Spectacular Panama

Fishing the Piñas Bay area at Tropic Star Lodge

June 23, 2011
The editors and publisher of Sport Fishing magazine and its web site just returned from three days of fishing the Piñas Bay area at Tropic Star Lodge ( For most, it was a first visit; for all, it was an eye-opener to this awesome setting at a world-class resort. We devoted considerable effort to fishing the spectacular coastline for cubera snapper, roosterfish (the big ones eluded us), sierra and more. Our images offers some sense of that trip. Chris Woodward
The view from above. Tucked into the southern coast of Panama, Tropic Star beckons anglers to the tranquil Pacific. Ben Holtzclaw
Intermediate step. No roads lead to Tropic Star; pangas take visitors from the airstrip to the resort, a ride of five or 10 minutes. Doug Olander
We’ve arrived. Set in the lush tropical jungle, Tropic Star presents an inviting scene to the group. Doug Olander
Once on the water, making bait is usually the first priority. Small skipjack fill tuna tubes, ready to rig for anything from roosterfish inshore to granders farther out. Chris Woodward
Reason to smile: This hefty yellowfin tuna smashed the Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bull popper for Sport Fishing‘s publisher Dave Morel.
More reason to smile! Dave astounded the whole group during the trip with his ability to devour platter after platter of fresh yellowfin sashimi (though everyone did help him out). Ben Holtzclaw
From the veranda: The lodge’s pier and a few boats still anchored in the bay on an ideal summer morning. Ben Holtzclaw
SF editor Chris Woodward flings a popper toward an island just off the coast, more than an hour south of the lodge. (Moments later, a big cubera smashed Dave’s popper here.)
Bruiser horse-eye jacks roam the rocks as Stephanie found out. Doug Olander
Doubled up and doubled over:‘s online editor, Ben Holtzclaw (left), joins SF senior editor Mike Mazur with a pair of jacks. (The anglers won their hand, but the jacks won their freedom after being unhooked.) Doug Olander
Another pair of jacks, these almacos slammed jigs in about 200 feet of water over fabled Zane Grey reef for Mike and_ SF_ editor-in-chief, Doug Olander. Ben Holtzclaw
Southern Panama’s coastal headlands provide a dramatic backdrop for_ SF_’s managing editor, Stephanie Pancratz, as she works a lure near the rocks. Doug Olander
Sierra, slightly larger and considerably tougher cousin to the Atlantic’s Spanish and cero mackerels, offered many exciting moments with their smoking runs and sudden changes in direction. Doug Olander
A popper with legs: With one or two assist hooks replacing treble, fish striking poppers tended to get hooked and stay hooked more reliably than on trebles. This Daiwa plug succumbed to a cubera far too big to stop shortly after the photo was taken. Doug Olander
Tense moments as fishing-group publisher Scott Salyers works on a big snapper after it hit a live bait. Doug Olander
The vanquished cubera moments before its release. Scott’s more than 6 feet, 3 inches tall, so an estimated of weight of more than 60 pounds hardly seems too much. That’s a serious snapper! Chris Woodward
A taste of the rainy season: A lone sentinel watches slow-trolled live bait behind the transom under a torrential downpour. The real rainy season doesn’t peak until the fall, but at times during the summer, it may feel like the monsoon time. Doug Olander
Old and new: As Stephanie and Chris try to stop fish from charging into the current-swept reef along the rugged coast south of the lodge, other fishermen ply the same waters – from their tiny, traditional canoes. Doug Olander
Chris is rewarded with a handsome spotted grouper that struck a Sebile jig. Doug Olander
Scott scores again, taking this large mullet snapper that couldn’t resist a Strike Pro Tuna Hunter Jr. popper. Doug Olander
Keep it out of the rocks! That’s the operative command as Mike clamps down on the spinner’s spool, trying for enough extra pressure to turn a behemoth’s head over Zane Grey Reef. Ben Holtzclaw
Another day, Mike got the surprise of the trip when a school of yellowfin started busting bait just yards off the rocky shore. He made a quick cast and was rewarded with the tuna fighting over his Halco Roosta popper. Doug Olander
I gotta get outta here! Hapless houndfish is no doubt regretting going after the small Sebile popper that hooked it. Ben Holtzclaw
SF Editor of Evil even caught a couple fish. Here, he’s about to begin devouring alive an unfortunate horse-eye jack. Chris Woodward
The day after: Time to tool around Panama City offered editors the chance to check out the amazing Panama Canal. Chris Woodward

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