Month: January 2018

Baseball legend, all-star fisherman: Wade Boggs in Costa Rica

Wade Boggs with a Costa Rican snook. (Todd Staley / The Tico Times

I have never been inside a NFL locker room, but I can image what it sounds like. I sat in the restaurant area of Crocodile Bay Resort and listened to huge men who once wore uniforms from NFL teams in Miami, Tampa, Oakland, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. They were there to fish and raise money for cystic fibrosis in the Redbone/Boomer Esiason tournament and were throwing some humorous jabs back and forth at each other.

In the corner sat a superstar in his own right, but in baseball, not football. He was talking intently to a 10-year-old kid, not about sports played with a ball, but about fishing.

Considering his age, this kid was a walking Wikipedia when it comes to fish. He knew species, their habits, what they ate, and what waters they were found. Just name a fish and he could tell you all about it. The reason he cornered this man he was talking to for was that he saw him carrying a fly rod down the pier. He wanted to know how you to catch big fish on a fly rod, and was not too shy to ask.

Mark Cooper, a giant of a man and former lineman for the Denver Broncos, hollered across the room towards the man talking fishing with the kid.

“Now Boggs over there,” he laughed, “played a sport that you play in your pajamas,” referring to the uniforms of big league baseball players. Wade Boggs just grinned and continued talking fishing. The joke was all in fun, as Boggs and Cooper were fishing partners in the tournament.

Bogg finesses a sailfish on a fly rod. Courtesy of the Crocodile Bay Resort

Boggs, whose Major League baseball career lasted 18 seasons, was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in a first-round ballot in 2005. His career started with the Boston Red Sox in 1982; he finished the season with a .349 batting average. He followed that with a string of seasons batting over .350, and he is the only player to have seven consecutive 200 hit seasons.

He had two World Series appearances, winning with the Yankees in 1996; played in 12 consecutive All-Star games; and won two Golden Glove awards and five batting championships. He hit a towering home run to collect his 3000th hit playing for his hometown Tampa Devil Rays, where his finished his career in 1999. On May 26, 2016 the Boston Red Sox officially retired his number, #26, and hung his jersey in Fenway Park beside the great Ted Williams’.

Boggs was considered not only one of the most talented players in history, but also one of the most superstitious. He never faltered in his game day regime. He would wake up at the same time on every game day, start the day with a meal of chicken in some form, or another and always left his house at the same time. He always took batting practice at 5:17, always took 150 ground balls, and always did his wind sprints at 7:17.

While he is not Jewish, he always used his bat to write the Hebrew word “chai” (life) in the batter’s box before stepping up the plate. A definition for “chai” I found that suits Boggs is, “Here I am” or “Here am I.” It’s about being here, and close by, and present, but also about readiness, awareness, awakeness. So perhaps it’s more of a “Here I am! Look, it’s me! I’m present, listening, and ready to roll.”

Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (L) and Mark Cooper of the Denver Broncos (R) make the author look like a little guy. Courtesy of the Crocodile Bay Resort

Boggs is generous with his time for causes he feels are worthwhile, especially when they involve youth. He and his wife, Debbie, started The Wade Boggs Foundation for Youth Athletics, a National Heritage Foundation. It raises money to help children in the Tampa area participate in sports. In 2013, Wade became a partner/investor in Field of Dreams/All-Star Ball Park Heaven, a youth baseball and softball complex adjacent to the iconic cornfield in Iowa where the Field of Dreams movie was filmed.

What most people don’t know about Wade Boggs is that he is an all-star fisherman. He only lacks swordfish and spearfish to have every type of billfish that swims under his belt. An avid fly-fishermen, he donates his time and travels all over the world to fish in charity events to raise money to fight cystic fibrosis. He is a frequent visitor to Costa Rica.

In 2016, he received the International Game Fish Association’s Chester H Wolfe Sportsman of the Year award for his participation with youth and marine conservation. He has a special affection for Costa Rica and serves on the Board of Directors of FECOP, the sport fishing advocacy and conservation federation, representing seven sportfishing associations and two fishing clubs in Costa Rica.

Along with his wife Debbie, Wade hosts “Finchasers,” which airs Saturday morning on the Destination Channel. They travel to different areas chasing IGFA world records with success. On one program Debbie broke 4 existing largemouth bass records.

One of the most accessible celebrity athletes, Boggs is in great demand for speaking engagements across the country. As the little 10-year-old in Costa Rica – who had no idea what a star he was talking to – learned, Boggs loves to talk about fishing. It doesn’t matter who you are. If it’s fishing, you’ll have a great conversation.

Oh, is Boggs superstitious about his fishing? You betcha! He always wears a necklace of the species he is chasing, wears his lucky hat, and tosses 26 cents in the water over his right shoulder. Then he is ready to catch fish.

Todd Staley is a Tico Times columnist and director of communications for FECOP, a sport fishing advocacy federation recently chosen to represent Costa Rica in the Panamerican Sportfishing Delegation, formed by groups from the United States and all Latin America countries. One of the group’s goals is to get sportfishing recognized as a competitive sport and to organize teams from various nations to compete in the Pan-American games. The group also seeks a common front on conservation issues. Costa Rica will host the Federation Assembly in November 2018 followed by a roosterfish tournament with competitors from the different nations. Learn more at fishcostarica.org.

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Fishing as an Olympic Sport?

Fishing as an Olympic Sport?

Recreational groups meet at Pan-American Delegation to discuss sport being added to Olympics and Pan-American Games

Winter sailfish off Stuart, Florida

Could sport fishing be in the next winter Olympics?

Recreational fishing groups from the United States, Mexico and several Latin American countries hope to make sport fishing an Olympic sport in the near future.

According to a press release from FECOP, a Costa Rican non-profit sport-fishing organization, the groups met in Cancun, Mexico, in November for the inaugural assembly of the PanAmerican Sport-Fishing Delegation. The purpose of the group is to promote sport fishing as a competitive sport, with hopes of it being added to the Pan-American Games, and share a unified front on fishing conservation. FECOP represented Costa Rica during the meeting.

The release states the Olympics addition would be reliant on cooperation from the European countries. Golf, table tennis and handball recently were added as Olympic sports. Skateboarding, surfing and climbing will be included in the 2020 Games.

The release cites the Confederation International of Sport Fishing, which says the countries from North, Central, and South America making up the Americas “are not yet sufficiently organized for sport fishing to be considered for the Olympics.” An international governing body for fishing applied for the sport’s inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, but it was denied. According to BBC.com, fishing was part of the 1900 games in Paris but it was an unofficial sport and there was no winner — and only six countries participated.

There are four Pan-American tournaments — three saltwater — scheduled for 2018. A snook tournament will be in Tabasco, Mexico, and an offshore tournament will happen at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Guatemala also might host another snook tournament. – Article from www.saltwatersportsman.com

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Explaining The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

Costa Rica Fishing Conservation: Why is the Costa Rica Tuna Decree so Important?

There is nothing like enjoying a fresh yellowfin tuna sushi, sashimi, or even a big fat juicy fresh tuna steak when your arms are almost too tired to lift the chopsticks. Recreational anglers are catching more tuna than ever all along the Costa Rican Pacific seaboard. Fighting a tuna on rod and reel is like having your line attached to a freight train. The increased availability of tuna has been a saving grace for many a charter captain in the off season for billfish.
People are asking: Why so many tuna?

yellowfin tuna sashimi In 2012 FECOP (Federacion Costarricense de Pesca), a non-governmental group made up of different sport fishing associations around the country began researching the tuna purse industry in Costa Rican waters. Territorial waters are 11 times greater than Costa Rica’s terrestrial area. Costa Rica does not have any national flagged tuna vessels and purse licenses are sold to and operated by foreign flagged vessels in Costa Rican waters. FECOP approached then President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla explaining a problem existed and she advised them to submit a project supporting their claim.

FECOP then discovered that over the 2008-2011 period, 193 purse vessels operated in Costa Rican waters while INCOPESCA the governing body of fishing in Costa Rica reported only 81 licensed vessels sold for the same period. Apparently 114 or 58% of the vessels were operating illegally. Much of the tuna never made it to port in the country. Costa Rica benefited a mere $37 a ton for tuna stored.

Knowing the government would be slow to react to just a group of sport fishers’ complaints, FECOP held meetings with the longline fleet. After decades of throwing stones at each other the two groups decided to present the project to the government together. The longline fleet expressed if there were a steady supply of tuna available they would have no interest in sailfish which are a major bycatch problem in Costa Rica with non-selective types of fishing gear.
President Chinchilla signed the “tuna decree,” as it is known near the end of her term and newly elected President Luis Guillermo Solis delayed the publication of the decree, but it eventually passed in October of 2014. The decree protects over 200,000 square kilometers of territorial water (44%) from purse sein operations, (see map). The most important area to recreational anglers is the first 45 miles from the coastline in which sein operations are now prohibited.

In March of 2017, using data supplied by FECOP’s Director of Science Moises Mug, INCOPESCA reduced tune purse sein licenses sold to foreign fleets from 43 vessels down to 9 for the rest of the year. The government amended the agreement and sold 13 licenses. A new decree is waiting to be signed that would only permit 8 licenses permanently. It is estimated 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch in purse sein operations were saved in Costa Rican waters in 2017 alone.

According to agreements in the Tuna Decree there are a few provisions that have yet to be implemented. A management plan for the coastal and special polygons. Polygons A and D on map. An onboard observer program must be created for longline fleets, and a research program including horizontal and vertical migration using archival tags. The management workshops have already begun with sport and commercial fisherman, government agencies and NGO’s all participating.

INCOPESCA, INA the governmental technical institute that trains for many occupations including different types of fishing, and FECOP have all teamed up for a year- long “greenstick” and vertical line study which started with the first voyage in October. Greenstick is a method of fishing tuna with almost zero bycatch that is common in the Atlantic side of the United States but INCOPESCA requires technical support studies done in Costa Rica before they will give licenses for fish them here. With more tuna available and a growing demand for sustainably caught tuna on the International market with a higher value at the dock, hopes are one day a portion of the longline fleet will convert to greenstick fishing. This would decrease the amount of billfish bycatch tremendously.

FECOP was formed in 2008 by a small group of anglers who discovered 480,000 kilos of sailfish were being exported annually into the United States. Much of this was served in seafood restaurants as smoked seafood spread and people had no idea they were eating sailfish. FECOP convinced the government to stop the exportation of sailfish but it can still be sold on the National market as a low-cost supplement to the Costa Rican diet.


The first major conservation project FECOP tackled was the creation of the largest Marine Area of Responsible Fishing in Central America. Sport fishing is allowed and small scale artisanal fishing is permitted in the Golfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, but shrimp trawlers and gill nets are no longer allowed. A Golfo Dulce Commission was formed with representatives of all the users of the gulf as well as governmental agencies and NGO’s who meet monthly to manager the area.

FECOP has not existed without controversy. While the whole Costa Rican sport fishing community should have been celebrating the Tuna Decree when it passed, they were distracted by a campaign from The Billfish Foundation labeling FECOP as “quasi-green environmentalists” and a threat to sport fishing in Costa Rica. The controversy started when a FECOP member voiced his opinion at a public forum on regulating more the organized billfish tournaments in Costa Rica. TBF ran with it claiming it was FECOP’s stance to discredit the organization.
A blessing in disguise, the incident prompted FECOP to re-evaluate itself. The staff was reduced and Moises Mug, one of the most respected marine scientists in the country was hired full time. Today their agenda is quite simple. Promoting sport fishing in Costa Rica both recreationally and professionally with a focus on bycatch, research and communication. The staff is supported by a board of directors from both the recreational and professional fishing sector including sportsman and Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs who is an avid fisherman and conservationist.

Continuous maintenance of the Tuna Decree will be needed in 2018 which Dr. Mug will oversee. Henry Marin will head up a socio-economic study concentrating on coastal communities individually, demonstrating the importance of sport fishing.

One study FECOP will be doing that will be especially exciting is Pacific Tarpon. Not indigenous to Pacific waters the numbers caught on the Pacific coastline has been increasing annually. It is suspected they have come through the Panama Canal and are breeding in Pacific waters. Fish will be captured, tagged, a tissue sample taken and then released. Genetics and feeding habits can be determined by a tissue sample. The study will be done in the southern zone where more fish have been taken, but tarpon have been caught up on the Nicoya Peninsula and one was caught recently as far north as El Salvador.

More information can be found about FECOP at www.fishcostarica.org

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Sport fishing in Costa Rica: where to go, what you’ll find

Costa Rica Fishing Guide: Where to Go and What You’ll Find

Published by Todd Staley for the Tico Times January 8, 2018

Sailfish dancing on the Costa Rican Pacific. (Courtesy of Pat Ford)

I remember years ago I would see an article about fishing in Costa Rica in a fishing magazine, or a television show about catching tarpon by the boat load in the jungle. It started a series of “bucket list” fishing fantasies in my head. I made my first trip to Costa Rica over 30 years ago, caught and released a ton of fish, and told all my friends when I got back to the States: “I don’t know how yet, but I am going to figure out a way to live down there.”

Twenty-seven years have passed since I moved to Costa Rica, and I have been fortunate enough to run world-renowned fishing operations over the years. Big fish tend to beat me up more these days than vice versa, but the fever for both the sport and the country has never left me.

Costa Rica has so much to offer all types of anglers that it is a shame not to experience it. Here is a rundown of some of the many sport fishing opportunities.

Freshwater:

Guapote (rainbow bass) are available in Lake Arenal, along with machaca, a relative of the South American piranha that is quite acrobatic when hooked. The rivers and lagoons in Los Chiles, which is in the Northern Zone, and all along the Caribbean seaboard have those species as well, plus tarpon and snook that also venture deep into the freshwater ecosystems. Several types of other cichlads, known as morjarra are found deep in the jungle and make for great ultra-light fun.

High in the mountains that divide the Pacific coast from Cartago, known as the Cerro de la Muerte, anglers will find wild rainbow trout in almost every creek. In that region, San Gerardo de Dota is a popular area and is also great for birdwatching species like the elusive quetzal. Fishing in a National Park is not permitted, so check that the area you are in is not park property.

If you would like to take the kids, there are trout hatcheries along the Pan American Highway, which runs through the Cerro de la Muerte. You can fish at those hatcheries and they charge you by weight. Stone Mountain Outdoors in Santa Ana has good information on trout fishing.

Saltwater:

The Caribbean side is world-famous for tarpon and snook. Tarpon school up outside the mouth of the river in pods that cover several acres. When it is hot, it is red hot and you will pull on big fish all day. As mentioned above, they will also enter the rivers and back lagoons.

The fishing in the ocean is done with lures or sardines on circle hooks. Inside the mouth of the river, it is almost always done with artificial lures. The late Bill Barnes made fly fishing for tarpon popular in the area.

Snook are also taken in the rivers and lagoons as well as the beach. There are four species of snook on the Caribbean side. The fat snook (calva) run that starts in December offers a chance to catch lots of snook on light tackle. It is a smaller species of snook and averages 5 to 8 pounds. The monsters that made Costa Rica famous in the fishing world are usually taken off the beach at the rivermouth. Rarely will you see lots of fish, but you have a chance to tangle with a once-in-a-lifetime fish of 35 pounds or more.

The Pacific side of the country boasts two fishing seasons, with the central and southern regions most productive November through April. In the north, the good bite is from May through December.

The last few years have seen record numbers of sailfish on the Pacific side. El Niño slowed the bite last year, but during the two previous years, records were broken for the number of releases in the Los Sueños and Marina Pez Vela tournaments. Last year in the Offshore World Tournament at Marina Pez Vela, the sailfish were noticeably absent, while marlin released records were crushed.

Dorado or dolphinfish have started off as a bang this fishing season, showing what seems to be a recovery of the stocks that migrate through here. Dorado is not only a beautiful fighting fish but also great table fare.

Also in the bluewater are marlin, tuna, and wahoo. Tuna have made a great comeback after the area in which purse seiners are allowed to work was reduced 200,000 square kilometers in 2014, and the reduction of purse sein licenses granted to foreign fleets was reduced from 43 to 13 in 2017. There have been phenomenal catches of marlin around man made marine eco-systems. You probably won’t see a grander (a marlin over 1000 lbs) here in Costa Rica, but the Pacific offers blue, black, and striped marlin.

Roosterfish are the Holy Grail inshore on the Pacific side, and are available there all year, unlike other areas. The average is 10-15 lbs, but 50-lb fish are common. Also available inshore are a large variety of snappers, grouper, jacks, African pompano and others. When the water is clear, wahoo and dorado venture close to shore. Roosters, snook, jacks and snapper can be taken here casting from the beach.

Don’t pass up a chance to fish in Costa Rica. And remember: a Costa Rican fishing license is required for all anglers over 16 years of age.

This article originally appeared in our 2017-2018 High Season Print Edition. Read more hereabout where to download or pick up a copy today.

Todd Staley is a Tico Times columnist and director of communications for FECOP, a sport fishing advocacy federation recently chosen to represent Costa Rica in the Panamerican Sportfishing Delegation, formed by groups from the United States and all Latin America countries. One of the group’s goals is to get sportfishing recognized as a competitive sport and to organize teams from various nations to compete in the Pan-American games. The group also seeks a common front on conservation issues. Costa Rica will host the Federation Assembly in November 2018 followed by a roosterfish tournament with competitors from the different nations. Learn more atfishcostarica.org.

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