on 20lb test or lower, a Rooster of over 50lb, or on artificial while casting – the angler receives extra points making things very interesting.
We had some great teams this year as always, but conditions were not perfect due to intermittent rains. Despite that, the anglers gave it their all, fishing hard to the very end, and the results speak for themselves!
Each morning, the boats were loaded up with fresh bait and away they went. In total, the teams released 96 Roosterfish over three days making for some incredible fishing. The difference between top angler, and second place angler came down to just 50 points. The difference was made up by points awarded to the angler for catching a Roosterfish on artificial. This went to Jeff Hewitt. The biggest Roosterfish of the tournament went to Lee Ann Ballew for her 132cm Roosterfish, putting it at over 50lb. In the end, team Wyoming Cowboys decidedly took the win.
The entire Tropic Star Lodge team would like to say a HUGE thank you to our amazing sponsors, and anglers alike. Without them, this fun-filled conservation tournament just wouldn’t be possible!
Fish of the Day Winners:
Day 1 (Fun Day): Scott Hickman: 400lb Black Marlin
Day 2 (Tournament Day 1): Jeff Hewitt: Roosterfish 86cm
Day 3 (Tournament Day 2): Lee Ann Ballew: Roosterfish 132cm
Day 4 (Tournament Day 3): Jason Dittilo: Roosterfish 112cm
First Place Anger: Jeff Hewitt -1800 Points
Second Place Angler: Patty Lucht – 1750 Points
Third Place Angler: Mark Lucht – 1450 Points
Day 1: 19 Roosterfish Released Day 2: 57 Roosterfish Released Day 3: 20 Roosterfish Released
Special thanks to the sponsors for this tournament – YETI, Costa del Mar, Rods By Dru, Guy Harvey, Scallywags, King Sailfish Mounts, Papas Pillar and BUBBA Blades.
The only constant is change – and that was certainly the case for us this July. The bite offshore changed up on us constantly, so the captains and mates worked extra hard to find the bite each day. Anglers were rewarded with some great catches. We had some incredible Blue Marlin bites and the odd Black Marlin showing up along the edge. The Sailfish and Yellowfin bite was the most consistent bite offshore and we got some bruiser Yellowfin over the 150lb mark. Along with the rain came some of the largest current lines full of flotsam that we have ever seen. The baitfish offshore were thick all month, and we caught giant Dorado along these lines. Inshore seemed to be on fire all month long. Anglers released loads of different species, and we released Cubera Snapper and Roosterfish over 70lbs.
The weather and sea conditions have been strange the last few weeks. We have experienced a lot of rain along the coast in the afternoons, which is to be expected during our rainy season, but the winds have been switching on us from north to south which is uncommon for this time of year. The sea temperature has also been changing a lot. It has climbed all the way up to 90 degrees, and then back down to 84 in just a few days making the fish very lethargic.
Drew and Dona Thompson brought their daughters, Maya and Ava, for their annual visit. They are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and oh my word, can they catch fish! On this trip to the Lodge, the family fished with Capt. Luis. They kicked things off with Drew getting an Offshore Super Slam with two Blues, a Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, and a Dorado over 50lb. The Dorado also made the IGFA trophy fish club. This was an epic start to a trip, but their good fortune just kept coming. Ava was able to snag another pending junior world record for a Rainbow Runner, that weighed in at just over 3 pounds more than the current world record. Then, Maya came in to weigh a pending females’ world record on 20lb test for a Broomtail Grouper. Dona joined her daughters with a pending world record on 20lb for a Mullet Snapper that we released after weighing it at the Tropic Star weigh station! It was an exciting week of fishing to say the least, and on the last day, Ava finished off in true style (as only Ava can) when she achieved an Offshore Super Slam! She got an absolute beauty of a Blue Marlin, a Sailfish, 11 Yellowfin and a Dorado.
Martin and Laura Curi came with their son, Mark, from Miami, Florida. They fished with Captain Mario, and Willie as their mate. The family took advantage of our beautiful beaches, and did some kayaking through the mangroves. Their fishing was absolutely on fire with the family getting a Billfish Grand Slam – releasing a Black Marlin, a Blue Marlin, and a Sailfish in a single day. They also managed to get some Dorado action, with most coming in at an impressive size.
Juan March and Nella Sanchez joined us all the way from Spain. It was a trip that had been a long time in the making, and one that I don’t think they will soon forget. They went fishing on board Miss Costa Rica with Captain Libardo, and Ramiro as their mate. The couple had a great time enjoying the jungle, and the calm clear waters of Playa Blanca, but they also smashed the fish! They managed to release 3 Blue Marlin during their 4 days of fishing, and a hoard of Sailfish and Dorado. The best part was that they had our videographer Keishmer on the boat with them for some of the action, so they will be able to relive their memories for a lifetime. It’s a long flight from Europe – but one we are hoping they will board again in the near future to head down and see us.
3 generations of Cunningham men – Robert, Jacob, and Thomas, joined us for 4 days of fishing, and they crushed it all trip long. They fished on Island Star with Gavilan and Elio. Thomas had some incredible fishing. He released his first Blue Marlin, and was initiated into the Tropic Star tradition of walking the plank off of the dock. It was estimated to be around 300 pounds. Over the next few days, Thomas managed to release two more Marlin, and they only got bigger. He also released more than his fair share of Sailfish, and brought in some monster sized Dorado. To say Dad and Grandad were beaming with pride would be an understatement! The best part was that he hooked all of his own fish, making his impressive catch list all the more rewarding.
It has been a while since we got to hang out with Tony and Pam Coffman, and it was great to catch up with them. They fished on Miss Alaska with Flaco and Ricardo. Being returning guests, they are not new to the Tropic Star experience, but this was their first time fishing with Flaco. With the fishing they had, I think that Flaco has definitely not seen the last of them! They fished for a half day on arrival and casually went out and released a Grand Slam! Tony released a Black Marlin, a Blue Marlin and a Sailfish on his first half day back. This marked his third Grand Slam at Tropic Star Lodge. Pam was acting as Tony’s back up and caught a huge Dorado as Tony took on some more Billfish. His biggest Blue for this trip was called at 600lb and after seeing the video footage captured by Pam, that was a very conservative call.
We were thrilled to welcome Archie and Tracy Solomon back for the third time in the last two years. They brought their friends, Will and Carmen, with them to enjoy 4 days of fishing in the jungle. Carmen was up first, catching her first ever Sailfish and first ever Blue Marlin of about 200lb. The fishing proved a little tough, but then during a half day of fishing on their last day, Tracey got on her Marlin. The Marlin was really tough – it didn’t jump much, and unfortunately came off just inches from the mate when he went for a leader touch. The couples had a great time catching all sorts of species inshore, and Dorado and Sails offshore. Catching up with Archie and Tracey is always loads of fun, and we have to say a big thank you to them for the wonderful donations they always bring for the village of Pinas.
Harry Brickley is a living legend. Not only in the when it comes to fishing, but in the hunting world and in life itself. Harry, who is 94 years young, brought his nephew, Jeff Blagauras, with him to take on some Billfish. Harry has caught fish all over the world, and we love seeing him here when he comes for his twice annual fishing trips. We have a phrase here at Tropic Star, which a lot of our other guests have come to know well. “If you want to know when the Marlin will be biting, just ask when Harry will be here, because you know the fishing will be exceptional when he is here.” Harry always fishes with Capt. Candelo on Australia. They have been fishing together for many years and are good friends. Jeff released his first ever Blue Marlin on day one, right at the start of the day. He also released his second, his third and his fourth during this trip with his uncle.
We had 3 generations of Vergnolle men at the lodge this time around. Ron and Finch were back again for their FOURTH time since March of 2020, and this time, Ron brought his dad to the lodge for his first visit too. They were fishing with their usual choice of Capt. Jacob and Weimar on Miss Tropic Star, over 3 days of fishing. The Vergnolles have done a lot of fishing, and on this particular trip, they weren’t able to get a Marlin – but they did get Sailfish on spinning rods and giant Roosterfish. The Cubera teased them, following poppers, and Finch caught his personal best Yellowfin Tuna of 107 pounds which had everyone very excited. It’s always a treat seeing the Vergnolles, and although we missed Britt on this trip, we know we will see them all again soon.
July served up some incredible fishing, and although we had some slow days in between, it did not disappoint. The one thing I have learnt here at Tropic Star is that if you fish for what is biting, you are going to have some incredible fishing! July proved this with crazy inshore bites and when the offshore was firing it was just insane! We had such a great time with all the families, and to have had so many multi-generational families fishing with us was truly something very special. We can’t wait to see what Neptune has in store for us come August!
June was a great month at Tropic Star. The Offshore bite picked up steadily, starting with the Yellowfin Tuna… then came the odd Dorado and Sailfish. By mid-June, the Sailfish bite was loads of fun with crews raising dozens each day. The Blue Marlin started to show up, along with gargantuan Dorado! We have been getting absolute monster Dorado almost every day, with crews coming back to the dock with stories of fish well over the 50lb mark. Some anglers were able to show off their monsters, brought back to the dock for some excellent eating. The Yellowfin have generally been within the 30 to 60lb range, with larger ones coming in at around 150lb. Inshore, the Roosterfish and Cubera Snapper were on fire and we got the biggest run of Mullet Snapper that I have ever seen during my time at Tropic Star Lodge. We were able to log a couple more pending world records during June, as well as numerous Slams both Offshore and Inshore.
This June we had massive rains washing out logs and other debris up and down the coast. It has been the wettest June we have had in quite a while. With all the rain came huge logs and flotsam Offshore, which consistently makes for exciting fishing. The big rains made it tough for Inshore fishing over a few days though, as the water was a bit dirty along the rocks. The weather conditions have been immaculate for Offshore fishing, with a little wind and nice long intervals in the swell finding that flotsam all stacked up. It has been amazing and looks like it will continue into July.
Garreth Strydom and Kalyn Aschmann joined us from South Africa. The pair love adventure, and Garreth has been a keen fisherman his whole life. The couple fished with Gavilan and Arlin on Island Star. Garreth was really excited to get Kalyn hooked up to some Yellowfin Tuna and he was excited to add new species to his list. Kalyn got her arms aching fighting Yellowfin Tuna on poppers. The duo also caught huge Dorado, and Garreth released his first Blue Marlin. Inshore, Garreth released his first Cubera Snapper. The couple took a day off from fishing while here and had an awesome day all to themselves at the secluded White Beach with cocktails and snacks for the perfect day of recharging before getting back on the water.
Longtime friends, Larry Peardon from Kona Hawaii and Hal Westbrook from Oregan, joined us for their first time at the lodge. Fittingly, they fished on Miss Hawaii. Hal and Larry are both avid anglers, and it was great getting to spend time with them. The guys did a little Offshore fishing, releasing Sailfish, fighting Tuna and giant Mahi, but the gents had really come to target our Inshore species. In the rocky areas along the coastline, they both managed to release Cubera Snapper and Roosterfish. Larry also caught a massive Bluefin Trevally giving him an IGFA Inshore Slam for the day.
Gustavo and Beatriz Arvelo brought the whole family down to Tropic Star Lodge. Their son, Gustavo Jr., was joined by his lovely girlfriend, Kristen White. Their daughter, Veronica, was joined by her husband, Kyle Anderson. The Arvelos are no strangers to fishing or adventure, and they spent a full week with us chasing fish Inshore and Offshore. The family went out on two boats, Pollyanna – the 45’ Hatteras and Miss Island Star – an upgraded 31’ Bertram. Saying that the family had amazing fishing would be an understatement. The family released hordes of Sailfish, coming back to the dock flying flags in the double digits. They also released Blue Marlin Offshore and caught absolutely monster Mahi. The Yellowfin provided tasty sashimi while out on the water. Inshore, the group had to work for their fish. On one day, however, the team came back to the lodge having released 12 Roosterfish, along with different species of snappers, and a variety of different Jacks. Kristen released her first Roosterfish, of 50lb. Recapping their trip, Kyle released his first Sailfish, Roosterfish and Cubera Snapper. Kristen released her first Rooster, Sailfish, and Blue Marlin, and Gus Jr. released his first Pacific Sailfish. What an incredible trip for the big family and what a place to share these memories!
David Cummings brought his wife, Maricela, and two sons, Hunter and Chase, for some fishing fun in Panama. They flew in from San Antonio Texas for 4 days of fishing. They went out with Capt. Luis and mate, Ligorio, on Miss Darien. The anglers spent day-one Offshore – the bite was a little slow, with just a handful of decent-sized Yellowfin Tuna. But, oh man, did Neptune have something in store for them the next day! On their second day, they returned to the dock early with a Mullet Snapper caught by Chase, now pending an IGFA World Record. They headed back out fishing and when they returned, Hunter released his first ever Sailfish, and they fought and released two Blue Marlin. Everyone on the boat was super excited about the fishing and it was great getting to see their dreams come true.
Don and Sammie Bricker have taken on many a fish at Tropic Star Lodge over the years, and I would say the fish should have learnt to fear them, but clearly not with the fishing they had! The Brickers joined us all the way from Colorado, and they had some incredible fishing. They released Billfish every day. They also fought and brought home Yellowfin over 100lb. Sammie fought and won against the biggest of the lot at an estimated 140lb. On the last day, Sammie showed us why I always say that ladies make better anglers than men. Sammie released three Sailfish, a Shark, four Dorado, and a 350lb Blue Marlin. It was just the cherry on top of a fantastic fishing trip. We can’t wait to see them again next August when they return.
The fishing in June was loads of fun and we got to share it with both new guests, and many familiar faces. The rains were erratic at times, but the atmosphere was as intoxicating as ever, proving that there is not much that gets in the way of a good time at Tropic Star. There is nothing better than seeing everyone having a good time in the pool, around the table,or down at the Marlin Bar swapping stories and giving out high fives as they celebrate the culmination of those dream catches.
The waters of change are upon us. The Roosterfish are starting to turn on and come through in larger numbers, giant Cubera Snapper are still beating up unsuspecting anglers, Bluefin Trevally are making reels scream leaving anglers freaking out over how strong they are. These 3 species make up the Inshore Slam and our anglers are achieving this more consistently with every year that passes. There are not many places in the world that you can catch and release trophy-sized Cubera, Rooster, and Bluefin Trevally, never mind in a single day, but at Tropic Star Lodge you certainly can! Roosterfish are aggressive and give run after run as you get them closer to the boat. Cubera Snapper is all power in the beginning, but if you can stop that initial run, then you normally have him. Bluefin Trevally, however, are pure strength from start to finish, hitting baits like a crazy fish with a vendetta. This incredibly beautiful fish is all power, which has us all wondering – “how could something this size fight so hard?”.
Sailfish have started to show up, and although not in consistent numbers, they are targetable with boats being able to have a few shots each day. The Offshore bite improved throughout the month, with more Dorado being caught. The Tuna are becoming more plentiful and the odd Marlin has even been making an appearance.
We never really experienced a normal dry season this year, so the change of season was not what it normally is in May. The mangos started to ripen, though, which is usually a sign of the Roosterfish hoard taking up their usual residence along the coastline. Due to warmer water temperatures and a very short period where the cooler water came through the bait acted differently to years past. There wasn’t as much bait close to the coastline, which meant that the fish were hungry and when live baits were trolled Inshore was MADNESS!
Our Roosterfish tournament was a huge success. We broke the record with 131 Roosterfish released in three days by just six boats. It came down to the wire in the end with the two top teams being just 50 points apart. It was loads of fun all round and we are excited for team Dilly Dilly who won and will be heading to the Offshore World Champs in 2022. You can read our full tournament update here.
Paul Castranova and his good friend Thomas Barba finally made it back to Tropic Star Lodge with their sons, Anthony and Thomas. It was great getting to see the guys again and they brought one hell of a group with them. The trip was in celebration of Anthony’s Birthday and it was oh so much fun. The gentlemen had some fun angling Offshore, smashing some Yellowfin and Dorado. Tommy managed to get his first Pacific Sailfish and a Cubera Snapper by casting to the rocks. Paul, at the last minute on their last day, hooked up to his nemesis – a big red and orange bruiser. He got to release his Cubera Snapper. On the last night, Paul did a hilarious roasting of the group and Anthony had everyone in hysterics as he did his best impersonation of me. His accent was pretty spot on.
One of our most loved guests at Tropic Star, Mr. Mike Myatt, joined Paul’s group with longtime friends of the Lodge; Steve Groth, Nick Dyle and Eric Lear. Steve had his eye on a Black Marlin to complete his Royal Slam, but alas, it didn’t happen – not for a lack of trying! Mike did, however, manage to get Eric his first ever Pacific Sailfish. The gents were all able to catch some nice-sized Dorado. On one day in particular, Eric and Nick caught 10 Tuna and a bunch of Dorado, as well as releasing two Roosterfish. I know we will be seeing Mike back at the lodge soon, and we hope that Steve, Nick and Eric will return with him!
Miles Sawyer-Whicker and Angela Chang joined us all the way from Fort Worth Texas. The couple love the outdoors, and it showed, with Angela catching the biggest fish of the week. The couple are newly engaged and decided on Tropic Star as a getaway to enjoy some pure R&R. They crushed the fishing with Capt. Walter on Darien. The pair enjoyed some Yellowfin action Offshore, as well as getting stuck into the Inshore species on offer this time of year… but it was Angela’s 300lb Black Marlin that really left all the other anglers green with envy.
Keith Talley joined us with longtime friend John Walker. It was John’s first foray into the Offshore fishing world. Keith is an avid angler and he and John fished with Capt. Candelo, whom Keith has been fishing with for many years. The Inshore fishing was absolutely exceptional with Keith, John and the gents releasing over 10 Roosterfish in the first 2 days. As well as going Offshore and getting double digits of Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado, John released an 85lb Sailfish as his first ever Billfish. It was hard to tell who was most excited – Capt. Candelo, Keith, or John. On the same day, they released 5 Roosterfish and brought home a beautiful Almaco Jack for dinner. It was such an epic fishing trip that on their last day they decided to play on the rocks, coming back flying 14 green flags, having successfully released a horde of Roosterfish.
This month we had a buddy week where we paired single anglers together. Ken Musgrave, Jay Robinson, Joseph Townsend, and Brad Hassal all joined us for the buddy trip. They were thrilled to be a part of the buddy system and all of the gents became fast friends. Ken, joined by Jay on the boat, released his first Roosterfish of 60lb and his first Pacific Sailfish of 85lb. In one awesome day they caught 23 Yellowfin to get warmed up for the following day, where they caught 9 different species of fish including 5 Roosterfish and a couple of very nice-sized Cubera Snapper. Joseph and Brad teamed up and fished on a boat together, with Joseph releasing his first Cubera Snapper of 40lb, first Sailfish of 90lb and first Roosterfish of 35lb. Brad released his first Pacific Sailfish of 85lb and first Roosterfish of 40lb. All 4 guys had such a great fishing adventure, made possible by the buddy system.
May was an epic month in every sense! We got to see, catch and release MONSTER Roosterfish in crazy numbers. We also saw past guests return, and it was great catching up and sharing good memories with old friends.
The Black Marlin bite slowed down as we went into March, but anglers who put in their time still got shots at Her Majesty and we released some incredible fish. We had a few people walking the plank for their first Black Marlin, which is always something special. Sailfish were around in small numbers and strangely, the odd Dorado was being caught, which is very unusual for March. The Yellowfin Tuna came crashing through in epic fashion with birds diving, dolphins all around and the tuna turning the ocean white by smashing bait fish in feeding frenzies that must be seen to truly be appreciated. Anglers’ arms got stretched and tackle got tested by the larger fish over 100 lb.
It was the 40 -60 lb fish I love to chase on spinning gear and catch on surface lures, expecting the incredible strikes. Inshore the bite was on fire with loads of different species, and we had the best Cubera Snapper bite I have ever seen with one boat releasing 18 Cubera in a single day. Anglers released Tarpon, Grouper, Bluefin Trevally and Roosterfish just to name a few making the bite along the shoreline incredible.
The seas were beautifully calm during March and the cold water arrived, but only for a few days and not for as long as we normally see. The water dropped to around 74 degrees Fahrenheit and when it did; the fishing went nuts! With the cold water species such as Tarpon, Grouper and Cubera snapper made their way into the shallows. We still received a few inches of rain in March, which I have never seen, personally. Things were still a little strange, but the fish were here, so no one minded.
Hal and Kathy Hunter returned to the lodge after many years of fishing on private boats, this time brining their son, Randy and his wife, Alice. It was great to catch up with them. Hal and Kathy have caught fish all over the world and fished with some of the greatest Marlin captains ever. As a fellow angler, I hope to have half the stories that they shared with us. Hal brought some of their original Black Bart lures made by Bart Miller himself and were ready to chase Marlin. True Marlin anglers are used to putting in time for beauties of the deep and that is exactly what they did. It was tough fishing offshore with not too much happening. The family convinced Hal to try Inshore action for about 2 hours and then it was back offshore, but in the end, it paid off. Capt. Adolfo put them on two Marlin. The first jumped off, but about an hour later Randy Hunter was hooked up and released his first Black Marlin. The entire crew was ecstatic as they had put in a lot of time and effort for the incredible Black Marlin. Randy walked the plank when they got back to the dock, with cheers from fellow anglers and crews alike.
Justin and Melisa Webster love the outdoors, having a good time with a lot of laughs. Justin is an avid angler and his wife Melisa is just a straight up bad ass. The couple released an inshore Grand Slam, which is something very special for any angler. They released a Bluefin Trevally, a Roosterfish and a Cubera Snapper in a day. Melisa released an absolute beast of a Cubera and a Blue fin trevally. And that is just a few of the fish they caught. The couple released Sailfish and fought Yellowfin for dinner… but deep down all Justin wanted was a Marlin. Unfortunately, it did not happen, but that’s Marlin fishing. They always keep you wanting more. We are so excited to see Justin and Melisa back in the future to get them their giant Marlin, which will be an even cooler story for the kids when they get home.
Mid-March, Tropic Star Lodge hosted the second annual Inshore Fishing Seminar. This year the Inshore Fishing Seminar was completely sold out, and it was an absolute blast! We would like to give a big thank you to Capt. Bo Johnson, JP DeRose, and Patrick MacCafferty, who were our hosts for the seminar. The fishing was absolutely off the charts, with boats catching on average around 45 fish per day. The most prized species that anglers got to release were Roosterfish, Cubera Snapper, Bluefin Trevally, Broomtail Grouper, Black Grouper, African Pompano, Mullet Snapper and even a few Tarpon. During the school, we had two possible world records caught, a Broomtail Grouper of 80 lb and a Bluefin Trevally of over 23 lb. Both fish were released and only measured, so will not be eligible for world records. A lot of the school’s focus is fish handling, how to release the fish safely and the best way to get spectacular photos. Actually targeting the fish and catching them is only part of the fun.
John and Kerry Shanks do a lot of fishing in Florida, and it was so cool getting to meet them for their first time at Tropic Star Lodge. The couple joined us for the fishing seminar, and in all honesty, they are incredible anglers. They smashed everything off their bucket list while with us and even extended their stay for a few extra days after the school was over. Kerry landed a monster Cubera Snapper on a jerk bait, and John got a huge Bluefin Trevally, and a world record Broomtail Grouper. That was just on day-one, with over nine other species caught on that day. By the end of their stay, they had also included some tackle testing Roosterfish and a few Tarpon, Jacks, African Pompano and Mackerel to their ever-growing list. The couple extended their stay by a few days, and Kerry caught a big Roosterfish and a bunch of other species. It was great getting to spend the extra days with the couple, and we can’t wait to see them back next year.
Jay Dollries, Randy Lane and Eric Knop joined us at the lodge and had a great time fishing on Pollyanna with Capt. Fidel. The gentlemen spent their time in between chasing Billfish and Tuna offshore and casting at the rocks inshore. They raised quite a few Billfish and even had a Marlin on, but it was not meant to be. They did, however, catch Yellowfin Tuna trolling cedar plugs and casting poppers at the shoals that were busting the surface. Inshore, the guys got a bit of everything and had had some mind-blowing days. Jay brought an Almaco Jack of over 75 lb back to the dock – a monster that he caught on a popper. The guys also caught over 15 Cubera Snapper in a single day, all on surface lures. By the end of their stay, each angler had released the coveted Inshore Slam, all on surface lures, which is what anglers’ dreams are made of.
March was really an amazing month with so much happening. The guests that came down had a great time, and we can’t wait to see them all back in the future. It was great to be part of so many anglers’ firsts and seeing the excitement of them retelling the stories to each other in the afternoons at Marlin Bar or at the pool while snacking on sushi or and a cold one.
The New Year is finally here and all signs are pointing toward the 2021 season being a little later, and a cracker at that. The Black Marlin have been running a little bigger this season – it’s early to predict, however they have been averaging at around 400 to 450lb, which is definitely on the large side for average size range. We have been consistently hooking the Blacks close to the Lodge on the Zane Grey Reef and in the surrounding area. Further offshore, the Sailfish bite has slowed somewhat (which is to be expected) and the Blue Marlin numbers, which started off strong at the beginning of the month, declined as the Black Marlin became more numerous. Dorado are breaking that 50lb mark everyday on the dock, gifting us with some incredible eating. Tuna bite has slowed down, with only a few being caught. The schools have still been seen but are moving at an incredible pace.
At the beginning of January, the winds were still blowing strong from the south meaning the season had not quite changed yet. We are still getting the odd downpour some afternoons, leaving our waters somewhat inconsistent on the inside. That means that boats have had to run a little further to find that beautiful blue water for the Blue Marlin, but being so close to the fish means that we are still running a whole lot closer than most. The Blacks, on the other hand, really don’t mind a little off-colored water. As soon as that northerly wind came through and made things a little choppier, the Black Marlin came up hungry and the bite was on. The water temperature stuck to a constant 83 to 85 degrees all through January, and conditions are looking amazing for very fishy February. With the rains still here into January, we anticipate that March should also be a cracker month for the Blacks – an occurrence that is always welcomed.
Michael and Candy Stuart have been fishing together for many years and this January was their first time visiting Tropic Star Lodge. Michael started the long road of achieving his Royal slam in 1989 out of Chub Key in the Bahamas. Candy started her journey in 2008 off Stuart Florida, and this week they both got to finish the lifetime achievement of releasing all nine Billfish of the world! On their second day of fishing with Capt. Jose, Candy managed to release her Pacific Sailfish and a Black Marlin of 450lb. There were tears of joy on the boat and the dock, and the whole lodge joined in with excitement to celebrate the achievement of something so special. The next day, Michael got to release his first Black Marlin of around 450lb. This was a truly momentous occasion – the couple completed their Royal Slams just days apart. During their trip, the Stuarts released another Black Marlin, more Sails and impressive amounts of Dorado. We can all agree that completing their Royal Slams made this such a special trip. We can’t wait to have them back in just a few weeks.
Father and son team, Mark and Preston Wagner, have traveled together extensively, and love the outdoors and adventure. On their latest adventure, they joined us at Tropic Star for some fishing action on board the Pollyanna with Capt. Fidel. The gentlemen were both new to offshore fishing, so both got to walk the plank for releasing their first Sailfish catches, respectively. They got stuck into some amazing Dorado fishing during their stay and both got to show off some incredible trophy Dorado. Preston also got the release on an awesome Blue Marlin that put on a show for the guys.
Drew, JD and Mike Messler joined us too, fishing on Australia with captain Candelo and mate Ricardo. They were back for their fifth visit all the way from New Jersey. The group were undoubtedly here for Black Marlin, and that is just what they were delivered. The Black in question hit a live bait and dropped it, but Mike was quick to get another dead skip bait back to the fish and got to feed a beauty of a Black Marlin. The fish was called at 280lb. Our Videographer, Kesh, was out with them and got some awesome footage of their majestic Black jumping behind the boat. The guys are very experienced anglers and it showed when Mike released his first Black Marlin.
Guests Gary and Melissa Jones love the outdoors, fishing and embarking on adventures together. While down at the lodge, they fished with Capt. Fidel on Pollyanna. The couple had to work for their fish, but fish they got! Both Gary and Melissa released first-time Black Marlin. It was an insane day, with a Sailfish having been caught too. They were only a Blue Marlin away from a Grand Slam. While trolling around the Zane Grey Reef, there is always an opportunity for those giant Cubera Snappers that lurk deep beneath the surface. Both Gary and Melissa were lucky enough to release monster-sized Cubera Snappers, a bucket-list catch for most.
January has been a wild month with giant Dorado, big Marlin and incredible action from the Sailfish. The weather has certainly kept us on our toes, but it’s all part of the sport. The team and I have enjoyed seeing familiar faces. Sharing in these incredible memories is always so much fun, and the camaraderie is what makes the fishing experience at Tropic Star Lodge so special. We look forward to seeing you all down here soon for your fishing adventure and hope you enjoy the photos.
December started off with a bang! It was a fantastic reunion with so many guests returning and everyone eager to get out on the water.
At the start of the month, the Dorado were around in droves. The bite slowed during mid-December and then came back with a vengeance to close out 2020. The average size was the usual XXL. As always, guests wrestled a love/hate relationship with the aggressive Dorado bite – even though catching MASSIVE Dorado is a lot of fun, the sheer quantity tends to take away from Marlin time.
Yellowfin Tuna over 200 lb are considered a trophy fish to any angler, and we had quite a few guests who had their arms stretched by these deep-diving beauties. The Sailfish bite was very consistent, and boats were able to rack them up when targeting them. Sailfish were also around for those chasing a Billfish Grand Slam. The Blue Marlin bite started off wide open, slowed down for a short time in mid-December, and then turned back on. Black Marlin were caught on Zane Grey Reef with the odd few found offshore. We released a beauty of 750 lb – she has been the biggest Black so far this season, and it is still very early on.
The water temperature hovered at 84 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit all month, with a gentle breeze from the South all day, every day. This also brought on afternoon showers most days, creating debris lines offshore. Fishing the areas of floating logs made for some incredible fishing. The current has been consistently coming up from the South, pushing in beautiful clean water offshore. In normal circumstances, we are on the fish in under 20 miles, which is exceptionally close. We had to run a little further than normal to find the blue water at times, but it was well worth it when we did. On the reef the water was a little off-color but that didn’t dissuade the Blacks, as the fleet released quite a few.
Trevor Foster and Eric Hamlin returned for their fun in the sun fishing trip to Tropic Star. It is their 5th trip and it was so good catching up with the guys. On this trip, they also brought their buddy, Martin Sandoval, for his first time. The guys had a slow start on their first day on the water, but that all changed amazingly fast on day 2. Eric released his first Black AND Blue Marlin. Martin released his first Sailfish, first Dorado, and first Yellowfin. By the end of the 4 days fishing, the gents had racked up some incredible stories and numbers. They ended their trip with the sore arms of worthy fighters, and enjoyed some well-deserved rest after catching nearly 30 Dorado and releasing 25 Billfish!
Team Peru returned for their 15th trip! It was great getting to see our family from Peru. These guys enjoy a fun boys’ trip every year with friends, dads, and sons getting together at Tropic Star for a bit of competition and loads of laughter. The guys held their annual tournament and the competition was fierce, as always. This time Lucho and Alonso took the win on Scandia with Capt. Jose. They released 9 Marlin for the week, and loads of other fish. We had some newcomers this season as well. Alessandro, Lucciano and Rafael all had first-time Marlin releases during their first trip with the group. In total, the guys released over 60 Billfish during their 6 days on the water, and too many Dorado to count. It was a story-book trip and we can’t wait to see them back for some more action next year.
Friends, John and Kim Miller and Dewy and Patti Blaylock joined us for some fun on and off the water. Both John and Dewy are avid anglers and caught some new personal bests. John boated the biggest Dorado he has ever seen and Dewy, who has been a tournament overseer for years, released his first Black Marlin of 450 lb. Patti doesn’t really like to be on the water for too long, as she likes catching far more than fishing, and so on the last day the whole gang fished inshore. The boat returned full of laughter and stories from all the action, catching smaller Yellowfin and many other inshore species on offer, all while enjoying the beauty of the virgin coastline.
Denise Guillen and her family fished for 2 days on Miss Australia with Captain Candelo and Mate Ramiro running the deck. The first day they caught Sailfish and some monster Dorado. It was a ton of fun for the family to experience the bright green, yellow, and blue flash flying across the spread and exploding on big live baits. Their second day, they did not go as far offshore in efforts to search for some Marlin after the action-packed first day. Rolando and Sebastian both released a Blue Marlin. We threw Sebastian off the dock for his first Marlin release. The 2 Marlin were called at 300 and 250 lbs. They paired nicely with some larger Dorado that made for a fresh catch of the day. In their 2 days they totaled 3 Dorado, 2 Blue Marlin, and a Sailfish.
The Houser family; Brian, Debby and Clark, family to our very own, Hayden Houser, joined us from Texas over the Christmas holiday. Great fun was had by all, and Hayden was able to spend quality time with his family. This was the fifth trip for team Houser, and it was Debby’s time to fight and release her first Blue Marlin of 300 lb. The Family also received the perfect Christmas present from Neptune, a Grand Slam. The Housers released a Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, 3 Sailfish and brought back a bunch of Dorado to complete the magical day. The entire trip was amazing and we can’t wait to see them back to make more memories.
Bryan, Marguerite, Luke and Rebecca Fleener came to the lodge for a family vacation. Their destination was chosen by Rebecca for her senior trip. The entire family was heaps of fun and loves the outdoors and adventure. During their trip, Rebecca released her first Blue Marlin which earned her a plank-walk off the dock along with her mom, Marguerite, who released her first ever Pacific Sailfish. On their second day fishing the Fleeners caught more Sailfish than we had flags for, so they flew a white sock for flag number 17.
I would like to say a personal thank you to Bryan for leading a beautiful devotional during our Christmas Eve celebrations – it made the special occasion with our valued guests even more memorable! The grand memory of Christmas carols sung alongside the rest of the families at the lodge is sure to be one that we won’t easily forget.
December is a special month here at Tropic Star Lodge, as Christmas trees dot the property and fish mounts are adorned with Santa hats. The Christmas spirit is contagious. It has been a month of plank walking, stories of monsters lost, and monster fish released. We have had a lot of families enjoying all the Darien has to offer, from helping release newly hatched turtles, hiking through the virgin jungles, playing on the private white sand beaches, and exchanging fishing tales. The spirit of generosity is felt throughout Piñas during this special time, and as always, it was a great pleasure for us to be able to keep the spirit going with the people in the village – a special thanks goes out to all of those who have contributed to the Piñas Bay Conservancy, and to the Tropic Star team for all of the efforts to make Christmas a special time for the people in Bahia Piñas.
We ended December with a fabulous New Year’s Eve celebration and fireworks at Marlin Bar, alongside our traditional dinner – whole roast pig and whole Grouper prepared by Chef Gabriel. The food and festivities were sensational as always, and the evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
All in all, I’m pleased to report that the fishing season has started off spectacularly, and I personally cannot wait to see what 2021 will have in store for us!
Panama is open! Tropic Star Lodge is open! We are so excited to be welcoming guests and getting to do what we love so much – making sure our guests enjoy the ultimate fishing vacation.
The season kicked off in true 2020 style. We experienced loads of rain from the two tropical storms that passed through making the seas… sporting, to say the least. That aside, as soon as the weather calmed down, the fishing kicked off just as everyone was hoping it would. Guests took on Black Marlin over 400lb at the Zane Grey Reef. Black Marlin put on aerial displays like no other species can, showing anglers why she is referred to as “Her Majesty”. Blues were active offshore, tearing up baits and dumping reels, with Sailfish and Dorado showing up in between. Yellowfin Tuna in every size range were feeding on the surface, introducing anglers to the pain that only those brutes can bring on as they dive down to the depths. We caught some fantastic Almaco Jacks coming in on the reef, as well as released a few giant Cubera Snapper.
With the weather being so unpredictable for the first few days of being open, it made the fishing a bit tough to forecast. We had to go pretty far offshore by Tropic Star Lodge standards, running nearly 25 miles offshore to find the blue water, but once we found it – the fish did not disappoint. As the weather calmed, the clean water started to move in closer to land and the fishing exploded.
Heidi and Tim McBride joined us for an extended stay in November. Tim and Heidi are both passionate anglers who have fished at Tropic Star before, so we were thrilled to welcome them back to open the season. Some highlights from their trip included one day when Tim caught two massive Dorado. One was taller and wider than him! Then on top of that he came back having released a Blue Marlin. Heidi also had one of those days where she released a beautiful Blue Marlin and brought back a 155lb Yellowfin Tuna to the scale. A personal best for Heidi!
Auston Gower and his wife, Laura, brought their two sons, William and Charles, for some family time in the jungle where they could relax and spend quality time together on the ocean. William and Charles are 10 and 11 years old, respectively, and love pretty much everything to do with the outdoors. They are both avid junior anglers and it was great to see them getting first catches. Both boys released their first Blue Marlin along with Sailfish and boated more than a few very impressive Dorado.
Mark Martorell brought his son, David, for a fishing adventure, and some father and son bonding. Both Mark and David love fishing, and really enjoyed targeting multiple species, both inshore and in the deep blue. During their trip David released his first Roosterfish and first Cubera Snapper. He also released a beautiful Blue Marlin. He wrangled with some bruiser Yellowfin Tuna, released around 15 Sailfish, and brought back enough Dorado to feed the lodge. During their time inshore they also released a Broomtail Grouper along with a bunch of other species.
The Groeger family, AKA the Billfish family joined us from the US. Van Groeger lived in the Panama Canal Zone in the 60’s, and has known about Tropic Star Lodge for many years. This year he made the trip with his wife, Linda, their two sons, Nick and Garret, and Garret’s lovely girlfriend, Assia. Until visiting Tropic Star, the family had not been offshore much for big game fishing, but that didn’t stop them from smashing some incredible Billfish and walking the plank. The family fished on Pollyanna with Capt. Fidel and they all got to experience their own first-time Billfish release. Garret released a nice 300lb Blue Marlin and Van released a gorgeous Black of 300lb. The family also brought back a Yellowfin Tuna of 150lb which made for some delicious sashimi for everyone back at the lodge. The whole family released multiple Sailfish and some truly monster Dorado, who were keeping them busy.
The season is off to a flying start and we are so happy to see so many families coming and enjoying this special little piece of paradise. As we head into December, the fishing should keep going from strength-to-strength and we can’t wait to share it with more anglers.
The Black Marlin action continued into March as we saw loads of Black Marlin on the surface daily as well as the odd Blue Marlin. Boats at times saw more than ten fish in a single day, however, the Black Marlin were just teasing anglers as they were doing nothing more than just sunning themselves. The Yellowfin Tuna came through in giant shoals moving quickly in unison with the Porpoise. The inshore bite exploded bringing with the plethora of inshore species our waters offer. The currents and winds changed constantly during the first half of March making it tough to predict the bite. We had some cooler water up in the north and then warmer water down south. Each area offered a different fishing experience. The skies were bright blue and the seas beautifully calm almost every day.
Ron and Britt Vergnolle brought their son, Finch, to Tropic Star for his 15th Birthday. Ron and Finch are avid outdoorsmen and love hunting and fishing. Finch is a fishing machine and I loved his enthusiasm and knowledge. It was great spending time with him and the family. Finch also had Neptune’s birthday blessing as he released his first Pacific Sailfish and a beautiful 60 lb Roosterfish on a popper. Ron released a Cubera Snapper on popper which is one of the most exciting experiences as an angler. To top it all off, Finch released his first Black Marlin! March guests Mark and Chuck Madary fished with Capt. Azael on the Miss Spain. The guys loved the inshore fishing and absolutely slammed it. It is always great hearing anglers complain about tired arms! The first day they caught too many fish to count. The second day the gents conducted a species challenge and caught over 10 different species trolling and casting along the shoreline. Their quote “The best fishing they have ever had”.
Jodi Leonetti brought her four sons fishing down at Tropic Star Lodge in March. Getting to meet the Leonetti boys and mom was a lot of fun, the guys are very passionate about fishing and we are hoping to have Jeffrey back to intern with us in the future! The family fished on Pollyanna with Capt. Fidel. Keshmen, our professional videographer, went out with them to record the action. The boys loved casting along the rocks. There were quite a few top water action shots from Snappers and Roosters. They also released their fair share of Roosterfish along with a bunch of Jacks and Mackerel while popping. Offshore they got into some awesome Yellowfin Tuna action and released a beauty of a Pacific Sailfish.
Wes and Tara Masters along with Ryan and Janie Bloom joined us from Alaska. They were quickly known to all as team Alaska and they did the name proud. Both couples love fishing and the outdoors and what a trip they had fishing abaord Miss Hawaii with Capt. Gustavo. They released a total of six Black Marlin. Four Marlin were released in a single day, all over 300 lb. Janie released her first Black Marlin of 400 lb and Tara released one of 350 lb. Team Alaska has already booked for February next year and we can’t wait to see them back.
We had a large group of friends and members of the International Light Tackle Tournament Association meet at Tropic Star Lodge. It was an awesome crowd with many of the anglers coming from Central America. All the anglers have plenty of experience when it comes to catching billfish. There was one angler from North America that the group lovingly referred to as “Gringo Bill”. Bill released multiple Black Marlin in a single day in addition to releasing a monster Roosterfish. Many of the anglers were chasing their Royal Slam which is all nine billfish from around the world. On this particular trip, Gustavo Merck got to complete his by releasing his first Black Marlin, an incredible and memorable lifetime achievement. Many rums where shared over the many Black Marlin releases that the group achieved.
Steve Demboske and Kaite McCray love fishing together. Their first day out on the water, they targeted Black Marlin without luck. Raising one and a few Sailfish with Capt. Adolfo. The next day, changing things up, they went inshore. They loved the diversity of species and being involved in the action by casting into the rocks. They caught mountains of Jacks and Mackerel and also brought home African Pompano, Yellowfin, and Dorado for dinner. Highlights from the day included releasing a nice-sized Cubera Snapper and Roosterfish. The lovely couple are engaged and we’re thinking about having their wedding at Tropic Star Lodge! We can’t wait to see them back again. The fishing was solid during the month of March with a great Black Marlin bite and more Tuna than anyone could ask for. Currently we are keeping the wheels turning down at the Lodge making sure the boats are clean and serviced, the tackle is all ready to go for when the world returns to normal. Our amazing team is doing great. Please keep safe everyone and we can’t wait to see you in the near future for some amazing fishing adventures.
Yellowfin Tuna have started to outnumber the amount of Dorado caught, which always makes anglers excited for fresh sashimi on the water. Some of the anglers also got to pit themselves against some of the larger Tuna which is always an exhilarating contest.
The skies were bright blue and the winds were far gentler this week. The water temperature is still hanging around the mid 80’s which is great for Billfish. We had a little off-color water move in for a few days but that doesn’t affect the Black Marlin like is does for Blue Marlin. The sea state was generally calm and anglers could sight fish from quite a distance.
Christian Weissenberg and Andrea Avalos from Guatemala came to Tropic Star Lodge for their first time. Their goal was to release a Black Marlin. And they accomplished just that and then multiple times overfishing with Captain Jose on Miss Scandia. Right off the bat on their first day out, Christian released his first Black Marlin, a beautiful fish of 500 lb and Andrea released her first Pacific Sailfish of 90 lb. Each day the couple was excited to return back to the Lodge and see the daily scoreboard. They had a couple extremely special days fishing, and on one of those days released three Black Marlin and a Sailfish.
Incredible Dorado and Yellowfin action
Father and son, Michael and Corey Gustavus, are avid anglers who share a pure love for fishing. We enjoy having them at the Lodge. While fishing with Captain Vicente on Miss South Africa the guys racked up some incredible Marlin. They nearly missed a personal Grand Slam twice due to the Sailfish attacking baits lazily.
Ed Cady and Jack Heflin fished with Captain Jacob on Miss Tropic Star
and what a week they had! Ed and Jack have fished many times together
and this week will be one that they remember for many years to come.
The Guys both released multiple Black Marlin as well as Pacific
John and Pat from Canada joined us this November to fish in the season-opening Billfish tournament. The gents fished with Captain Candelo on Miss Australia. The Marlin bite was a little tough for them but they still managed to release a Black and a Blue Marlin. What they missed with Marlin releases was made up of some great Dorado and Yellowfin action. The guys are always a good laugh at the pool and dinner telling tales of fishing adventures they have had.
Family Fishing Adventures
We feel fortunate to welcome the Rathbun family to our Tropic Star family. Chris and Tracie came with their sons, Jarrod and Wyatt. The entire family is comprised of avid anglers. They fished with Captain Luis and Mate Ermel. Chris normally captains his own boat and has been part of many Marlin releases but has never had his chance on the rod. All that changed this week as he released his first Pacific Blue Marlin of 350 lb. Jarrod released his first Black Marlin of 380 lb and both of them walked the plank to cheers from fellow anglers. Wyatt really wanted to take on a big Yellowfin Tuna and he got his wish when he won the battle against a 236 lb Yellowfin.
The fishing was really great for most of our anglers although some boats had a tough bite. The laughter and fun that was had by all was contagious. We do a village tour to the local village of Pinas and it was an absolute riot with our friends from the Canary Islands who are always up for fun. I know you are going to love the photos from this week. As the season continues the Blacks will become more frequent and we can’t wait to share some more stories with everyone.