PANAMA EAST TO WEST

OUT­STAND­ING OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES A BOUND IN THIS CEN­TRAL AMER­I­CAN DES­TI­NA­TION

Marlin - - CONTENTS FEATURES - By Mark Macken­zie and Sam White

Out­stand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties abound in this Cen­tral Amer­i­can des­ti­na­tion

The Repub­lic of Panama of­fers some of the most unique sport fish­ing in the world, thanks to its lo­ca­tion , bor­dered by costa rica to the west and colom­bia at the south­east­ern end . and while the caribbean sea laps the north­ern shores , its ’ the placid pa­cific to the south that holds the ac­tion we seek .

There are a num­ber of lodges and fish­ing op­er­a­tions through­out the coun­try. One thing they share is the gen­eral ease of ac­cess. Most vis­i­tors ar­rive at Toc­u­men In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Panama City, de­part­ing for the lodges on the coast via re­gional air­lines, char­ter car­ri­ers or pri­vate shut­tles. Panama City is renowned as one of the most beau­ti­ful cap­i­tals in Cen­tral Amer­ica, mak­ing for a ter­rific overnight des­ti­na­tion in its own right. The dry sea­son gen­er­ally runs from Jan­uary through April. From May to De­cem­ber, af­ter­noon thun­der­storms are fre­quent, but it usu­ally doesn’t rain all day in most lo­ca­tions.

For fish­ing, the main draw in Panama is un­doubt­edly the black mar­lin. These pug­na­cious brawlers are typ­i­cally found in good num­bers here Novem­ber through March, and they are usu­ally caught on live bait. Big Pa­cific sail­fish fill in the gaps through­out most of the year, and you shouldn’t over­look the ex­cel­lent blue mar­lin fish­ery. The yel­lowfin tuna show up in big num­bers in Panama too, with some tro­phy-size tuna weigh­ing over 150 pounds or more.

TROPIC STAR LODGE piñas bay

sit­u­ated on the edge of the in­cred­i­bly scenic Piñas Bay, roughly 150 miles south­east of Panama City, Tropic Star Lodge has been at­tract­ing an­glers since it first opened as Club de Pesca in 1963. Over the years, more world records have been set here than in any other fish­ing lodge in the world — a tes­ta­ment to the amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that await its vis­i­tors.

Guests ar­rive on a char­tered flight from Panama City, land­ing near an Em­bera In­dian vil­lage. A short ride through the jun­gle and a 10-minute boat ride later, you’re stand­ing on the lodge’s main dock and an iconic fleet of 31-foot Ber­trams await on their moor­ings in the bay. For those who might not have vis­ited Tropic Star re­cently, there have been some con­sid­er­able up­grades in the op­er­a­tion. The din­ing room has been re­mod­eled, as well as one of the guest suites, with ad­di­tional ren­o­va­tions cur­rently un­der­way. Also, un­der con­struc­tion is a mas­sage and spa area, among many other im­prove­ments on the land side. The fleet of Ber­trams is also be­ing up­graded. Dur­ing our visit in July 2018, the pro­to­type had al­ready been put into ser­vice, with qui­eter, more fuel-ef­fi­cient en­gines plus an air-con­di­tioned sa­lon.

the fish­ing

The cap­tains and crews at Tropic Star Lodge are among the best live-bait fish­er­men in the world, but are equally adept at pulling lures or rig­ging Panama strip baits, which are es­pe­cially pro­duc­tive for sail­fish. How­ever, most days will nearly al­ways start with bait-fish­ing and slow-trolling along the Zane Grey Reef at first light. The cap­tains col­lec­tively work to­gether to find the bite as they spread

out in search of pelag­ics as the day wears on. Vis­it­ing sport-fish­ers are wel­come to an­chor in the bay, with fuel and guest din­ing avail­able at the lodge.

The black mar­lin usu­ally be­gin to ar­rive in the fall and bite well through Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, de­pend­ing on the con­di­tions. The ac­tion for blue mar­lin usu­ally be­gins a lit­tle ear­lier and runs a bit longer, and the tuna fish­ing can be ex­cel­lent dur­ing this time as well. The sail­fish bite picks up in the spring and is usu­ally good all year, peak­ing in the sum­mer months. The lodge is closed for main­te­nance from Oc­to­ber through late Novem­ber, but oth­er­wise, ex­pect re­li­ably con­sis­tent off­shore ac­tion plus five-star din­ing and ser­vice from one of the sport’s most renowned fish­ing des­ti­na­tions.

SPORT FISH PANAMA IS­LAND LODGE Isla Parida

lodge owner capt. shane jarvis orig­i­nally moved to Panama from Mi­ami in the late 1990s to help his fa­ther build a va­ca­tion house for the fam­ily’s fish­ing ad­ven­tures. The plan was to ship his boat down and stay for a year. Dur­ing that time, he grabbed ev­ery avail­able op­por­tu­nity to fish and learn the area, earn­ing his cap­tain’s li­cense along the way.

Of­fi­cially opened by Jarvis in 2005, Sport Fish Panama Is­land Lodge has one ter­rific ad­van­tage: its lo­ca­tion. The lodge is on Isla Parida, in­side Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui Na­tional Park, which sig­nif­i­cantly short­ens the run to the famed Han­ni­bal Bank and nearby Isla Mon­tu­osa, where tar­get species in­clude both blue and black mar­lin as well as yel­lowfin tuna that can tip the scales at over 300 pounds.

Copa Air­lines of­fers flights from Mi­ami and Hous­ton to Panama City, where an­glers can opt to take a same-day con­nec­tion to David, Panama, or stay overnight in Panama City as part of the lodge’s VIP pack­age. Ei­ther way, guests need to make sure to ar­rive in David by early af­ter­noon to make the lodge-pro­vided trans­fer to Pe­dre­gal Ma­rina for the hour­long boat ride out to Isla Parida.

Sport Fish Panama Is­land Lodge has two cab­ins that can ac­com­mo­date a to­tal of 14 guests. De­spite the re­mote is­land lo­ca­tion 12 miles from the main­land, the lodge of­fers all of the mod­ern com­forts, in­clud­ing free high-speed Wi-Fi and laun­dry ser­vice. Gourmet meals and all bev­er­ages, in­clud­ing al­co­hol, are cov­ered in the all-in­clu­sive pack­age price.

The Fish­ing

Jarvis and crew op­er­ate a pair of 33-foot World Cats pow­ered by twin Suzuki 300 hp out­boards, and a 25-foot SeaCraft cen­ter-con­sole with twin Suzuki 140 hp out­boards. The boats are fast, ma­neu­ver­able and com­fort­able. Con­ven­tional tackle con­sists of 30- and 50-pound-test Ac­cu­rate reels paired with cus­tom Black­fin rods. Shi­mano spin­ning reels are avail­able for an­glers in­ter­ested in tar­get­ing tuna with large poppers, and guests are also wel­come to bring their own gear.

Jarvis and his team cover the en­tire Gulf of Chiriqui, with a strong em­pha­sis on Han­ni­bal Bank and Isla Mon­tu­osa, a run of about 40 miles. From Novem­ber through March, an­glers can ex­pect to see good num­bers of black mar­lin, blue mar­lin and even a few striped mar­lin around the bait con­cen­trated at Han­ni­bal Bank. July through Septem­ber are prime months for a shot at a big black mar­lin, from 500 to over 1,000 pounds, as this is the time of year when the large fe­males show up to spawn.

Sport Fish Panama Is­land Lodge only works with one group of an­glers at a time, so es­sen­tially, the lodge is your pri­vate get­away dur­ing your stay there.

PAR­ADISE FISH­ING LODGE Que­brada de Piedra

par­adise fish­ing lodge is lo­cated just south of David, Panama, in Que­brada de Piedra, Chiriqui. Once again, the lo­ca­tion of the lodge is a key fac­tor, and not too far from the renowned Coiba Na­tional Ma­rine Park. The park con­sists of Coiba, the largest is­land in Cen­tral Amer­ica, and 37 sur­round­ing is­lands and islets, all of which are about 30 miles off the Pana­ma­nian coast.

THE BLACK MAR­LIN USU­ALLY BE­GIN TO AR­RIVE IN THE FALL AND BITE WELL THROUGH JAN­UARY AND FE­BRU­ARY, DE­PEND­ING ON THE CON­DI­TIONS.

While black mar­lin are the na­tion’s top sport-fish­ing at­trac­tion, blue mar­lin are also plen­ti­ful and can be caught nearly year-round off Panama. Sail­fish, huge yel­lowfin tuna and over­size mahimahi round out the top pelag­ics.

Tropic Star Lodge is the coun­try’s old­est and best-known sport-fish­ing lodge, fa­mous for its fleet of clas­sic Ber­trams as well as great fish­ing.

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