I just got back from Panama to find out that the striped bass are here and snapping. Plenty of fish, with many in the
18-20 pound range, and not many throwbacks. The parachutes are working, and there are enough fish here that the
diamond jigs are working as well.
The fluke fishing over the weekend left a little to be desired, but there is a legitimate excuse - big swells kept them from
eating. Overall though I understand that the fishing has been pretty good, but would be a lot better if a keeper didnít
have to weigh three pounds.
The fluke regs are affecting the charter boats. Normally at this time of year boats would be sailing all day inshore trips,
spending half the day loading up on bass and the other half on the fluke. Not this year though. The few boats that have
been getting out have been sailing only half days.
Now for Panama.
The first interesting thing was meeting Sherie Wilson from the Coral Star coming down in the elevator the day we flew
to the lodge. Thatís the second time I ran into someone I know in Panama. Last year it was John Demaio a fellow
captain from here in Montauk who I met on a street corner.
The first day started out in typical Tropic Star fashion, catching bonitos to be used as rigged strip baits. The run to the
bonitos was about 45 minutes, and once we got them, we headed halfway back to the lodge to go after the sailfish. We
wound up getting eleven to the boat, but the highlight was my adventure with the fly rod. As soon as I hooked up I
realized I had a problem. The reel malfunctioned and the spool wouldnít stay in the reel body, leaving me with no drag. I
had to fight the fish in free spool, using my palm to apply pressure. When the fish wasnít running I could crank line onto
the spool, but if he wanted to take off, I had to get my knuckles out of the way quickly and get the palm back into
position. As soon as I got the fish within about twenty feet of the boat, I decided enough was enough, and the fish was
either going to come the last couple of feet or he was going to break off, which is what he did.
The second day we fished along the beach, or more accurately rocks, since there is very little beach. In the first fifteen
minutes I landed a 65 pound rooster. It was slow going but about an hour later I hooked up with what we thought was
an even bigger rooster. The first run had to be close to a hundred yards. After a fifteen minute or so fight I had it within
fifty feet or so of the boat and the mates were gloving up to grab it when the captain yelled down that it was a robalo,
which changed things to gaff mode. All I could see was about two feet of green back, but the captain was yelling that it
was the Spanish equivalent of a ďsnookasaurusĒ. Unfortunately, the knife-like edge on itís gills cut the 100 pound leader,
so weíll never know how big it was, but Captain Maso thought it was at least fifty pounds, maybe as much as sixty. We
continued trolling the live baits until around noon picking up a couple of twenty pound roosters and the decided to try
for the sails. Here in Montauk when things are slow offshore, a captain might suggest heading inshore to catch some
stripers or blues. At Tropic Star, when itís slow, you go catch some sailfish instead. But by the time we decided to do
that the sun was out with a big blue sky (the only day we saw sun) and absolutely no breeze - oil calm - and I guess the
fish didnít like it. We raised a couple but couldnít come tight on them.
The third day was back for the sails, and we released eight fish. The highlight of the day was when I raised one on my
spinning rod and had to drop back to it three times before hooking up. Just as I came tight another fish came up, which
also took a couple of shots to hook up, all while my fish was running out line. Eventually my line ran out with that
ďcrackĒ sound. But my wife got hers.
Day four we went back looking for my snook without any luck. We managed to get bit a half dozen times or so, but the
fish that we raised must have been too small for the baits because we never came tight. But, the sailfish were biting so we
headed for the fleet. We didnít get the third bait out before we had a double on, and for the next hour had the most
spectacular saifishing Iíve ever seen. Only once were we able to get the third bait out, and immediately hooked a triple,
one of which got off after a couple of jumps. Every hook up was a double. We didnít convert each fish, but in the
approximately hour that the bite lasted we got eight fish to the boat, and they were all big fish, 120 pounds and better.
Then someone threw a switch and it was over. My wife said she was glad that we didnít have to do that again tomorrow.
Too much work.
For more information about fishing in Montauk, you can give me a call at 800 280 5565 or check out
http.//www.montauksportfishing.com. And, if you would like these reports sent to you directly, drop me a line and Iíll
add you to the list.