Fish inshore and offshore for trophy blue marlin, sailfish and other species in the Central American country of Costa Rica.
By Jess McGlothlin
Home to vast, lush jungles, sparkling white sand beaches and a thriving resort scene, Costa Rica may appear, at first, to fall below famed destinations such as Belize or the Yucatan for sportfishermen. But remember this rugged, rainforested country features coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific, meaning there is a plethora of water simply waiting to be fished.
Why Fish Costa Rica?
Thanks to a well-established tourism industry, Costa Rica is easily accessible via commercial airlines, and boasts the infrastructure required for a comfortable fishing destination. Anglers and non-anglers alike will find themselves captivated by sandy beaches, an array of wildlife (including seemingly endless varieties of tropical birds), ancient volcanoes and a rich pre-Columbian history. Its short distance from the United States makes it a popular vacation destination for American travelers.
The Species You Can Expect to Catch
Many anglers travel to Costa Rica with sailfish and trophy blue marlin in mind, and for good reason. The deeper waters surrounding the country are teeming with striped, black and blue marlin. Sailfish anglers often prefer blue marlin, in part due to their large size and dynamic colors, but black and striped marlin offer impressive fights and are well worth the chase.
Tarpon fishing is a fast-rising trend in Costa Rica; anglers seek out the silver king in jungle-backed inshore fisheries worthy of a photograph on their own. These are the same waters greats such as Earnest Hemingway and Zane Grey fished more than 50 years ago, and there is a reason the writing legends were drawn to the locale. The combined drama of a jungle fishery paired with excellent fishing — for tarpon, but also snook, wahoo, Jack Crevalle and many other species — is enough to tempt any angler regardless of skill level.
Inshore Fishing in Costa Rica
The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica offers a wide variety of inshore fishing. Roosterfish, Cubera
found nestled amongst the points and rocks of the coastline. There’s no real season — this kind
of fishing can be had year-round — and with the help of a knowledgeable local guide and the
correct fly / lure patterns, kids and adults alike can experience a fun, productive day of inshore
Offshore Fishing in Costa Rica
Offshore fishing is certainly what comes to mind when most anglers mention Costa Rica. The fertile currents of the Pacific pass right off the coast, meaning productive offshore fishing grounds can be had with a mere 45 minutes to one-and-a-half hours. Many offshore charters frequent popular fishing grounds, including Drake Bay, Quepos, Los Suenos, Golfito, Tamarindo and Papagayo Gulf. With the exception of Tamardino, each of these areas is home to marinas (boats are instead moored at Tamarindo) and some of the best fishermen in the region.
Offshore fishing in Costa Rica is productive year-round. However, some areas are best during certain times of the year for particular species. Large schools of Pacific sailfish typically show up around December and will remain in the area until April. During the “off season” offshore anglers can occupy themselves with dorado, marlin, sailfish and tuna. Increased numbers of marlin are often found during the summer months, following the yellowfin tuna runs. September and October can often bring wet weather but can be productive for both billfish and meat fish (often tuna or dorado). While many charters will fish the seamounts or FADs (fish aggregating devices), traditional day charters are often very successful thanks to the healthy fishery.
Places to Stay When Fishing in Costa Rica
A popular tourist destination, Costa Rica is home to a bevy of both traditional resort options and smaller, more intimate tropical escapes. Either of these options may prove a good fit for anglers traveling with non-fishing family or friends — the rest of the group will find plenty to occupy their time, while the fishermen can connect with a local guide or charter service and often simply be picked up at the hotel with a minimum of fuss.
A number of fishing-centric sportfishing lodge options are also available, where anglers can stay at the lodge and simply walk out their doorstep to an awaiting boat each morning. Well-suited to groups who would like to spend every one of their vacation days fishing, these lodges range from luxe accommodation to fish-camp-style camps. Eagle Review is proud to list a variety of fishing options, including lodges and stand-along charter services.
Pack the Correct Equipment
As with all saltwater and tropical expeditions, anglers will be well-served to pack along quick-dry, sun-protecting clothing. Quick-dry pants and shorts can be matched with lightweight long-sleeved tech shirts for sun protection and comfort on the water. Consider a ball cap, full-coverage hat, Buff or some combination of all three, and sun gloves for both sun protection and a guard against line burns.
Most charters will supply the necessary fishing equipment, but fly anglers typically should plan on bringing their own. Inshore anglers can bring 7-, 8- and 9-weights, while anglers seeking sailfish should bring 12- to 14-weight rods loaded with top-class reels that hold at least 300 yards of backing. Marlin dictate a 14- or 15-weight rod with the same backing. Rods should be fast-action and have fighting butts. Most fly-fishing in Costa Rica calls for floating lines (look for weight-forward or heavy shooting heads) and the expected inshore saltwater flies. Marlin and sailfish anglers should pack poppers in pink, green and yellow, and perhaps blue and white.
Whether anglers are traveling with other fishy friends or making the most of a few days fishing during the family holiday, Costa Rica is an easily-accessible destination. Inshore anglers who prefer fishing off a panga for Snook, Tarpon, Jack Crevalle and other species will find plenty of opportunities to occupy their days, and offshore anglers can get lost in the siren call of trophy billfish. Visit the Central American nation of Costa Rica for a memorable sporting trip — and perhaps your best holiday to date.
Eagle Review’s Top Costa Rica Fishing Destinations: