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Costa Rica – A Fisherman’s Paradise

Posted by on March 7, 2014 0 Comments Category : Fishing Blog

There was a sharp tug on my line. The gears of my spinning reel sounded. The whirring grind signaled that a fish was fighting against the drag system. It made one strong run and then weakened enough to come along.

I wondered what it was as I reeled in between renewed tugs. It was my first day fishing off the west coast of Costa Rica. I could expect to catch almost anything.

Cap Ferret - Arcachon - Océan Atlantique - Picture Image Photography
Costa Rica is a fishing paradiseGrand Parc – Bordeaux, France / Foter / CC BY

Costa Rica is a fishing paradise. This small country with the Caribbean Sea on its eastern edge and the Pacific Ocean to the west has 1,000 miles of coastline. Add its many rivers and lakes, set among half a dozen geographic and climatic zones and it’s obvious you can experience almost any type of fishing you want.

For bass addicts, Lake Arenal, at the foot of the volcano, is the country’s largest lake. It is attracting serious anglers from around the world in pursuit of Rainbow Bass. These 5 to 15 pound fish are colorful cousins to the North American Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, and are caught with similar tackle and methods. Spin casting with spoons, wobblers, poppers, etc, bait casting, or fly fishing. North of Arenal, Cano Negro Lagoon and its river, and Laguna Hule are also great Rainbow Bass fisheries.



The mountainous upper sections of Costa Rica’s rivers on the Pacific side are home of the Machaca, a prized fighting fish that can be taken on dry flies. These aggressive 2 to 10 pound fish are related to Piranha, though their diet includes a lot of vegetation from overhanging trees, berries, seeds and fruit. This diet belies their wicked looking teeth. Their chunky muscular bodies make them look like larger, more robust Piranha.

In the brackish river estuaries of the north east Caribbean coast giant Tarpon, Tilapaa and Garfish are the attractions. The lower reaches of rivers just at the edge of tidal influences also have good Snook and Cubera fishing. Rio Savegre, Naranjo and Paquita are a few notable rivers. Drifting downstream in a boat is the most effective way to cover these waters, though some success can be had from the banks.



Of course the main sport fishing attractions are on the salt water. Costa Rica with its two coasts offers most of the trophy pelagic species: Marlin, Barracuda, Wahoo (Ono) off-shore, and Amberjack, Rooster Fish, Snappers and Cabrilla over the reefs and among the rocky points closer in-shore.

Volcanic and seismic rift action has created a jagged Pacific coastline with countless submarine valleys and peaks, islets, points and bays. The depths and outcrops form a complex and nurturing habitat for the ocean’s predatory wanderers.

The Caribbean side is largely the result of massive coral reef structures, an extension of a system that is second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Off the Caribbean coast there is excellent fishing for Wahoo 10 to 30 miles off-shore. From May into the fall Tarpon are taken in calm conditions half a kilometer off-shore. Farther out you can occasionally hook into Atlantic Billfish. After a heavy rainfall Dorado, also called Dolphin or Mahi-Mahi, are found near the river mouths attracted by out-flowing water and the feed that comes with it.

Miles out in the blue Pacific is where the big trophy fish cruise. Marlin, Tuna and Sailfish, as well as Dorado and Wahoo are the quarry for deep sea ocean trolling. The Marlin are caught year round, but the summer months are peak season.

Yellowfin Tuna ranging from 15 to 30 pound run in schools, and huge 200-500 pound Bluefin Tuna are taken all year long with the fall months being the most productive. The Dorado, off the Pacific coast is also a fall fish, brought near the shore by rain water flowing out of the rivers. These guys move in closer to shore, and often congregate under and around flotsam like logs and weed clumps.

On my own first day on the Pacific coast it hadn’t been long before I hooked into a fish. My line slackened and I reeled quickly to bring in the fish. It was not what I expected. It was a Needlefish, two feet long and thin as a stick with a fierce looking set of needle-like teeth arrayed along its beak-like jaws.

Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season he travels the world looking for a story. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel, providers of adventure tours to Costa Rica and throughout Latin America.

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