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Trip Details

Fish Panama with the Coral Star in 2009- Week 1 | 02/15/09 - 02/20/09

WHERE:  Panama- Central America
WHEN:  February 15th 2009 - February 20th 2009
AVAILABILITY:  Space for 14 Fishermen / Fisherwomen
COST:  $4500 per fishermen + air fare and in-country travel
BOOKING:  Now Underway

Welcome back traveling fishermen!  With one year under our belts, the Traveling Fisherman program at the OIFC is excited to announce plans for the next upcoming trip in 2009.  Many of you followed the day by day reports from our 2008 adventure to Panama aboard the Coral Star.  We received an overwhelming amount of interest in returning to this unique exotic fishery again, thusly we are pleased to announce the OIFC's return trip to Panama fishing with the Coral Star operation in February of 2009.  Join Capt. Barrett McMullan and/or Capt. Brant McMullan for what is sure to be a fishing adventure of a lifetime aboard the mother ship Coral Star and it's fleet of sportfishing boats.  Whether big game billfishing is your passion or yanking monster grouper and snapper gives you a thrill or even working the shadows of mountains rising out of the sea for exciting roosterfish action, you are sure to experience a fishery unlike any other.  

Coral Star Expeditions is a mothership/sportfish boat operation located on the Pacific in Panama, Central America.  The mothership is a 100+ foot trawler vessel with living quarters for 15 guests, a full kitchen with cook, a wet bar, an observation deck and all the amenities necessary for a week's stay.  The Coral Star sport fishing fleet consists of 6 vessels (5 are used with 1 kept as a backup in the event of a breakdown).  The makes of the sportfish boats include Pursuits, Albemarles, and Rybovich from 28 to 34 feet in length.  Fortunately, there is virtually no need for enormous fishing boats due to the fact the anchorage for the mothership is within a 9 iron from the fishing grounds. 

Basically there are three fishing agendas available on this adventure.  You can fish nearshore around above water sea mounts, and islands using casting plugs and small live baits for roosterfish, dog snapper, cubera snapper, wahoo and jacks.  You can bottom fish in 50 to 110 feet of water using vertical jigs, chunk bait or live bait for dog snapper, cubera snapper, or grouper.  Lastly you can blue water fish with either live bonitas or trolling plastics for blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna and dorado.  During the course of the trip there is opportunity to experience each of these options.  You will have the opportunity to group yourself with others on the trip who want to target the same species as you. 

On a typical full day of fishing you can expect to awake around 5:30am aboard the mother ship Coral Star.  Chef Andy will prepare a breakfast complete with fruits, meats, breads, coffee and juices.  By 6:30am you are boarding a sport fishing vessel with two other fishermen for a total of 3 fishermen per boat.  If anchored in the lee of Montosa you will have just enough time to set your gear down onboard when the lines are deployed.  Typically the crews will start by trolling small feathers in an attempt to catch bonitas for live bait.  It usually doesn't take long to load up each of the 4 tuna tubes with a lively bait.  Next you may run 1/2 to 1mile to the deeper water surrounding a sea mount.  Here you will deploy a spread of 2 or 3 baits on 30 to 50lb class gear.  The reels are either Penn International or Avet 2 speeds with Seeker rods.  The baits are bridled on circle hooks and trolled at 3-4 knots.  At first recognizing bites and successfully hooking fish is a challenge as it takes some getting used to.  If you pay attention though, by the end of the week you will be much improved.  If a fish is in the baits, the baits get very nervous and shake the rods violently.  The drags are set loose so that when a billfish picks up the bait he won't feel the pressure.  When it is determined the fish has the bait you quickly free line for up to 30 seconds.  When the Captain gives the word, you push the reel into gear while he puts the throttle in the corner and then wind like hell.  You will miss some fish, but this technique is surprisingly effective and a whole lot of fun.  Around noon if you wish to take a break you return to the mothership for lunch and a quick nap.  The afternoon you return to the fishing grounds with fresh bait and start over.  It's up to each group, but usually you fish until sunset and then return to the mother ship.  The next hour or so is spent telling lies about your catch to the fishermen from the other boats while sitting on the observation deck at the "Fan Tail Bar".  Chef Andy will have appetizers including fresh tuna sashimi from the day's catch and cold drinks.  During this time you can usually see billfish chasing bait and jumping as the light dims.  To see the daily catches on the February 2008 trip check back through the Panama 2008 archives under the Traveling Fisherman header on this website. 

There are two travel options to get to Panama. 

Travel Option 1:  Fly out of the Atlanta airport around 6pm on Saturday 2/14/09 and arrive in the capital of Panama, Panama City approximately at 10pm.  You will be greeted by the Starlite Travel group in the airport where they will hustle you through customs and have you wait in the VIP lounge while luggage is located and loaded into the transport vehicle.  From the airport you take a 15 minute bus ride to hotel Marvella in downtown Panama City.  The Starlite folks will help you get checked in to the hotel.  Marvella is nothing fancy but very acceptable accomodations.  You are within a short walk from an array of restaurants and a large casino, which seems to the be the focal point of the city.  The next morning the Starlite Travel folks meet you again at the Marvella around 6:30am and put you on a bus for a different airport.  You will fly out of Panama City around 9am on Sunday 2/15/09 headed for the coastal city of David.  In David, you will be greeted by Capt. Don and his staff on the Coral Star at the airport.  They will collect your luggage and bring it to the Taz marina.  You will load onto a bus and take a 10 minute ride to the marina.  At the marina you will load your luggage and all the fishermen in the group aboard the 5 sportfish boats and depart for the week of fishing.  The ride out of the river and to the mothership is about 2 hours as you zig zag through the river and mountains.  You will arrive to the mothership sometime between 2pm and 4pm where Capt. Don will sit everyone down and go over safety concerns on the mothership and give you a day 1 gameplan.  If time permits you can jump on the sportfish boats and head out for a few hours of inshore fishing for roosterfish, snapper and jacks.  The next morning, Monday 2/16/09 you board the sportfish boats and head offshore approximately 30 more miles to Isla Montosa where most of the fishing takes place.  After a full day of fishing Montosa, the mothership will have traveled to Montosa and anchored.  You spend the following 3 days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday fishing full days at Montosa.  On Thursday afternoon you will finish the fishing day by heading back to the anchorage near the mouth of the river called Paridas.  Friday morning you have the option to get a half day of inshore fishing, bottom fishing, or trolling in before heading back into David to catch a flight back to Panama City.  That flight leaves around 2:30pm.  You will arrive in Panama City and meet the Starlite Travel group again early in the evening.  They will guide you to Hotel Marvella where you wil spend the night on Friday 2/20/09.  The next morning your flight to Atlanta will depart around 8:30am.  The Starlite Travel Group will transport you to the airport.  You will arive back in Atlanta around lunchtime on Monday 2/21/09. 

Travel Option 2:  This option of getting to and from Panama City just started in March.  There is a direct flight from Miami, FL to David in Panama which cuts out the necessity of spending the night in Panama City and taking the in-country flight.  However, the flight from Miami to David leaves at 7:30am so you would likely spend the night in Miami.  Saturday, 2/14/09, travel to Miami and spend the night.  Depart Miami airport on Sunday 2/15/09 on a direct flight to David in Panama.  You will arrive in David around 2:30pm.  The rest of the trip is no different than travel option 1 other than on the backend you will need to be back in David on Friday 2/20/09 a couple hours later as your flight back to Miami leaves around 4:30pm.  You will arrive in Miami around 11pm and will likely spend the night.  Return home on Monday 2/21/09.

Upon booking your slot for this trip, we will discuss which travel option you will take.  If choosing option one, the only carrier that is non-stop from Atlanta is Delta.  The current cost for this round trip ticket is $775 (great time to use frequent flyer miles).  In addition to your round trip ticket, you will need to purchase the services of the Starlite Travel Group who will get you where you need to be on the front and back end of the trip.  Their service is well worth it, as you will avoid all hassels involved in traveling abroad.  The charge around $450.  This will include two nights stay in Hotel Marvella, one night on the front end and one night on the back end of the trip.  It also includes round trip airfare from Panama City to David and back and all ground transportation to and from airports and hotels. 

If you choose option 2, you will be flying on Taca airlines.  The cost of this round trip ticket from Miami to David is around $550.  You will bypass the need for Starlite's services and the two nights in Panama City.  However, you will need to get yourself to Miami and spend the night in Miami somewhere near the airport.  I will get an estimate on how much the hotel stay would be in the Miami airport for two nights asap.  I'm guessing both travel options are going to be close in the cost per person.  The question is would you rather spend the night in Miami or Panama City.

On board the mothership Coral Star you will be sharing a cabin with one other fishermen from the group.  The cabins consist of a set of bunk beds, a small dresser, sink and mirror, and a small closed door shower.  The rooms are small.  Showering is interesting as you have to contort yourself in order to wash and rinse in the small the area.  With all this said, you spend very little time in your room other than to shower or sleep.  After a long day of fishing and a full course meal you are a whole lot less selective on where you lay your head.  There is plenty of freshwater on board.  The air conditioner is more than adequate.  Chef Andy will prepare impressive breakfasts and dinners and will provide packed lunches for fishing.  Most meals consist of whatever you caught that day and potatoes.  There is a fully stocked bar on board and you can make arrangements with the Captain before arriving to have specialty liquors and drinks stocked.  The fishing boats are stocked with drinks of your choice, packed lunches, snacks and fresh fruit daily.  Overall, you couldn't really ask for more considering where you are located. 

:  The weather is sunny and very warm so bring an array of fishing shirts, shorts, sunglasses an extra pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, flip flops or boat shoes.  If you will be staying in Panama City you may want to bring something beyond fishing clothes but nothing too fancy.  Also through in a waterproof jacket in case of rain which is unusual but possible.
Gear:  The Coral Star operation has all the fishing equipment you will need, but there is certainly room for improvement.  If you decided you wanted to haul any of your fishing gear down I would recommend bringing a heavy spinning outfit, 25-30lb class stand up trolling gear, a trevalla jigging rod, butterfly jigs, large Yo-Zuri surface poppers, your favorite trolling plastics and any other secret weapons.  Don't forget your camera or your passport!
Money:  If staying in Panama City for two nights you will want to carry more cash than if you are flying direct from Miami.  There is a very inviting casino in Panama City.  You will need to bring money to tip the crew.  $400-$500 per fishermen is typical and will be split amongst the entire crew.  Beyond that, you will only need money for food and gifts while not on board the Coral Star.  There is no need to exchange currency as everywhere we went in 2008 took dollars. 

25% deposit ($1125) is required to hold your spot on the trip.  The first 14 fishermen or fisherwomen who submit their deposit will have rights to the trip.  The remaining 75% payment ($3375) is due 60 days prior to the departure trip date, which means full payment must be submitted by December 15th, 2008. 

More Details to come....

-Capt. Barrett McMullan

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