I wrote an article about this place for Sport Fishing Magazine after my first visit here, which you can read here Fishing and Travel Articles by Jon Schwartz
I came here to witness 'His Majesty the Black Marlin' jump within meters of the boat. They get huge here, and they hit big trolled baits about 10 minutes offshore, depending on the season. When I say big baits, I mean BIG. Here's a mate holding a live bonito bait just before he bridles it to a huge circle hook and tosses it overboard to entice a bite from a monster:
Although the fish get huge, the Humboldt current here, according to several staff, make for an oxygen-poor environment at deeper depths. Instead of heading for the deep like they do in many other locations, the fish tend to stay near the surface. For that reason, they are able to use much lighter tackle- 50 pound rods and reels versus 80 and 130 pound gear that is used in many other big marlin locations- so the interaction with the fish is much more intimate. Smaller boats lower to the water with lighter tackle like they have here make for front row seats to big fish mayhem!
Last year, the first day on my first visit to Tropic Star Lodge, I lucked out with a photo that made it onto the cover of Marlin Magazine.
This all started to mess with my head; I started to think I was bad luck, and went looking for all sorts of things that may have resulted in the hex. Could it be my white socks? I tried wearing the same shirt for 4 days, stuff like that.
Catching fish is hard, but catching a photo of a jumping fish is many times harder. Not only do I have to be on the right boat that is experiencing the action, but the fish has to jump, the lighting has to be right, I have to maintain my balance in the midst of a lot of action, my camera settings have to be spot on, and my gear has to be functioning perfectly. The below shot is one of me posing. In the heat of the battle it's all I can do to stand up straight, and you'd never find me sitting down.
I talked with their teacher, and it turns out that that her husband is the head of the school at the village. I want to go visit the village tomorrow and hang out with the kids and their parents. Many of them work here at the resort. It's a special feeling, you meet the kids, and then go out on boats manned by their fathers. The personal aspect of it makes it just that much more exciting to me, because I am also a 3rd grade school teacher.
I was fishing with Richard and Edie Kearley for several days as well. They were very fun to hang out with. Here is a photo I took of Edie on the way out to the fishing grounds.
Below is a shot of Richard with a tasty dorado.There's so many dorado here, they are like pests. Pretty funny considering that these same fish would make for trophy fish on many other fishing excursions.
They ended up landing 8 marlin in 6 days of fishing, but almost all of them were landed on days that I wasn't with them. One day they had 4 black marlin! Of course I wasn't with them that day. Arrgh!!I also accompanied famous fly fishing angler and multiple world record holder Margo Vincent and her grandson Kyle Vincent.
Kyle set a (pending) new world record for mullet snapper at 24 lbs! You can bet his grandma was super proud of him! Everyone kept telling him, "You realize you have the coolest grandma in the world, don't you?"same day. Here's him fighting the big blue as Margo looks on from the bridge:
Pretty amazing for a 12 year old, no?!
Both Richard and Kyle kept Dockmaster Albert Battoo busy recording their various achievements. With his first black marlin in day one, Richard his Royal Grand Slam: catching one of every type of billfish in the world!
The funny thing is that the most elusive billfish, the spearfish, was actually the first one that he landed like 30 years ago. I took particular interest in this because I wrote a 2500 word feature article about spearfish that will be featured in the February issue of Marlin Magazine, which should be on newsstands in about 3 weeks.
Here's Richard having his Royal Grand Slam recorded by Albert Battoo.
I wanted to check out the computer lab that is being set up and meet up with some of the folks I met last year there.
Jose ( pictured on the right) works with Tropic Star and also lives in the village. He introduced me to the teacher of the school (on the left) and they showed me the lab. It'll be cool when it's up and running in the next couple of months so I can communicate with my friends down there!
On the way out of Pinas I met up with one of the mates of the boats that I had been on over my week's stay. His name is Alexi. He is Margo Vincent's favorite mate and is probably going to end up as a captain at some point.
He also happens to be super friendly and he introduced me to his children when I walked by the house. It's funny to see these guys chase around monster fish all day, every day, and then see them relaxing at home. What seems like extreme angling to many is for them another day on the water. They've undoubtedly wired and released thousands of huge marlin, perhaps as much or more than anyone in the world. (FYI "wired" means grabbed onto the leader, brought the fish to the boat, and removed the hook). Thrill seeking anglers from all over the world travel to Pinas Bay to take part in a ritual that these fellows perform as a matter of course. Here's marlin whisperer Alexi with children:Panama Paradise: A Tribute to Tropic Star Lodge.
The book has 334 pages, and in it, Guy Chronicles the beginnings of the lodge in 1961 to the present day. Needless to say I am thrilled and flattered to have my work featured in Guy Harvey's book!
Most of the skyscrapers in the city- and there are a lot of them-are closed to the public. They are the homes of the ultra wealthy. Not sure if you know but Panama has a lot of new development and new buildings.
A couple walked by and we started talking. The next thing I knew they were asking me if I wanted to go up and take pictures from the penthouse on the 51st floor!!! The bellman came back to keep an eye on me and sees me with my new friends, so I say, "These kind folks are gonna take me up to the penthouse!" All he could do was smile.
penthouse taking pics of the city!!!!" We had a laugh about that and his eyes bugged out when I showed him the shots. Yahoo!!!