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Blain N
Cocoa Beach, Florida

Not the best experience at Tropic Star

1.0 of 5 bubblesReviewed 1 Mar 2024
I agree with the recent reviews of Casal, Todd C and Mi S. We must have been at Tropic Star the same week. We started fishing Sunday Feb 18 2024 and finished Friday Feb 23. It was a terrible bite - hence theirs and my review. We decided to book for the famed Black Marlin season with a premium that cost around $10K per person counting travel. I very much enjoyed the hype with YouTube videos and even reviews on this site before the trip. We were so excited. Our group of 4 was not impressed and the hype was not deserved. As others have indicated there were around 100 total fishing days combined for 16 or 17 boats for a total of 9 black marlin to be leadered for the week. There also was not much of a pelagic bite for tuna or dorado. The bite was absolutely terrible!! I understand Richard (Richie) White's explanations that Tropic Star cannot control the weather or bite. I fish out of Florida and into the Bahamas for yellowfin tuna, dolphin (dorado) and blue marlin. I would have been much better off spending $40K on a few trips on my boat to where I fish rather than going on this Tropic Star adventure.

I am not a novice fisherman. I've owned boats and fished offshore for over 20 years. I also understand weather conditions and slow bites. I always tell people that are going to fish with me that it's "all about the weather and the bite". We work hard to try to avoid days of getting skunked like we had a Tropic Star. But - when you book at least 9 months in advance to get in on the Tropic Star hype - I guess there's no looking back. Maybe something they should look at is at least offering, say, a 50% discount on any future trip when one has paid a black marlin season premium and it's been terrible. At this point I will not go back nor recommend any of my fishing friends to go to Tropic Star. It's a long way to go for a bad bite when you have to commit that far in advance.

On the good side the service at Tropic Star is excellent. From arrival at the airport, lodge staff ... all 5 star. Top notch all the way.

The food however is 3 star at best. We arrived on Saturday Feb 17 to have a lunch of seared tuna over risotto. It was spectacular. High expectations at that point. Things went downhill quickly.
- Over our trip we had 3 buffets at the pool restaurant. Cruise line type buffet food at best. Some barely edible - some not. On the first night they had grilled tuna. It was grilled completely dry and was not edible. I don't understand why someone would do that to fresh caught tuna - especially a supposed 5 star lodge that gets fresh caught tuna all the time
- First breakfast I ordered eggs, link sausages and potatoes. Link sausages were so over cooked and dry that they were inedible. The potatoes were cold on the plate. So second day I tried the same hoping that the previous day was an aberration. No - same result. It's hard to mess up a breakfast of eggs, link sausages and potatoes. Even Waffle House can get it right.
- On a few days at the Marlin Bar they fried up some fish fingers (presumably dorado). Again totally overcooked/overfried. The fish fingers had no moisture whatsoever. Couldn't even choke them down.

In summary - the staff is great. The bite we had while we were there was ugly beyond belief for the premium black marlin season - and that includes pelagics of YFT and dorado. The food needs to be improved to justify their prices and acclaim.
Date of stay: February 2024
Trip type: Travelled with family
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Mallory White, Guest Services / Front Office at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this review
Responded 23 Mar 2024
Dear Blainn2015,

We appreciate you taking the time to leave your review as we care deeply about our guests and their fishing trips at Tropic Star Lodge. We are sorry that your experience fell short of what you expected. We can completely understand your disappointment with the slow Black Marlin bite. In all transparency, Black Marlin season is eight weeks long. Within these eight weeks, the length of the bite fluctuates year to year. It is impossible for us to know exactly when the Pelagic species takes up their annual residence on the Zane Grey Reef due to their migratory patterns. Black Marlin are the most difficult Marlin to target. In fact, there are just a few places in the world you can target the species with Tropic Star being one. While we do everything possible to ensure the best possible fishing opportunities for our guests, it is impossible for us to guarantee fishing outcomes.

This season with El Nino was a very tough year for the Black Marlin bite with it ending early. This happens when the water temperatures change as they did, and we have the Snapper species and Grouper inshore for spawning season and we get a fun tuna bite offshore making inshore and chasing tuna loads of fun and that is why we recommend March for this. Unfortunately, this happened mid-February this year and that’s why we saw some 200 lb tuna your week and some of the other guests catching Cubera and other species inshore.

Regarding your dining experience, we thank you for the constructive comments. We’re glad that you did address your issues with the Chef directly while here, so he was able to rectify the overcooked tuna on the buffet by bringing you freshly seared tuna. I know that your cold breakfast potatoes were also addressed. Chef Gabriel and I discussed your comments, and we thank you as we always strive to improve and will certainly be making changes based on your review.
We’re also happy to hear that you enjoyed the staff and service of the Lodge. Again, thank you very much for taking this opportunity to leave your review and the team at Tropic Star Lodge appreciates your comments and we are truly sorry for your one-star experience.

Kind regards,
Mallory and Richard White
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
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Reviewed 27 February 2024

Dont waste your money . Despite the premium price they charge for black marlin season, Very few blacks to be found….apparently .for multiple, multiple weeks, so it’s a trend. 11 in our week total out of 17-18 boats.and I think that was higher than the previous week. Some boats caught multiple. So there is definately a difference in captains and mates.
If we would have caught a lot of other fish, it may have lessened the sting a little of paying 21k, but one 30 lb tuna and 2 very small dorados, and 1 sail, was no consolation.
We asked why they don’t post weekly fish counts, didn’t get a real answer…but you can figure out why….cuz they are so low they wouldn’t get customers. So many people were disappointed, I don’t know how the staff can look you in the eye.

Room tip: Don’t waste your money. Lots of other fishing lodges all over world with better fishing
Date of stay: February 2024
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
2  Thank Lb121564
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Ursula Marais, General Manager at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 28 February 2024

Lb121564

We appreciate your feedback, as we always strive to meet our guests expectations and understand the disappointment when fishing and climate conditions do not always allow that to happen.

Our black marlin season typically starts late December and runs through February when conditions are favorable as its the migration time of the black marlin at Tropic Star. Weather conditions this season have been unpredictable, one week a north wind would blow cooling the water down, the blacks would be on the bite and then it would drop off and the water temperatures would be back up, fish go down and marlin slows down, then before you know it, temperature changes back to good top water temperatures and fish come back up. El Niño is unfortunately causing extremely hot water temperatures from Central America all the way to Australia and Indonesia. I think we have been most fortunate that our wind has been on and off as it has which meant that we had some decent days and therefore some happy anglers. About 2 weeks prior to your stay we had some cooler water and therefore good marlin action and sailfish and dorado numbers were good as well creating good conditions and making predictions very hard.

Unfortunately weather and sea conditions is something we can’t control. Last year during the same time we released over 78 Black Marlin in a single week from 15 boats.

It is very tough for staff when fishing is difficult, they try their utmost to make sure that all our guests have a good time and our crews work very hard offshore trying to hook up on fish.

Yours Sincerely
Ursula Marais

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Reviewed 16 February 2024

A buddy and I planned a bucket-list trip to Tropic Star almost two years ago. We researched the best time to go and was told the week after the full moon during black marlin season in Feb. was a great time which, of course, was by far the most expensive time to come. In anticipation over the last 20 months, we watched every YouTube video and Big Water Adventure program and even bought the Guy Harvey book to prepare us for a trip of a lifetime. To say we were “hyped” and excited would be an understatement.

The Good: The TS land operation was 5 stars. Everything was exactly as represented from the service in Panama City to the Lodge and all its amenities. We paid for an upgraded room that was Four Seasons nice. The staff was friendly, the food excellent and the dining and bar facilities all you could ever expect. We met a bunch of very nice guests and made fast friends with 7 other folks with whom we will likely fish on future trips.

The Bad: The fishing was unimaginably bad, not just for us but for many others. There were only 9 black marlin caught our week between 17 boats and only 11 reportedly caught the week before. There were also a few blue marlin caught. We were told the fishing the two weeks before we arrived was not good either, but no details. Not only did we and many other boats not even see a marlin (blue or black), but the usual by-catch of sails and dorado was sorely lacking as well. Out of 5 ½ days of off-shore fishing, my fishing buddy and I caught a total of 2 sailfish and less than 10 small dorado. Some other boats did better, but we were average. Even when the “bad wind” shifted to the “good wind” mid-week, fishing did not pick up. Every day, we hit the boat with renewed hope, but it was never fulfilled. We learned from one of our new friends who is an experienced offshore angler that this was not an isolated event or week as he came for 6 days during black marlin season last year and was completely shut out of even sailfish. He returned because he desperately wanted a black marlin to complete his slam and luckily got one.

There were also controllable negative issues. Our “upgraded” boat’s air conditioning did not work Day 1, was supposed to be fixed Day 2 but stopped before lunch. We were credited for the “upgrade” for the 2 days and given a larger “back-up” boat whose air worked, but that was little compensation for the heat those two days. Moreover, when we finally got one bite on Day 2, a small dorado, the reel malfunctioned from the get-go and my buddy had to bring in his first pelagic fish by hand. By Day 2, it was clear our captain and rotating mate were not getting along and after we advised Richard of the obvious conflict after Day 4, he put a new mate onboard who worked his tail off. He even had his fleet director, a wonderful fisherman named Duncan, fish with us the next day, but even though he tried his best, we only caught one sailfish.

The saddest story came from a couple who became close friends. His bucket list fish was a big tuna and they had a no-fish week to rival ours. The last day, he got what was estimated as a 200 lb.+ yellowfin on shortly before the end of the normal fishing day. After fighting it for over an hour, he said the crew tightened the drag until the fish broke the line even though it was hours before dark. He was devastated and our whole group felt his and his wife’s disappointment.

When I was researching this trip, I never saw a review like this one which would have at least prepared us for the possibility of what happened. I have fished off-shore at least 25 days in the past and never had any 2 or more day trips that were this bad. I truly believe RIchard, Ross and Duncan and most of the crew work very hard to make the fishing operation the best they can since it is 100% in their control where to catch bait, where to fish, how to fish and, usually, how to hook the fish, but the fish have to cooperate.

My advice, contrary to Big Water Adventures Mark Davis whose catchphrase for TS I have heard many times, “Don’t believe the fishing hype.”

Date of stay: February 2024
  • Trip type: Travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
2  Thank toddc287
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Richard White, Guest Services / Front Office at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 19 February 2024

Todd C,


Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your feedback. It is very important to us, as we always strive for the excellence our guests have come to expect.


It makes us happy to know that you enjoyed our land-based amenities and staff. All of us here at Tropic Star Lodge are very passionate about this lodge and the work we do.


We absolutely understand your disappointment with not catching your Black Marlin during Black Marlin season and yes, the bite was slow for your week and this season in general. El Nino has been playing havoc with the sea temperatures and the weather which directly impacts fisheries including ours.


Black Marlin is commonly known as the toughest Marlin to catch and can only be targeted in a few parts of the world successfully. We can expect a concentration of Black Marlin in January and February but, regretfully, can’t always predict the length of the season or season in general. The fleet of 17 boats only raised 16 Black Marlin and released 11 during your week. We raised 8 Blue Marlin and released 6. The crews managed two Grand Slams with two boats releasing a Blue, a Black and Sails in the same day.


For this time of year, the bill fishing was slow for us and unfortunately something we can’t control. The time of year that you booked is considered our best time of year for targeting Black Marlin. Last year during the same time we released over 78 Black Marlin in a single week from 15 boats.


We strive for perfection in our tackle and boats and take pride in them. Our tackle shop services our Shimano Tiagra reels every week and we put new fishing line on every reel for each new guest arrival. Unfortunately, even with this we have some human error, which is very uncommon but is not impossible. I checked the reel with you on the dock after you brought it to my attention, thanked you and apologized. When you and I tested the reel together it worked perfectly. In the shop we stripped the reel and found that a drag screw had sheared off and so I’m not sure if it was human error or a bad screw. However, that is exactly why the failure happened.


With the AC going down on the boat we re-gassed it and then it was on the way. On your second day, the strainer picked up trash in the water while fishing and clogged it so we again had a problem. I am glad you enjoyed the upgraded boat after that.


With regards to the crew, the captain you fished with is a highly decorated captain with many years fishing with us and is very highly requested, especially in Black Marlin season and so too is the mate. We rotate all our mates between captains all season long. The mate rotation is to ensure mates learn and work with all our captains. Most of our returning guests request captains and mates to fish with and we are always attentive as possible with their requests. I really appreciate that you brought it to my attention that there was an issue between your crew during your stay, so I was able to address it by swopping out your mate and inviting Duncan, our fleet manager, to fish with you.


I make sure that I personally address fishing every day with guests and I felt sad for the couple you made friends with. They lost a big Blue Marlin on the second to last day after it gave an amazing display, but after around 15 minutes it got wrapped up in the line while jumping and broke off. On the last day they hooked up to a big 200lbs tuna just before 15:00 and after fighting it for over an hour the crew got the leader touch but then the tuna disappeared to the depths as big tuna do. The crew started putting the drag up as they were not getting closer to landing it. Our cut off for fishing after hours is 18:00 for safety as we don’t run boats at night. We all felt the disappointment for not landing the fish, especially during a tough week.


I truly apologize that your experience at Tropic Star Lodge did not meet expectations. We really appreciate your comments and hope to see you back in the future to try and get your Black Marlin in the future.

Tight lines and fair seas,
Richard White

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Reviewed 14 February 2024

The lodge, the staff, the food and the service is all great on shore. Unfortunately, it’s everything once you leave the dock that is below par.
I’m a long time fish fanatic but had never gone for deep sea fish. My buddy talked me into it and I spent months waiting to go. Watched every YouTube video I could find and was looking forward to catching a wide variety of fish for the first time.
I’ve fished long enough to know there are good and bad days. So I was not expecting them to just jump into the boat. But our entire week was bad. We saw no marlin at all. Caught only two sail fish and a handful of Dorado.
What made it worse were things that could be controlled. Our first mate spent much of his time complaining about the captain and told me several times that he did not know what he was doing. (I also learned some Spanish curses as the two yelled at each other, so that was a plus.)
We had paid for a boat with air conditioning and it did not work the first two days.
I was supposed to reel in the first fish we hooked, but found the reel did not work. I did pull it in by hand, so that was cool.
We’d spend hours each morning trolling around looking for live bait and then spend hours trolling with dead bait dangling behind us. I’m not a deep sea guy so maybe that is normal. But I questioned why we spent so much time searching for live only to use dead and never really got a straight answer.
Many other guest reported they also caught few fish. Only a handful of the Black marlin that many were the specifically to catch. One guest told me he’d spent a full week the year before chasing one with no luck. The overall consensus was that the fishing was bad and had been for some weeks.
Hopefully, the marlin come back and good fishing returns. But for the cost, it’s hard to recommend this location due to the lack of fishing action. Sad, because the grounds and staff on shore were outstanding.

Date of stay: February 2024
Trip type: Travelled with friends
2  Thank Mi S
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Richard White, Guest Services / Front Office at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 21 February 2024

Dear 722mis,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review and we really appreciate your comments.

It makes us all really happy that you had a great time at the lodge as we are very proud of it and this work is a labor of love that we all put in daily.

January and February is our prime Black Marlin season. We don’t have a huge variety of species over this time of year and people generally come to target the Black Marlin specifically as it is the most difficult Marlin to catch and this time of year is the best time to target them. There are also Blue Marlin around in January but they start going away as the Black bite generally gets stronger in February. The same will happen with the Sailfish and Dorado over this period. This is why so many deep sea anglers join us to target their Black Marlin over this period.

In regards to the AC going down on the boat on your first day- we re-gassed it and, after testing, we believed it was ready to fish. On your second day, the strainer picked up trash in the water while fishing and clogged it so we again had the problem. This was very unfortunate and I understand this makes things worse when the fishing is slow. We do try our best to rectify things that we can control I am glad you enjoyed the upgraded boat after that.

We are very proud of the tackle we use. Our Shimano Tiagra reel are assessed every week and we put new fishing line on every reel for each new guest arrival. Even with this we have some human error unfortunately, which is very uncommon but is not impossible. I checked the reel with you on the dock after you brought it to my attention, thanked you and apologized. When you and I tested the reel together it worked perfectly. The next step, we took the reel apart in the shop and found that a drag screw had sheared off and so I’m not sure if it was human error or a bad screw. However, that is exactly why the failure happened.

Our crews go through a lot of training here at the lodge. To become a mate, all trainee’s must go through two years before being allowed to fish with guests. Then after a minimum of ten years they are eligible to become a Captain but must again go through two years of training. We have all our mates change boats weekly to make sure they learn from as many different captains as possible. We also do this as many guests make good friends with different crews and so we do our best to make it possible to fish with their preferred crews. The Captain you fished with has been a captain for over 16 years and the mate has worked the deck for over 12 years. It is not normal at all for crews to fight and I really appreciate that you brought to my attention that there was an issue between your crew during your stay, so I was able to address it by swopping out your mate and inviting Duncan, our fleet manager, to fish with you.

Thank you very much for your review, we sincerely apologize for the inconveniences that occured, we do genuinely try to go above and beyond to make your fishing experience amazing, but unfortunately sometimes there are certain aspects that are out of our control.

Tight lines and fair seas,
Richard White

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Reviewed 7 February 2024

WOW! Tropic star is truly a bucket list destination, I have dreamed about going since I first saw them highligted in a fishing show 25 years ago. The fishing was amazing 5 Sails, and 80 lb dorado topped the list, no marlin, but it is fishing. The staff is amazing Ross and Pat top the list, they are truly focused on the experience of the guest and they deliver. The Chief and kitchen crew are 5 star plus, to say the food was amazing is an understatment. Great week thank you TSL for the memories.

Room tip: Recommend upgrade to the AC classic Bertrams, the tropic sun is hot
Date of stay: January 2024
  • Trip type: Travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
1  Thank David B
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Mallory White, Guest Services / Front Office at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 12 February 2024

Dear davidb07526JK,

Thank you for sharing your review with us. It's wonderful to hear that a fishing show from 25 years ago led you to Tropic Star Lodge. Your praise for our staff, particularly Ross and Patt, means a lot to us. We agree -our food is top notch and we'll pass the compliments to the Chef and his team. Special congrats on the fishing and we hope to see you back for that Marlin.

All the best wishes,
Mallory and Richard White

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Reviewed 11 January 2024

Finally made the trip that I have been drooling over ever since I opened my first Marlin magazine and it was more than I could have imagined! From the isolated, majestic jungle terrain to the Bahamian themed colors on the Classic 31' Bertram Sportfishers to the world class service of the Tropic Star staff, it is more than a "fishing trip", it's an experience or better described as an adventure! I have nothing but amazing things to say about the entire staff(there are just too many names to mention), but "hats off" to Richard(fishing director) and Ross(property manager), they are two of the hardest working, energetic, and most positive individuals you will ever encounter.

We spent Dec 30th-Jan 6th at the lodge for beginning of Black Marlin season. Tropic Star pairs anglers with Captain, mate, and boat for the week which I think is a wonderful concept. Armando(Capt) and Leo(mate) were first class! We were fortunate enough to release one of the Blacks caught over the week. It wasn't the 700# one released by an angler from Oklahoma, but who's complaining? We caught a good number of sailfish and crazy number of 50#+ dorado. I don't want to mislead, it's still fishing and they unfortunately don't have addresses. By numbers our week was slower than had hoped, but it didn't detract from the overall experience. Piece of advice, go for the AC boats. 6 days in un-airconditioned boat is not for everyone, myself included. Maybe when I was 30, but even then I'd go for the AC.

The accommodations were fantastic. As a couple, we stayed in the standard room (CoCo 01) with 2 double beds which easily convert one massive "Sultan-style" bed by pushing them together. Not surprising, it was hot, equatorial hot! Fortunately, the AC in the unit had no problem keeping up. Housekeeping kept it tidy and refilled the ice bucket daily. A mini-fridge or cooler to keep some cold drinks would be a good addition, but we were able make do with keeping some drinks in the ice bucket to hydrate late at night.

I want to thank Tropic Star staff as a group for making our experience truly a "Bucket list trip". One that we will remember for a lifetime!

Date of stay: January 2024
  • Trip type: Travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
1  Thank kemosabe_oba
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Mallory White, Guest Services / Front Office at Tropic Star Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 18 January 2024

Dear kemosabe_oba,

We are so happy to hear that your bucket list adventure did not disappoint. Congratulations on your Black Marlin, Sailfish, and Dorado! Tropic Star is indeed a unique place in the world and an experience like no other. We’re glad that our fishing crew and staff were able to bring the pages of Marlin Magazine to life. Thank you for visiting us and for taking the time to write your review. We appreciate the feedback very much. We hope to see you back again soon for your next fishing adventure.

Best wishes,
Mallory and Richard White

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