Welcome to Panama. Love, Blue Marlin.

Sam Friedrichs is leading an ongoing project using Crittercam to help unlock the secret lives of marlin before it’s too late.


The day has finally arrived! After smooth flights last night and a couple hours of sleep, the Silver-Rod-O pulled out of its slip at 7:30 am en route to Tropic Star Lodge. Normally, this journey is undertaken via a small aircraft which ushers you over the jungles of the Darien. This expedition however, we get to partake in the only other method of transport to Piñas Bay: boat. This allowed us to get a sense of what we were heading into. Chasing large pelagics (open ocean fish) requires a long run from Panama City to find deep water which resulted in us motoring 40 miles offshore after weaving our way through the Panama Canal traffic. Once over deep water we proceeded to troll our way along the continental shelf which attracts a multitude of ocean life.

A stout 250-pound blue marlin was an excellent way to kick off the expedition. With all the Crittercams stowed, we resorted to photos and videos.

Within an hour and a half, Captain Yoan started screaming, “Left teaser, left teaser!!!” This signaled that a marlin had located our hook-less lures. As these lures were brought to the boat, a dead bait with a large circle hook was sent back. In the fish’s repeated attacks on the teasers, he failed to realize that all of the colorful lures he had been chasing were gone only leaving a hook bait. With the same ferocity he proceeded to inhale the bait and in short order a stout 250-pound Pacific blue marlin was dancing across the surface of the water. After his initial aerial displays he sounded, resulting in a calculated game of tug-of-war between the angler, Gary Carter, and this impressive fish. In the span of 35 minutes, Gary was able to best the marlin bringing it to the leader where it put on one final show right next to the boat as it straightened the hook and sped off into the blue. Not a bad way to start the expedition. Had the Crittercams not been safely stowed for the trip to the lodge, this fish would have made the perfect candidate for a deployment but, I will settle for photos and video.

We are not the only traveling boat that has made its way to Pinas Bay in search of marlin.

The remainder of the afternoon yielded a feisty Pacific sailfish and a couple of mahi-mahi. Over the course of the afternoon, we came into radio range of Tropic Star’s fishing fleet. It seemed that their luck had changed today and anglers on multiple boats were reporting blue marlin releases. This is why we have come here and based on the conditions we may have timed it just right to be here when the fish pass through. As we motored our way into Piñas Bay at the end of the day we finally caught sight of our destination. Nestled in the mouth of the bay surrounded by rainforest on all sides is  Tropic Star Lodge. As you pull in and look around at the forested hillsides you finally realize how far removed from civilization you are at that moment.  This is a truly wild place that owes its existence to these great fish and as I start to prepare the Crittercams, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Situated right on the shores of Pinas Bay, Tropic Star Lodge almost blends in with the surrounding rainforest.


Learn More

Read All the Billfish 2013 Posts

National Geographic Crittercam

Changing Planet