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!
Capt. Richard White