Sportfishing in Costa Rica
Sportfishing is justly world-famous in Costa Rica. This fisherman’s paradise has two oceans to the east and west and many inland rivers. To quote:-
“Where else can an angler wake up in the morning with the option of fishing marlin, sailfish, tuna, or dorado in the Pacific; tarpon and snook on the Caribbean; rainbow bass in a magnificent 22-mile long lake, or trout in the mountains?” (Tico Times, Exploring Costa Rica)
The international competitions held in Costa Rica annually testify that the fishing is world-class, and 99 world records from the waters of Costa Rica recorded in the 2000 edition of the International Game Fishing Association’s world record game fish.
What is also great is that distances to the fishing hot spots on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts are really relatively short. The furthest is within 40 minutes of flying time from the centrally-located capital of San José. 2 local airlines provide daily scheduled flights, and there are also efficient charter services that are particularly worthwhile for groups. Most places in Costa Rica can be reached by car in 3-6 hours.
Fishing by region
World-renowned for billfish. Marlin and sailfish move northwards up the coast, starting in November when they arrive in large numbers in the Golfito area, carrying up to Quepos for the December-April season, reaching southern Nicoya (around Samara) from February-April, and finally arriving in the north of Nicoya (around Flamingo) in May-September. So they can be caught almost year-round!
Billfish are not the only attraction: inshore fishing for yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, wahoo, sierra mackerel, almaco Jack, and jack cravelle is also very popular, as well as for a variety of snapper including Pacific cubera or dog tooth, roosterfish up to 75 pounds, grouper, black-tipped sharks, and a variety of other reef and bottom dwellers.
The main fishing centers are the Flamingo area, Quepos, and the Osa Peninsula. Flamingo beach has a full-service marina and is the major sport-fishing center in the area. Boats also charter out of Coco Beach, Tamarindo, Ocotal, Potrero, Brasilito, and a few points in between. There are boats operating from Cabo Blanco, Nosara, Garza, Samara, and Carrillo beaches. In Central and South Pacific, Quepos is the main fishing center, but there are charters out of Puntarenas, the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, Jaco Beach, Punta Leona, and Drake’s Bay. There are also new fishing operations and lodges close to Golfito and Zancudo.
For sportfishing packages in the Osa Peninsula region and Drake Bay.
In the north and covering Barra Colorado, Tortuguero, and Parismina. Equally famous for its excellent snook and tarpon. The network of canals, estuaries, and seashore provides rich opportunity. Rainbow bass (locally known as guapote), catfish, alligator gar, and other species are also common. The best time to fish is during the dry season, December to early May, and during the short break (called “veranillo”) of late July to early August. This area has high rainfall, more than 200 inches annually.
A 22-mile long scenic lake alongside the highly active Arenal volcano, very popular for freshwater fishing, particularly rainbow bass (guapote). Further north and close to the Nicaraguan border is another network of rivers and seasonal lakes, Cano Negro, where there are plentiful tarpon, snook, and panfish.
Shore fishing from both coasts is great for snapper, snook, and other fish.
Mountain fishing, often reasonably close to San Jose, offers flyfishers the chance to catch trout and other local species.
Fishing by season
Tarpon: all year round, high season from December through May.
Snook: peaks from March-May and again from September – the end of November
Kingfish, Spanish and Cero Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Barracuda: abundant close to shore any time the ocean is flat.
Fat snook (calba): peaks from mid-Nov to late Jan but often appears earlier
Billfish, Atlantic sailfish, and occasional blue marlin: almost any time of the year. Most are caught February – September.
Dorado: just outside river mouths throughout the year. Best fishing is when the river runoff carries out debris that forms inshore trash lines.
Tripletail: January – June.
Wahoo: plentiful on the outside from early February to mid-June
Northern Pacific – Gulf of Papagayo to Cabo Blanco
Marlin: found every month of the year, especially from Nov to early March, reducing April – early June and picking up August-September.
Sailfish: throughout the year, the peak season May-August. Slowest month August-November, with September as the lowest.
Wahoo: the season starts with rains in May and peaks July- August. We caught around rocky points and islands, sometimes offshore.
Roosterfish: available all year. In Papagayo Bay, more are caught November – March. Roosters like the structure of the shoreline and islands usually found in 50-60 feet of water.
Tuna: peaks from August-October. Yellowfin and bigeye tuna are located at Catalina Island (30 minutes offshore), where schools of 12-20 pounders are abundant. Frequent large concentrations of 40-60 pound tuna. Many 200-400 pounders are caught each year.
Central Pacific – Cabo Blanco to Drake’s Bay
Marlin: October is the best month, also good Sept & November. Blues and rare blacks can sometimes be found at any time of the year.
Sailfish: best from mid-December to end-April when they begin moving north. A few sailfish always appear June-September.
Wahoo: not frequent around Quepos, but in late June – early August, they can be located on Drake’s Bay and Cafe Island.
Dorado: starts with winter rains late in May that wash debris from the river mouths creating the inshore trash lines that dolphins like.
Tuna: easily found throughout the year along the Pacific coast, more plentiful June-Sept. Most are 8-12 pounders; some catches are 100-200 pounds.
Snook: found in many river mouths along the coast, like the Sierpe River and Lagoon. The best months are July – November, during the heavy rainy season.
Roosterfish: better in Parrita, Palo Seco, Damas river mouths, and around Dominical and Drake’s Bay. Best fishing June – early September.
South Pacific – Golfito & Playa Zancudo
Marlin: peaks August-December. If the water temperature is up, you can occasionally pick up striped, blue, or black.
Sailfish: peaks December-March. Slows from April to early June increase again August-September.
Tuna: best fishing for 100-pound and up yellowfin follows the marlin and sailfish season, but schools can be found almost always.
Dorado: best late May- October when rivers are flowing full.
Wahoo: Not abundant can sometimes be caught during the year around the structure off Matapalo Cape.
Roosterfish: virtually any month of the year. The region is famous for big roosters.
Snook: all year, best from mid-May through July and in January / February.