Conservation in Panama has been very aggressive in it's preservation of sportfishing. In August 1997, a law was enacted that protects ALL billfish from being caught commercially. the Pinas area has a 20 mile "non-commercial" fishing zone radius prohibiting any type of commercial fishing. Tropic Star guests also do their part by releasing all billfish, with very few exceptions. The IGFA gave the 1999 conservation award in the country category to Panama and the Panamanian President went to Florida to personnaly accept this prestigious award. Panama was also host and co-sponsor of the First Sport Fishing Economic Conference of Central America in September 1998, in hopes of getting some of its neighbors more involved in conserving this great sport.
Tropic Star Lodge® anglers practice catch and release methods with the aid of "circle hooks". This conservation minded technique reduces the perennial problem of deep hooked fish and their survivability, post release.
There have been numerous attempts at reducing this deep hooking problem, but most are at best 'hit and miss', with a few showing some good results; though none as yet with the promise of consistency. That is until we sea anglers take a leaf out of the commercial long-liners book; and view their end tackle: Circle hooks!
Commercial catch rates, per hook have increased by over 80% using circle hooks, when compared against traditional 'J' hooks. When your survivability in the economic world depends on gear efficiency, then it is little wonder that the majority of the worlds long-liners are using circle hooks.
So how do these hooks work? - Well, for a start they are designed to be 'self-hooking', in fact they do not work at all if you strike! The principle is that the bait and hook is taken fully into the fish's mouth, and then as the fish turns away, the hooks is pulled out of the fish's mouth via the line/leader travelling over the scissors of the jaw. On reaching the scissors of the jaw, the bend of the hook, locks around the hinge section of the jaw, and the point of the hook (still inside the fish's mouth) pulls into the flesh at the scissors - one hooked fish! The whole principle relies on the fact that the hook will not snag on any other part of the fish, internally, until it is nestling in the scissors of the jaw. The bait and hook, can be swallowed down deep into the throat and gills area, without risk of it causing damage. For when the line comes tight, it travels back out of the vulnerable areas; to its final resting place in the hinge of the mouth.
In the angling frame of things, the main adjustments in techniques, is that you never strike, just tighten up on the fish, and let the self-hooking properties of the circle hook go to work. The end result is a well hooked fish that is unlikely to come off the hook, due to its unique shape. In fact, some anglers in big game fishing circles are now working with the barbs ground down, and still are not experiencing lost fish.
Another small problem is mounting baits, as the hook in most cases has to remain outside the bait. Bridle rigging dead or live baits has been found to be most successful, with the hook ending up sitting atop of the bait.
CONAMAR Foundation (Foundation for the Conservancy of the Sea, Nature and Marine Species) was formally constituted in 1994 as an initiative of the Tropic Star Group, entrepreneurs with great social and environmental sensibility, concerned by the indiscriminate practices of the commercial fishery conducted by local and foreign fleets in Panamanian waters.
CONAMAR has been responsible for protecting all billfish from being killed for commercial use in Panama and establishing the 20 mile no commercial fishing zone around Piñas Point.
The existence of Tropic Star Lodge® has contributed in improving the general living conditions in the community of Piñas Bay: employment, public services, improved quality in housing facilities, health, and a landing strip, are among the principals. Clients of the lodge also assist by making donations of school supplies and medicines for the children of the community.
Since the early nineties the owners of Tropic Star Lodge® as responsible fishermen, became concerned with the indiscriminate practices of the commercial fishery conducted by local and foreign fleets in Panamanian waters.
We need to improve the enforcement of fishing legislation and also to create community awareness through permanent information about the importance of resource conservation and its social and economic impact on the country. Thank you for taking the time to help us keep Piñas and Panama’s sport fishing to continue to break our own records.
To find out more about the Foundation, read their newsletter or to make a donation, please visit our website at www.fconamar.org
Largest Black Marlin Ever Tagged with a Sat-Tag
Photo taken by Guy Harvey during an incredible experience with Neil Patrick’s estimated 1,300 pound Black Marlin caught on Zane Grey Reef. Guy swam down and attached a second line to the leader so the majestic fish could be tagged with a satellite tag, and was released unharmed.
The fish traveled nearly 1,200 miles in 60-days and returned to the same area which it was originally caught. An incredible feat by all involved, while becoming the largest Black Marlin ever tagged with a sat-tag.
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