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- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
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- Adrenaline Rush
Fishing expert Jerry Ruhlow (tel. 800/308-3394, www.costaricaoutdoors.com) has a column on fishing in the weekly Tico Times and also publishes Costa Rica Outdoors, a bimonthly dedicated to fishing and outdoor sports.
Carlos Barrantes has a tackle shop, La Casa del Pescador (Calle 2, Avenidas 18/20, San José, tel. 506/2222-1470).
In North America, Rod & Reel Adventures (tel. 800/356-6982, www.rodreeladventures.com) and Sportfishing Worldwide (tel. 513/984-8611 or 800/638-7405, www.sfww.com) offer fishing packages to Costa Rica.
When your fishing-loving friend tells you all about the big one that got away in Costa Rica, don’t believe it. Yes, the fish come big in Costa Rica. But hooking trophy contenders comes easy; the fish almost seem to line up to get a bite on the hook. The country is the world’s undisputed sailfish capital on the Pacific, and the tarpon capital on the Caribbean.
Fishing varies from season to season, but hardly a month goes by without some International Game Fish Association record being broken. No place in the world has posted more “super grand slams”—all three species of marlin and one or more sailfish on the same day—than the Pacific coastal waters of Costa Rica, where it’s not unusual to raise 25 or more sailfish in a single day.
Boat charters run around $250–400 a half day, and $350–650 for a full day for up to four people, with lunch and beverage included.
The hard-fighting blue marlin swims in these waters year-round, although this “bull of the ocean” is most abundant in June and July, when large schools of tuna also come close to shore. June–October is best for dorado. Then, too, yellowfin tuna weighing up to 90 kilograms offer a rod-bending challenge. Wahoo are also prominent, though less dependable. Generally, summer months are the best in the north; winter months are best in the south.
Tamarindo is the most prominent fishing center in the northern Pacific (the marina at Playa Flamingo remains closed). However, northern Guanacaste is largely unfishable December–March because of heavy winds: Boat operators move boats south to Los Sueños and Quepos during the windy season, when the Central Pacific posts its best scores. Here, Quepos and Playa Herradura have major marinas and year-round sportfishing; several operators offer multiday trips from Quepos as far afield as the southerly waters off Drake Bay and Caño Island. To the south, Golfito is the base for another popular fishing paradise, the Golfo Dulce.
Inland and Coastal Fishing
Part of the beauty of fishing Costa Rica, says one fisherman, is that “you can fish the Caribbean at dawn, try the Pacific in the afternoon, and still have time to watch a sunset from a mountain stream.” Forget the sunset—there are fish in those mountains. More than a dozen inland rivers provide action on rainbow trout, machaca (Central America’s answer to American shad), drum, guapote, mojarra (Costa Rica’s bluegill with teeth), and bobo (a moss-eating mullet).
A good bet is the Río Savegre and other streams around San Gerardo de Dota, Copey, and Cañón. Caño Negro Lagoon and the waters of the Río San Juan present fabulous potential for snook and tarpon. Lake Arenal is famed for its feisty rainbow bass (guapote), running 3.5 kilograms or more. A freshwater fishing license is mandatory; the limit is a maximum of five specimens (of any one species) per angler per day. The closed season runs September–December. Lodges and outfitters provide the permit (license, not fish), as does the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (Avenida 1, Calle 2/4, San José).
Costa Rica’s northeastern shores, lowland lagoons, and coastal rivers offer the world’s hottest tarpon for the light-tackle enthusiast. At prime fishing spots, tarpon average 35 kilograms (sometimes reaching up to 70 kg). These silver rockets are caught in the jungle rivers and backwater lagoons, and ocean tarpon fishing just past the breakers is always dependable. When you tire of wrestling these snappy fighters, you can take on snook—another worthy opponent. Fall is the best time to get a shot at the trophy snook that return to the beaches around the river mouths to spawn.
The all-tackle IGFA record came from Costa Rica, which regularly delivers 14-kilogram fish. Tarpon are caught year-round. Snook season runs from late August into January, with a peak August–November. November–January the area enjoys a run of calba, the local name for small snook that average two kilograms and are exceptional sport on light tackle. Jacks are also common year-round in Caribbean waters.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition