Richard White

Richard White

Capt. Richard White, Fishing Director for Tropic Star Lodge, brings you the latest news from Piñas Bay.

Tournaments with a difference

Remember when fishing tournaments were not just about prize money? It seems that as the boats get bigger and the prize money grows, tournaments have become more serious and not as much fun. I used to love putting together a team of my closest fishing friends, who were not always the best anglers, but man, were they fun! Memories of coming up with a team name that often had some funny and inappropriate meaning, designing team shirts, and the fish, of course. 

Tropic Star Lodge tournaments are different to many of the tournaments you’ll find out there. They are smaller and more intimate. Our tournaments revolve around conservation and camaraderie. The goal is for anglers to have an absolute blast fishing with friends, telling stories and creating memories while learning about, and participating in, conservation. There is still something amazing to aim for at the end of the day, though – anglers have the chance to win an invitation to the prestigious Offshore World Cup

Tropic Star Lodge has a rich history of world records by anglers of all ages – achieved by both men, and women. It is a diverse fishery that has something for everyone. For that reason, we host two different tournaments each year, yet similar in style. 

In November, we have our Billfish Tournament that opens our season. It is exciting fishing, with Dorado in huge numbers, Sailfish still moving through in small packs and Blue Marlin bite that is wide open. Anglers will also find the occasional Black Marlin in November and even the XXL Yellowfin Tuna that smash the larger live baits. 

In May, we have our Roosterfish tournament, where we fish right up close to the craggy coastline. There is a lot of trolling with live baits, or using lures in your favorite areas, casting or jigging making it extremely exciting for anglers who enjoy this more “hands on” style of fishing. 

Billfish Tournament: November 

The Billfish tournament in November is our season opener to kick things off with a bang! Our guests’ fish three to a boat for the tournament and draw boats on the first night, fishing a different boat each day. We also have around fifteen to twenty private boats join us for the tournament making it around thirty boats in total. Day one is a practice day to help all the anglers work out the kinks in their hooking up and team orders, and for the next two days it is tournament time. Blue and Black Marlin count for the most points at 300 points per release, Striped Marlin 200 points per release and Sailfish at 100 points per release. There are time constraints on how long you can fight a fish to ensure a healthy release for it to count for points, and all anglers must follow IGFA rules. Prizes are also up for grabs for the largest weighed Dorado and yellow fin Tuna.

Roosterfish Tournament: May

Roosterfish are only found in a very few places in the world, and Tropic Star lodge is known for having some monsters. It is for this reason that we have an annual Roosterfish tournament in May, when the fish come through in great numbers and anglers have a chance of releasing a trophy-sized Rooster, and making it into the 50 lb club. This tournament has two anglers per team and again we have a boat draw on the first night and teams fish with a different boat each day. Day one is practice with the next three days of fishing being tournament days. Each released Roosterfish is awarded 100 points. Roosterfish caught on artificials with a successful release will also earn the angler 150 points. At prize giving the winning team will win a chance to fish in the IGFA Offshore World Championship. For fun, the last place team gets to take frustrations out on our Roosterfish Piñata. A tradition we’ve come to love.

The Tropic Star Difference

Comraderie is a major aspect of what makes Tropic Star Lodge tournaments unique. Our guests truly give this place life. Like-minded people together, having fun and fishing. Learning from one another, sharing experiences all in the name of fun competition, and of course, sharing a few good rums. 

Conservation is the foundation of our tournaments. We work closely with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and personally with Dr. Guy Harvey and Jessica Harvey who are leaders in ocean conservation. They lead by example and impart great knowledge unto the fishing community. They work tirelessly to produce scientific data to aid in setting standards and lobbying for conservation policies. At our tournaments, they give talks to help us understand more about this wonderful resource. The ocean is in fact the very thing that brings us all so much joy – and making sure the resource is sustainable for the future generations has become very important to me personally as well. 

We participate in a tag and release program during both tournaments. 

For the November billfish tournament, we tag Dorado with spaghetti tags. This is done with the Dolphin Research Program. In the past three years, the program has had over 5,000 tags deployed and has tracked over 140 movements. We also deploy satellite tags in a select amount of billfish. These sat tags give us valuable information on where the fish are moving and their depths. There is still so much that we do not know about the migration patterns of the Blue Marlin, Sailfish and especially the Black Marlin. We are very happy to say that in the past three years we have put out over 100 satellite tags together with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, The Guy Harvey Research Institute, NOVA South Eastern University, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Guardians Program (a non-profit organization that raises funds for the sole purpose of funding research into the South Eastern Pacific Ocean.)  

During our springtime Roosterfish tournament. We also deploy both spaghetti and satellite tags. It was at Tropic Star Lodge that the first successful satellite tag was deployed on a Roosterfish. This has proven to be a very successful project, and we continue to gain so much knowledge about these fish that hold little value to much of the world. There is zero commercial value for Roosterfish and this is why there is still so much that we do not know about the species. They are a beautiful and exciting species to target, and we are privileged to have them in abundance in our waters. 

I am extremely excited for the upcoming tournaments. The fisheries in Panama have been closed for quite some time, and there has been little to no fishing pressure. We have been fortunate enough to be allowed to send out a few of our own boats to catch food for the local village and it has been remarkable fishing, with Yellowfin feeding frenzies full of porpoise and birds . The Dorado have started to come through and we have caught some of those prized Bulls that pull so hard they make you rethink everything you know about Dorado. Even though we have been targeting food – the Billfish have still found their way onto our hooks! All of them have been safely released, as is always the case at Tropic Star.

At the moment, the lodge boats are fully booked for the Billfish tournament this November but we still have some openings for our private boat guests who join us from all over the world. We do, however, still have openings for our 2021 Roosterfish and Billfish tournaments, so let us know if you’d like to be a part of the action for  next year! 

The Moorings are all set, the waters are teaming with fish and the staff at Tropic Star Lodge can’t wait to welcome our friends and family back for what is looking to be an insane fishing season come November. The stories get more and more interesting around happy hour where anglers swop stories about the one that got away, or sometimes even the one that they got to weigh while enjoying a Papas Pillar at our new Marlin Bar overlooking the Bay.

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