For one long and unforgettable weekend, Thursday, November 27 – Monday, December 1, Panama’s most avid and politically influential sport fishermen team up to compete in the 14th annual Tropic Star Billfish Tournament at the Tropic Star Lodge in Darien, Panama.
Competitors will fish Piñas Bay and win on a point system counted according to catch and release rules to ensure the survival of the fish. The tournament is a powerful force for raising awareness of the necessity to protect Panama’s fishing resources.
It is the only fishing tournament in Panama where the winners qualify for a chance to compete in the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) Tournament of Champions held annually in Costa Rica or Mexico.
“We have some very good conservation laws in Panama, but enforcement is the issue”, says Terri Andrews, owner of the Tropic Star Lodge, famous for setting more world record catches than any other fishing resort in the world.
Over 250 IGFA World Records have been broken at Tropic Star Lodge. They currently hold over 50 IGFA World Records, the majority of them being Black, Blue and Striped Marlin and Pacific Sailfish.
“We do attract politicians, celebrities and CEO’s of big corporations,” said Andrews. She joked, “To protect the privacy of our guests, we try not to name-drop that people like Jimmy Buffet or George Strait have been here.”
The guest of honor at this tournament is Guy Harvey, author of Panama Paradise, A tribute to Tropic Star Lodge.
Said Andrews, “This year all proceeds, after expenses, are going to go to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. He has pledged that all proceeds will be allocated to Panama.”
At this writing, it was estimated that 20 boats will compete with three people per team.
“While there are some very nice prizes, the tournament is not about the prizes,” said Andrews. “It’s about who you’re fishing with and how you’re fishing. This is a gathering of like-minded fishermen discussing fish conservation and angler etiquette while having a wonderful time.”
Tropic Star Lodge (formerly Club de Pesca de Panama) has been in operation for over fifty years. It has supported the village of Piñas Bay almost solely for all this time.
“The importance of conservation is not just for the fish, it is also for over 1,000 people who rely mostly on foreigners coming down to Tropic Star to catch and release billfish at Tropic Star Lodge,” said Andrews.