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February 17, 2009

Make Mine Marlin

Panama's Piñas Bay makes marlin dreams a reality

Poppy grabbed the rod and dropped the bait back as line dumped from the reel at a furious pace. When Gustavo told her to, she threw the lever drag to "strike," and the fish came tight to the hook, greyhounding away from the boat in a series of spectacular leaps as it felt the hook point drive home. The big fish took a great deal of line from the 50-pound outfit on its initial run before settling in and going deep. Gustavo maneuvered the boat back to a point above and slightly to one side of the fish, keeping a good angle of pull at all times.

It took Poppy 45 minutes of relentless pressure to winch the fish to the surface, but the marlin was tired from its initial run and fight, and after several halfhearted leaps close to the transom, the mate had the leader. Once again, a clean release of a billfish hooked squarely in the corner of the jaw by a circle hook. It's amazing how well these things do their job. Of course, as we all high-fived in the cockpit, the first question was, "Blue or black?" Gustavo and I thought it was a black for sure, estimating the fish at around 450 pounds, but Harvey later told us, after examining my photographs around the Tropic Star pool, that it was certainly a blue. Definitively determining the species of a mid-sized marlin is difficult, even among the experts, but Harvey is the trained marine biologist, so we went with his call.

No matter, it was a spectacular fish and an awesome catch. Both blue and black marlin are caught all year out of Tropic Star, with a smattering of striped marlin thrown in, and there's always the chance of catching a huge dolphin or yellowfin tuna. And although most people come for billfish, other species abound as well. "The inshore fishing for big roosterfish, cubera snappers and amberjack is second to none," Harvey says. "It is a tough choice to drag oneself away from the blue water to hit the rocks, but it will be very rewarding - with over 20 species available - whether you're fly-fishing, using poppers or live bait."

This plethora of angling possibilities adds up to incredible opportunity, and once you've experienced it firsthand, you come to realize why many people, including Guy Harvey, think Tropic Star Lodge is the finest fishing resort around. It's hard to dispute their logic, and we will surely be back soon in search of that elusive black marlin.

***

En Route
Tropic Star Lodge has an extremely efficient and organized staff that takes care of every aspect of your trip. You fly into Panama City and usually spend a night there before boarding a morning flight aboard one of Air Panama's DeHavilland Twin Otters for the flight to Piñas Bay. On arrival it's a short panga ride to the lodge itself, which is strung along the shoreline in the innermost reaches of a secluded cove. Tropic Star provides a truly friendly and luxurious experience, rare anywhere and all the more amazing when you realize just how far from civilization you really are.

The resort is totally self-contained, with its own power generators, boat yard, carpentry shop, machine shop and extensive spare-parts department. It is, in essence, a small city in and of itself, and everything works flawlessly. "With the owners, Terri and Mike Andrews, investing back in the property and boats, the fleet of signature 31 Bertrams is modern and well maintained by crews who consistently out-fish any visiting hi-tech boats," according to Harvey. "The resort and the staff are first class, and they provide an exceptional, family-oriented experience."

Tropic Star Lodge
800.682.3424 U.S.
407.843.0125 International
www.tropicstar.com