Month: May 2019

The future of Costa Rica fishing

Fishing for the Next Generation in Quepos

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos

Scott Cutter / Marina Pez Vela May 20, 2019

Published for The Tico Times

The Tico Times

Having completed the 20th edition of the Offshore World Championship in May, and the 7th edition of this iconic event here at Marina Pez Vela, the opportunity to reflect on the impact of fishing on our local community and tourism in the area is upon us.

While Manuel Antonio is firmly established as an ecotourism destination, for so many of us, we forget that fishing has long been a way of life and subsistence for the local Quepos community and that early sportfishing exploration was some of the first tourism to the area.

The history and roots of the ocean and fishing are deeply rooted in this community, and it would be easy to write a book, or two, on the history of both artisanal fishing as well as the history of sportfishing in the area along with its socio-economic impacts. 

That being said, I wanted to take a minute to share some thoughts and perspective on the sustainability of fishing in the area and the generational component which is visible now, more than ever.

At Marina Pez Vela, there is a tremendous commitment to sustainability in all forms of the word.  Our commitment to our community, its growth and well-being from a cultural and economic standing is unwavering and very much a part of our DNA at the project.

In regards to fishing, Costa Rica in general — led by agencies such as FECOP and members of the private sector — has been a global leader in sustainability in the fishing world. Costa Rica was one of the first countries to implement mandatory use of the circle hook in its sport fishing practices, and today it bans the practice of taking live billfish out of the water for photographs. There is an acute awareness of the importance of protecting the very things that have made this destination a hot spot for anglers, and Marina Pez Vela is now the top location in the world for the Gray Fish Tag Research foundation.

These efforts are crucial to the future of the project and the ability to ensure that our waters are rich in marine life for generations to come.

Culturally, we are already seeing multi-generation teams of captains and mates working the growing charter and private fleets in the marina. With all the new tourism and investments in marina, high-paying jobs are being created that allow our local community amazing opportunities in all areas of the fishing world, including captain, mates, marine mechanics, electrical engineering and canvass, to name a few.

More and more Quepos youth have family members or friends who have been part of the industry and are dreaming of their chance to learn more about fishing and its magic.

At this year’s Offshore World Championship, we had an amazing opportunity with 50 children from the community. While anglers from around the globe went out to fight for a world title, the captains and crews from the fleet at Marina Pez Vela, along with the team from Bonnier, host of the OWC, presented each of the 50 kids with a rod. They were taught casting and the basics of fishing from the organizational team.

While records were not set with the amount of fish caught, I can assure you records were set with the amount of smiles, excitement and enthusiasm from these children.

At the end of the session, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Bonnier announced that each child was able to keep their rod as a gift from the OWC. One child and his family spoke of how he had been starting to save to buy his own rod but didn’t know how many years it was going to take him.  His commitment and passion were rewarded with some basic knowledge and tools to pursue his passion, all in the shadow of the world’s biggest fishing tournament stage.

Who knows how many of those kids will fish for pleasure or as a way of life, but odds are, at least one of them will be leading anglers from around the globe on an expedition in the future.

This story was written by Marina Pez Vela.

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New Pacific Tarpon Study Needs Your Help!

New Pacific Tarpon Study Needs Your Help

Atlantic Tarpon in the Eastern Pacific 80 years after passing through the Panama Canal

The opening of the Panama Canal 100 years ago allowed marine organisms that can cope with passage through 65 km of fresh water to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Atlantic Tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, is one species that has swum through the canal to the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP).

Tarpon were first seen in the Pacific locks of the 25 years after the opening of the canal, and large adults have subsequently been observed in Panama Bay over many years. Now Tarpon’s TEP geographic range now extends along 2600 km of the coastline (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama to the Colombia/Ecuador border). Small juveniles have been found throughout the main part of its TEP range, up to 700 km from the Panama Canal. As such juveniles are sedentary and have never been seen inside the Panama Canal, they most likely were spawned in the TEP. At present, nothing is known about the basic ecology of Tarpon in the TEP and possible effects it might have on native ecosystems there.

Tarpon biology in its native range

The native range of M. atlanticusincludes warm waters of both the Eastern and Western sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tarpon is a large [to 2.5 meters total length, 161 kg], highly migratory, predatory pelagic fish with a long life span (up to 78 years). It matures at a large size and considerable age: minimum ~105 cm for males and ~142cm for females, and 7–10 years respectively, in the US(at a smaller size inCosta Rica and Brazil). Tarpon migrate, en masse, from near-shore waters to the edge of the continental shelf to spawn. Eggs are pelagic and larvae develop in offshore waters for 20-50 days, before recruiting to coastal lagoons and estuaries, where they spend the next 0.5–2 years. Between that stage and when they mature Tarpon inhabit coastal and brackish waters and lateralso use freshwater habitats. Although a few spend time in freshwater or hypersaline water most small juveniles live in brackish,stagnant, hypoxic lagoons. They can readily survive in such habitatby air-breathing, a capacity retained by adults. “Rolling” at the surface to breathe and leaping from the water facilitates detection of Tarpon.History of information on the occurrence of Tarpon in the TEP. For the first time in 1937, the presence of  Tarpon 1–2m long in the Miraflores and Gatun lakes of the Panama Canal was documented. In the early 1970s catches of adult specimens (1–1.5m) in the Miraflores locks were also reported with sport-fishers in the Bay of Panama often reporting catching Tarpon.In the 1980sTarpon were caught at Coiba Island, in the Gulf of Chiriquí and andin a river draining into the eastern side of Panama Bay 300km from the Panama Canal. In the late 1980s fishers recorded juveniles as small as ~ 0.9kg (~ 50cm)in a permanent lagoon at Punta Chame. In the early 2000s Tarpon in the TEP were distributed from southern Costa Rica to northern Colombia. In 2018 Tarpon captures were reported in El Salvador,Guatemala(from 2013), and at the Colombia/Ecuador border, ~800 km from Panama Bay. Thus Tarpon currently ranges across~ 2600 km of the coast of six countries between Guatemala and the Colombia/Ecuador border, and has apparently expanded over the past 20 years

Juvenile Tarpon in the TEP. Juvenile Tarpon have been found at various sites in central and southern Costa Rica, the Gulf of Panama, and Colombia. Small juveniles in a brackish lagoon of Punta Chame, 40 km from the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canalwere reported in the 1980s. Such lagoons represent the type of habitat to look for small Tarpon in the TEP

In the Panama area of the TEP the very large tidal range means that most mangroves drain completely at low tide. Because of this draining successful reproduction of Tarpon in the TEP may be limited by the lack of suitable habitat (hypoxic, “safe-harbor” tidal lagoons) for young juveniles after settlement at the end of the pelagic larval stage.

Is Tarpon likely to become invasive and have adverse effects on native species in the TEP?

Nothing currently is known about the feeding ecology of Tarpon in the TEP, a first step towards assessing what impact it might have. The only biological information available on Tarpon in the TEP that bears on the question of its actual impact is that relating to its restricted geographic range, the low abundance of juveniles, and apparent low abundance of adults. That combination points to a low current impact.Eighty years after it first entered the TEP, and with the continued ability to do so since that event, Tarpon does not appear to have a substantial population in that region. While 80 years may seem a long time, that represents only 6–7 generations for Tarpon.

Low current abundance of Tarpon may in part reflect a long lag-period of expansion for a slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived organism like Tarpon. While Tarpon may have the potential to become invasive by having adverse impacts in the TEP its population status in its native range indicates that is not particularly likely. Fishing and habitat degradation in its native range represent major threats for this species that have put its population at risk there. A population in the TEP will face the same threats and there is no reason to think it will be more successful at coping with them than the population in the Atlantic. Conclusions and research needed.

Although it is clear that Tarpon can survive in and, almost certainly, is breeding to some extent in the TEP its ecological impact there is unknown. Research on the feeding ecology, growth and reproductive status (gonadal activity) of this species in the TEP would help clarify what impact it might be having and how successful it is at exploiting local food resources.If successful reproduction of Tarpon in the TEP maybe limited by the lack of suitable habitat (hypoxic, “safe-harbor” tidallagoons) for young juveniles then its population may never expand much beyond its present level. Assessment of the availability of such habitats, of physical conditions in them and of their predatory fish faunas in both microtidal (Mexico) and macrotidal parts of the TEP, would be useful in that context.

The recent expansion of the Panama Canal seems likely to have effects on the transfer of alien species between TEP and Western Atlantic. This likely will enhance the exchange of euryhaline marine species between both sides of the Isthmus. More and larger locks and increased shipping movements through the canal inevitably will facilitate the transit of more Tarpon. Monitoring of Tarpon catches on the Pacific coast of Panama could indicate the extent to which that is occurring.An increasing recreational fishing sector in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and potentially, elsewhere in the TEP, can benefit from the existence of Tarpon in the region (e.g. Tarpon fishing in theBayano River of Pacific Panama).

Much of the information presented here has come from local sport fishing operators in those countries. Future research on this species should involve partnerships with this sector in order to understand more comprehensively the implications of the presence of a population of Tarpon that is slowly expanding in the TEP.Read the complete article here:

Have you seen Tarpon (juveniles or adults) in the Eastern Pacific?

Please register its location as precisely as possible, and provide a photograph that will clearly indicate the size of the fish. Also a few dried scales from its back,and/or a small piece of fin (in alcohol) would be most useful for research:

Gustavo Castellanos-Galindo: gustavoa80″@”

D.Ross Robertson: drr”@”


Atlantic Tarpon in the Tropical Eastern Pacific_synthesis_revised_Final



This Fish Can Live Over 60 Years

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Costa Rica Map of places to fish

General Costa Rica Information and Fishing Map

Costa Rica Map and General Tourism Information

See the Fish Icons below for Costa Rica fishing areas/towns. Read more general tourist information about Costa Rica below the map

Costa Rica Map of places to fish

Costa Rica Fishing Species

More About Species

Costa Rica Tourism Quick Facts


Costa Rica is located in Central America, south of Nicaragua and north of Panama. The western side of the country is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the eastern side by the Caribbean Sea

Capital City San José Population (est.) 4.8 million

Language The native language is Spanish and English is spoken throughout various tourist areas of the country

Climate Temperatures range from 70 to 81 degrees all year round. While many tropical countries have changing weather patterns that affect the entire nation with different seasons, Costa Rica enjoys 12 different tropical micro climates that remain constant throughout the year. The most common micro climate in Costa Rica is the Tropical Moist Forest, which is filled with evergreen trees and bountiful vines, but the Tropical Sub alpine Rain Páramo is a micro climate with temperatures ranging around 41º and 57º Fahrenheit, with occasional snowfall and hail. The water temperature on both coasts is at a reliable 28-29 degrees Celsius (84°F)

Currency  The national currency is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC), though U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.

The exchange rate as of 2019 is approximately 590 CRC to $1, but can vary daily

International Airports

San Jose: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO – Costa Rica’s Main Airport )and Tobías Bolaños International Airport

Liberia: (New International Airport in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone ) Daniel Oduber International Airport Airlines American Airlines, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines.

Copa, Delta AirLines, jetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Avianca Airlines, United, U.S.Airwaysand Westjet

Entry Requirements U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport – valid from 6 months AFTER your planned EXIT date, an entry and exit ticket and the exit tax is currently set at $29

Tourism Information For more information,please visit


Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific Ocean. Opportunities for sport fishing , adventure, relaxation, romance and exploration are unlimited, making it one of the most visited international destinations in the Western Hemisphere.

With an abundance of unique wildlife, an amazing variety of saltwater and freshwater fish, landscapes and climates the country proudly shelters approximately five percent of the existing biodiversity in the world, with protected areas comprising 26 percent of its land mass. The phrase “Pura Vida” can be heard echoing throughout Costa Rica from coast to coast. Used as a greeting or expression of happiness, the phrase literally translates to “pure life,” however its truer meaning is “full of life,” which accurately describes the adventure and wonder that await visitors. Beach lovers, surfers, divers and anglers quickly feel right at home along the coasts while couples and those in search of a relaxing retreat are captivated and pampered by the country’s natural beauty and diverse spas and retreats. Thrill seekers have met their match further inland as they explore Costa Rica’s volcanoes, rain forests, cloud forests, and rivers primed for white-water adventures. In order to protect and preserve such a wealth of natural resources Costa Rica has become a leader in sustainable tourism and established the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) which has a fundamental purpose of benefitting the environment and supporting the community. Business is bustling in Costa Rica, as the country is home to headquarter offices for a myriad of multinational corporations in the global marketplace. Business and group travelers will find a plethora of hotel and meeting space options, as the country hosts a sophisticated infrastructure of hotels and international brands.


Costa Rica’s bio diverse terrain is a key element that attracts visitors from around the world. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with a land portion that occupies only 20 thousand square miles, it is no surprise that Costa Rica’s name translates to “rich coast.” The Central American country shares borders with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.The nation is comprised of seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón.

From mountain ranges and rain forests to active volcanoes and cloud forests to breathtaking beaches, Costa Rica’s diversity of landscapes, climates and natural wonders provides visitors with unlimited experiences.


Many Costa Rica fishing trips start with a one day stayover in San Jose, Costa Rica. Home to the destination’s capital, San José, many of Costa Rica’s most popular museums can be found in this urban setting including the Gold Museum, Jade Museum, National Museum and Children’s Museum, in addition to the architectural jewel of Costa Rica, the National Theater. Out in the surrounding highlands, visitors can discover two active volcanoes, Poás and Irazú, as well as the Braulio Carrillo National Park. The rural towns of Turrialba and Valle de los Santos are also in the Central Valley, offering a picturesque glimpse of old Costa Rican traditional homes, large coffee plantations, sugar mills and dairies.


Great fishing, beautiful beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, lagoons, rivers and waterfalls make the Mid Pacific region an ideal destination for visitors in search of variety. The region stretches from the city of Puntarenas, heradurra to Dominical de Osa and is made up of some of Costa Rica’s most visited areas including  Quepos, Jacó, Bahía Ballenaand Manuel Antonio. The region’s climate creates a unique landscape that transitions from tropical wet forest to tropical forest to tropical dry forest, providing the opportunity to observe a wide range of plants and animals and of course exotic Costa Rica fishing species. In addition to wildlife, the Mid Pacific region is home to a number of luscious beaches and great inshore and offshore fishing spots, some of which are less than two hours from San José.


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.

The diverse coastline of the Northern Caribbean region attracts anglers, naturists and water enthusiasts in search of unique experiences. The North Caribbean region runs from the San Juan River (Tarpon and Snook fishing )to Limón City, located just south of Nicaragua, and as far West as the Eastern Sarapiquí canton. Visitors to the region can head out bass fishing in rivers, lakes and streams, embark on a fascinating excursion through the area’s interconnected canals or have the opportunity to witness green turtles nesting at Tortuguero National Park.

Limón City, the largest city on the country’s Caribbean coast, welcomes thousands of cruise passengers and serves as a popular tourism and distribution center. The Southern Caribbean boasts some of Costa Rica’s best beaches and picturesque parks, which are complemented by the area’s inviting culture. The region, which extends from Limón City to the Panamaborder, features a unique blend of natural wonders and Afro-Caribbean traditions.

A wide range of activities allow travelers to mix adventure with natural history, present day culture, gastronomy and music. The region is also home to Cahuita National Park and Gandoca Manzanillo Reserve.


The Pacific side of Costa Rica 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 of Costa Rica. 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. Read the FECOP Guide to Costa Rica fishing – Where to go, What You’ll Find for more information

GUANACASTE – Northern Pacific

The combination of breathtaking white-sand beaches, sweeping mountain views and an ideal tropical climate has made Guanacaste one of Costa Rica’s most popular regions. Located in the northwestern corner of Costa Rica, the region presents a diverse geography and boasts many of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, including Playa del Coco, Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, Tamarindo and the Papagayo Peninsula. By day visitors can challenge themselves with a surf lesson, cool off under a waterfall at Rincónde la ViejaNational Park, discover the craters of an active volcano with the same name and more before enjoying the active nightlife in Tamarindo. High up in the mountains of Guanacaste, visitors have the opportunity to experience ecological tourism in a natural and picturesque environment

The beach’s pristine waters are ideal for a variety of water sports and some of the world’s best deep sea fishing.

Tamarindo, one of the most developed and popular beaches on the Pacific Coast, offers some of the best surfing and windsurfing in the world with a laid-back vibe to match. Long stretches of sand are perfect for walks, horseback riding and sunbathing. Offering a wide variety of water sports, excursions and restaurants, Tamarindo is a bustling beach town with plenty for visitors to experience.

On the Nicoya Peninsula, picture-perfect beaches offer snorkeling, diving and windsurfing. Samara is one of the region’s most pleasant beaches and although it is peacefully secluded, there is no shortage of restaurants, shops, excursions or hotels. Protected by a coral reef, allowing the waters near the coast to be calm and safe, Samara is particularly known for its pleasant swimming conditions. For a more quiet experience, visitors can venture just north or south to the undeveloped sands of Barrigona, Buena Vista or Playa Carrillo.


Continuing south toward the mid-pacific, Jacó Beach is one of the world’s most renowned surfing destinations, known for its consistent waves. A short drive from San José, Jacóis a popular weekend getaway for locals and party goers ready to paint the town .Home to the continent’s largest Pacific coastal rain forests and some of the world’s most endangered species,Puntarenas’ beaches are lush and tropical as a result of the frequent rainfall.

Bahía Ballenais located south of Dominical and at low tide displaysa coastline that resembles a whale’s tail.An interesting fact about this bay is that whales from the north and south find the water’sreliable temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit asideal for birthing, allowing for two whale watching seasons to take place.Children love to spot the different humpback, pilot and false killer whales. While on these tours, visitors can also sight bottlenose and spotted dolphin sall year round.The neighboring beaches of Manuel Antonio are some of the country’s most immaculate. Surrounded by dense forest vegetation, the beaches of Espadilla, Blanca and Puerto Escondido are inside Manuel Antonio National Park, offering visitors often unexpected views of exotic wildlife.Nearby Dominical is known for its authenticity and world-class surfing. Frequented by backpackers seeking an experience that differs from usual tourist destinations, the unspoiled nature of Dominical offers thrilling water sports and awe-inspiring sights, including the Dominicalito and Naucaya Waterfalls. Surfing is particularly noteworthy on Pavones, a simple mile-long beach where surfers can ride the longest left-breaking waves in the world. Home to some of the

best conditions on the entire Pacific coast of North and South America, the rocky beach of Pavones is a surfer’s paradise.


Outdoor enthusiasts can rejoice in the wealth of water-based activities to choose from in Costa Rica. Sport fishing, surfing, diving and rafting are several popular favorites, and the combination of a wide range of difficulty levels and destinations where visitors can partake create the perfect activity for everyone in a group.


Check out the following Links for Great Costa Rica Fishing Information:

Costa Rica Fishing – Where to go, What You’ll Find

Chasing Sailfish and Marlin in Costa Rica’s Central Pacific

Why Costa Rica is the Perfcet Destination to Take the Kids Fishing

Catching Cubera Snapper in Costa Rica’s South Pacific

Costa Rica Fishing – How and Whtere to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Sailfish For Dummies – Catching Sailfish in Costa Rica

Fresh Water Fishing in Costa Rica for Rainbows

The Northern Pacific coast, Central Pacific region, Southern Pacific region, and Caribbean coast all make for great fishing spots. Travelers can enjoy offshore fishing in the area of Quepos on the central Pacific coast, boasting large billfish such as sailfish and marlin and sport fishing in the small harbor town of Golfito on the southern coast or Puerto Jimenez – The largest town in the Osa Peninsula and the gateway to Corcovado National Park.

On the Caribbean coast, more unpredictable conditions can cause variation in the day’s tarpon and snook catches; however, fishermen can generally expect tarpon during the winter and spring and snook during the fall.

For those who enjoy inland fishing, Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake located at the foot of the active Arenal Volcano, boasts rainbow bass. Fishing seasons vary by location and type of fish, and a valid Costa Rican fishing license is required for any freshwater fishing done in the country.

Sport Fishing Generates Nearly 500 Million Dollars Annually in Costa Rica


What is a Billfish?

The Circle Hook Revolution

Costa Rica Top Global Fishing Destination


Costa Rica Sport Fishing – Sailfish for Dummies

Costa Rica Fishing FAQ

Costa Rica Fishing Species


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80 years of Illegal (tarpon) Immigration

The Tico Times

Published for the Tico Times by Todd Staley

Costa Rica Tarpon on the Pacific – 80 years of illegal immigration

Saul Porras lands tarpon near Playa Tamales in Golfo Dulce. (Photo via Todd Staley. )

Tarpon enter through Panama at the canal and head in both directions. Some go south, settling in Colombia and as far south as Ecuador. Others head north to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and as far as Guatemala. They pass in small groups or alone, but when they reach their Pacific-coast destinations, they group up with others that have made the passage. The coastline of southern Costa Rica is exactly what they need to thrive.

We are not talking about people; we are talking about tarpon, an Atlantic species and popular sport fish in the southern United States, the Caribbean, and the west coast of Africa. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is world famous for its tarpon fishery.

Caught in fisherman’s net near Quepos. Via Todd Staley.

The first tarpon was spotted in the locks of the Panama Canal in the late 1930’s, 25 years after the canal opened. Soon they were spotted in Panama Bay. Over the years, more and more sightings and captures have been recorded in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

In recent years, the sightings have increased tremendously, but that could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe tarpon are now breeding in the Pacific. Although tarpon in the larvae stage have never been found in the Pacific, the capture of small juveniles suggest that they are breeding there. The chances that these little tarpon passed through the canal and migrated several hundred miles is slim.

The expansion of the canal in recent years has allowed for much bigger ships to pass as well as producing an easier passage for species that can survive the 65 km trek through freshwater lakes Gatun and Miraflores. In fact, more than 90 species of fauna and flora have been documented to have passed from one ocean to the other — either transported by ship or freely swimming across.

Social media and internet may also play a role in the increase of reported sighting of these silver bullets. Many sightings have been in rural or sparsely populated areas where before the communication to the outside word was limited.

In Costa Rica, tarpon captures have been documented in Tamarindo, Golfo Nicoya, Quepos, Sierpe and Golfo Dulce. The majority of these have been in Sierpe and Golfo Dulce, which have an estuary type of environment juvenile tarpon and adults alike use.

I saw my first tarpon in Golfo Dulce in 1995 when I was casting the Rio Esquinas side of the Gulf for small snapper. A fish of nearly 100 lbs rolled and took a gulp of air right next to my boat, and I thought I had lost my mind. This is a fish I knew well from fishing for them in Florida to running Archie Field’s Rio Colorado Tarpon Lodge here in Costa Rica. But this fish was not supposed to be here.

Around 2010, we started hooking eight to 10 a season while fishing for roosterfish when I managed the fishing at Crocodile Bay in Puerto Jimenez. The first one was 37 lbs and was brought to the dock because the captain had no idea what it was. Today, almost all are released. I have seen one as large as 123 lbs. Most captures occur in our Costa Rican summer months with March and April seeming to be peak times for an accidental encounter.


One angler who seems to encounter tarpon more than most is a local fisherman named Saul Porras. By trade, he is a mate on a sportfishing boat. When he is not fishing for work, he goes Costa Rica fishing for fun. He has caught more than a half dozen tarpon in the Pacific, and all of them were casting off the beach while fishing for snook. The little juvenile fish he caught off the beach at Carate adds weight to the theory that tarpon are breeding in the Pacific.

Porras watches for small sardines that school up near the shoreline. When they arrive, pelicans begin to dive on them. A short time later, the predators move in. He has learned by watching how the baitfish reacts to determine what type of fish is feeding on them. Jacks and roosterfish come in full-blown attack mode white water froths in the frenzy. Snook are more polite feeders and sneak in from underneath, causing smaller explosions of water.

A few weeks ago, Porras had set up near Tamales in the Golfo Dulce. The sardines started to go crazy and he saw big silver flashes breaking the water as they chased the baitfish. In short order, he was hooked up and a tarpon went immediately airborne. Catching a tarpon on light gear in a boat is an accomplishment, but off the beach even more so. To catch one in the Pacific Ocean is like winning the lottery. That day he hooked five and landed three of them. (He released them all.) He has caught them in at least two other locations also.

A study has just been released on 80 years of tarpon migration through the Panama Canal. Bernald Pacheco from INCOPESCA, the entity in charge of Costa Rica fisheries and CIMAR at the University of Costa Rica, contributed to the study, which was led by Gustavo Castellanos with the Leibiz Center for Tropical Marine Research in Germany. The study is available online here.

I truly believe there a lot more tarpon in the Pacific than most people and scientists believe. Every year, the number of sightings increases, and anytime you catch three of anything that is not native to an area in one day, they have set up camp.

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Tarpon in Costa Rica’s Pacific Focus of New FECOP Study – Sport Fishing Magazine

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Everything You Should Know About Sport Fishing in Costa Rica

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marlin fishing costa rica

Marlin and Sailfish Action in Costa Rica

Marlin and Sailfish Action off Quepos, Costa Rica

FECOP Featured Marina: Pez Vela, Quepos

Calm seas and great fishing equal good times in Costa Rica

Published for Marlin Magazine by Sam White

Perched on a narrow strip of rugged Pacific coast, snugged between the mountains and the sea, Quepos, Costa Rica, has always produced great fishing, not to mention generations of top-flight Costa Rican captains and mates. And with the world-class Marina Pez Vela fully online, Quepos is poised to take its rightful place among the world’s top destinations.

I got the call from Brent Brauner, the global brand manager for Columbia Sportswear’s PFG line of performance fishing gear. He wanted to field-test some new warm-weather clothing and capture some blue marlin action on camera. The only catch was that the trip had to take place before the end of 2018. Over the next few weeks we narrowed down the choices, finally deciding on Costa Rica.

With the seamounts producing the most reliable blue marlin fishing on the planet, we elected on a sort of combination expedition: two days offshore with a bonus day trip to target tuna on the spinner dolphins, sailfish on baitballs or anything else we could find. With its calm seas and a great transitional bite, we chose Quepos as the place to be in mid-December.

Brauner brought Columbia’s ace cameraman Joshua VanPatter, while I tapped Marlin Senior Editor Jen Copeland to round out our team. We needed a vessel large enough to support not just our crew but a medium-sized mountain of camera gear, so I called up Ken and Amanda Cofer at Tranquilo Charters. Fortunately, their 57-foot Spencer was available. After a recent refit in Florida, the boat was perfect for our needs: The staterooms had been converted to bunks for added sleeping and gear storage, and the addition of a Seakeeper gyro meant a rock-stable platform. The plan was to arrive in Costa Rica, head for Quepos and jump straight aboard, steam all night for the distant seamounts around 100 miles offshore, fish the first day, spend the night, fish most of the next day, return to port, and day-trip out of Marina Pez Vela for our final day.

marlin leaping out of the water

Multi-day seamount trips for blue marlin often incorporate a variety of fishing techniques. Crews may start the day pulling lures in order to find productive water before switching to slow-trolled live baits.

Sam White

The Transformation

The first time I fished out of Quepos, there was no marina, or even the thought of one. Charter boats used anchor-ball moorings in the lee of the protected coastline, and fishermen arrived and departed by way of an ancient concrete quay that also served as a commercial dock. Despite the rustic conditions, the fishing has always been outstanding pretty much all year round.

Packs of sailfish arrive to reinforce the local resident fish around Thanksgiving and stay well into April most years. There are also enough blue marlin around that you have a very good shot at raising at least one, especially earlier in the season, and multiple-marlin days are a definite possibility. Blacks and stripes are not considered a common catch but it’s certainly not unusual to add one of either species to the tally, either.

Fast forward roughly two decades and my, how things have changed. Marina Pez Vela now sports a modern cofferdam system that means a safe, calm basin year-round. It has 195 slips in operation with the ability to add an additional 100 slips in the future, all with a safe operating depth of 14 feet for vessels up to 200 feet in length. The fuel dock has high-speed fuel delivery, and each slip has fiber-optic internet and digital cable.

fisherman putting live bait in a tuna tube

Daniel Arrieta loads the tuna tubes on Tranquilo with bonito and small yellowfin tuna caught on spoons fished behind a planer.

Sam White

Perhaps one of the most important yet often overlooked features is the boatyard. Before the development of Marina Pez Vela, the options to haul out a sport-fisher in this region usually meant a trip up to Puntarenas and the commercial yard there. Now, Quepos is home to Costa Rica’s first 200-ton Travelift. The full-service facility can handle just about any maintenance needs, from routine service to full refits. There also is a dry stack with a forklift for smaller vessels up to 38 feet in length.

On the upland side, Marina Pez Vela is home to six restaurants including the famed Runaway Grill, as well as a provisioning center and supermarket. There are also numerous retail stores, tour operators, car-rental agencies, Promerica Bank, a medical center and more, plus storage bodegas and even a captain’s lounge with private conference center and work stations. The entire operation is first-class and on par with any high-end marina in the world, yet it feels at-home comfortable

I asked Marina Pez Vela’s sales director, Scott Cutter, for his thoughts on the project.

“We’re seeing continued expansion over the next five or six years,” he says. “We are also committed to the boat owners and anglers as the key to the success of the project, which is why we’ve invested heavily in the conditions of the docks and things like providing high-speed internet to each slip. This is a community marina, and the original vision — amazing fishing, warm-hearted people and a strong connection to the land and the sea — continues.”

fishing reels on the bow of a boat at sunset

A beautiful sunset over 100 miles offshore ends a long day of fishing.

Sam White

The concept of a community marina was an intriguing one. Rather than be walled off in a private enclave, Marina Pez Vela is right on the main road in Quepos and is open and inviting to visitors and locals alike. Friday nights are free movie nights with free popcorn, where everyone gathers to watch movies under the stars on a big-screen projection setup, and the Bright Lights Christmas boat parade was overflowing with people. Marina staffers dress up like Santa Claus and pass out presents to the kids. It’s what Cutter calls “good human friction” — but it also creates a sense of connectivity to the local community that makes it authentic. It’s also a culture that nurtures the next generation of captains and mates.

Heading Offshore

It is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour ride to Quepos from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. We stopped about halfway down for lunch and then again to check out the giant saltwater crocodiles hanging out on the banks of the Tarcoles River. We arrived in Quepos in time to meet the Cofers at the Runaway Grill for a cocktail before departure; Capt. Roger Muñoz and first mate Daniel Arrieta secured all the camera gear and we were underway around 8 p.m.

Fishing on the seamounts begins at first light well before dawn, and continues past dusk, basically until you can’t see the baits any longer. We began by trolling a spread of four lures on 50s to scout the area at a faster pace. It wasn’t long before we had our first knockdown — but the hooks failed to find purchase, one of the small frustrations of lure fishing that comes with the territory.

We did catch our first blue around midmorning on a lure, then transitioned to live-baiting for a bit, then back to the lures. By the end of the first day we had released four blue marlin and had seen or jumped off a few more. Not red-hot by Costa Rica standards but four blues in a single day is damn good fishing anywhere else in the world. After a hot shower, a few rum drinks and an outstanding steak dinner, not to mention more than a few fish stories, it was time to hit the bunks.

The next day, Muñoz chose to run and gun among several locations looking for the mother lode. We released a blue in the morning but never found a hot spot, so we picked up and ran home in the afternoon, fishing for about two hours on one of Muñoz’ favorite spots 45 miles off Quepos. Right away the conditions looked better: There were bait and birds, and the first bite was a 30-pound dorado. A little while later we raised one blue and then another but unfortunately failed to connect on either fish. As we got ready to pack it in for the day, I asked Muñoz what he wanted to do the following morning. The reply was an easy one: Come right back here!

Offshore Bonanza

Our last fishing day was a standard day trip out of Marina Pez Vela. First up: tuna under birds and spinner dolphin. The ocean was alive with these mammals, showing off their wild aerial antics and swimming within a few feet of the boat as we trolled past. It’s one of those National Geographic moments offshore, and for guys like Brauner and VanPatter who had never experienced this before, it is awe-inspiring. Brauner even broke out the fly rod, casting at busting tuna from Tranquilo’s broad Carolina bow.

striped marlin below the surface of water

A striped marlin makes an unexpected appearance while fishing around schools of yellowfin tuna and spinner dolphins approximately 45 miles off Quepos. Day trips can produce outstanding action.

Pat Ford

It wasn’t long before we had a couple nice tuna in the fish box, then one of the lines took a strange angle as it headed for the surface. “That’s no tuna,” I thought. Sure enough, a billfish erupted from the calm surface and put on a blazing display for the cameras, a real Hollywood fish. Upon closer examination, it was a striped marlin, and a nice one at that. Even more amazing, we had hooked the fish on a purple rubber-worm-and-jig combination that would have been more at home on Lake Okeechobee than in 5,000 feet of salt water off Costa Rica. (The mates have found that these rubber jigs work great on yellowfin tuna.) After a few more photos and video, we sent the striped marlin on its way.

fisherman handling a fishing reel with a blue marlin on the line

Brent Brauner puts the heat on a tough blue marlin while Joshua VanPatter captures the action. Fishing days often last more than 14 hours, including those critical periods around sunrise and sunset.

Sam White

We released two blue marlin after the stripe, a couple chunky yellowfins and a half-dozen 30-pound dorado. We missed a couple more marlin as well, all on dead baits, dredges and 30-pound-test tackle. It was a blast, and all of this took place on seas that were as flat as your dining-room table. If there was one tiny disappointment, it was that we did not catch a sailfish for our boat grand slam. Costa Rica in December, and we did not raise a single sailfish the entire trip. Odd, but that’s fishing — and the marlin more than made up for it.

The next time you find yourself seeking a destination where exceptional fishing intersects with beautiful weather in a safe, welcoming country full of truly warm-hearted people, you’ll find it all and more in Quepos.

Quepos Confidential

Lodging: By far the most convenient and luxurious option for lodging are the Marina Pez Vela Villas, located just a short walk from the docks. There are 10 luxury villas available, with two- and three-bedroom options. Amenities include high-speed Wi-Fi, full kitchens and even a rooftop pool for the exclusive use of villa owners and guests. Our group stayed here during our trip. The luxury, decor, proximity to the docks and personalized concierge service make for an unforgettable and easy experience. The Hotel Parador, located on the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park, is another great option. It’s the official host for the Offshore World Championship.

the balcony of a villa at marina pez vela

The Marina Pez Vela Villas are conveniently located just a short walk from the docks.

Courtesy Marina Pez Vela

Dining: The Runaway Grill is the unofficial base of operations for anyone fishing out of Marina Pez Vela, with an extensive menu and happy-hour specials at the bar each afternoon. They also have a hook-and-cook policy where guests can bring in their own catch of the day and have it prepared that evening. We had several memorable meals at other restaurants in the marina as well, which run the gamut from fine dining to fast-casual sports pubs.

Fishing: Ken and Amanda Cofer have been chartering Tranquilo in Central America since 2012, relocating from Nicaragua to Costa Rica in 2014. “We wanted to offer a larger and nicer boat for people that wanted to experience a premier-level charter, with a great crew and all the latest equipment,” Amanda Cofer says. “Teams from the U.S. can come to Central America in their offseason to keep their anglers up to speed, and we offer them the same tackle, dredges and other gear they use on their own boats. We’re tournament-grade fishing every day, on every charter.” There are a host of additional charter operations based in Marina Pez Vela to fit nearly every species and budget. If time allows, don’t overlook the outstanding opportunities for roosterfish, cubera snapper, potential world-record snook and other species closer to shore.

Fishing the Offshore World Championship

The Offshore World Championship has been held in Quepos since 2013, thanks in large part to the support the event has received from Marina Pez Vela and the Costa Rica Tourism Board as well as the local community. According to OWC tournament director Dan Jacobs, Quepos is an optimal location for the event thanks to several key factors.

“The first is the weather,” he notes. “In April it’s nearly always flat-calm. And because the participating anglers rotate daily among the boats, the availability of a substantial charter fleet and a host facility large enough to accommodate everyone is also a critical element.” A plethora of hotels and restaurants check another must-have box.

Then there’s the fishing: Quepos has a world-class fishery, as noted in the OWC tournament records. In 2014, 64 teams video-verified 2,735 billfish releases; in 2015, 67 teams released 2,840 billfish, for an average of more than 42 billfish per team over four days of fishing. The OWC celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019 with this year’s tournament running April 29 through May 3.

Article courtesy Marlin Magazine – Please visit our supporters!

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River and Lake Fishing in Costa Rica: Palm Trees and Rainbows

“Trout fishing in Costa Rica has been something that has grown closer and closer to me over the past 3.5 years in the jungle.”– Jesse Males – BackWater FlyFishing

Being able to take people freshwater trout fishing in Costa Rica is something that still blows me away. Seeing people’s reactions to rising fish in a place not necessarily known for its trout fishing is always an interesting thing to see.

Recently I was able to witness my fellow guide Micah Baly from put our client Patrick on some amazing trout fishing opportunities in Costa Rica’s high mountains. Below is a short film showcasing our day on the water. ENJOY!

In the past few years tout fishing in Costa Rica has become more and more popular amongst tourists and serious fly fishing anglers alike. If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica and would like to schedule a trip with me, please send me an email at

Tight lines,

Jesse Males

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Frequently Asked Costa Rica Fishing Questions

Can I take Sailfish or Marlin out of the water for a photo?

No, it is illegal to remove sailfish and marlin (see What is a Billfish) from the water for photos or other publicity/social media photos. There are a number of ways to photograph fish that is not harmful to them. Read this article on capturing Costa Rica fishing photos with minimal impact.

Do I have to use circle hooks in Costa Rica?

Yes circle hooks are required by law in Costa Rica when fishing any live bait. Other kinds of hooks are damaging to the fish because they are more likely to swallow the hooks. For more information about using or installing circle hooks during your Costa Rica fishing trip read this article The Circle Hook Revolution

Do you need a Fishing License in Costa Rica?

Yes, a fishing license is required and you can purchase them online before your Costa Rica fishing tripLearn more or purchase a Costa Rica fishing license here

Where Can I find Costa Rica Fishing Laws and Regulations?

FECOP has all the most recent Costa Rica fishing laws and regulations available online and for download. Costa Rica fishing regulations

What is FECOP?

Sport and recreational fishing has contributed actively to the coastal development of our country since its consolidation over a period of almost 70 years. Fishing clubs, tourism operators and the different stakeholders in sport fishing have contributed to the positioning of this activity, above and beyond any promotion by the State.

More than 60,000 direct and indirect jobs, as well as a contribution of 330 million dollars to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product, are among the benefits obtained from this activity. In addition to this information recognized and produced by different sources, sport fishing has other less visible impacts and benefits. It represents a socioeconomic sector with a special dynamic that needs to be understood from a scientific and technical perspective so as to boost its growth and contribution to Costa Rican society.

FECOP assumes this challenge and will work with the sector in the generation of knowledge to benefit both the sport fishing and the fisheries sectors and Costa Rican society as a whole.

What Kind of Fishing Does Costa Rica offer?

Costa Rica fishing is good year round. Although certain target catch and release species e.g. sailfish and marlin peak in certain months, other inshore release fish such as roosterfish, snappers, jacks, African pompano and others may be targeted year round.

What is the best time of year to find billfish in Costa Rica?
Peak times for Costa Rica billfish vary depending on which part of the Pacific coast you’re on.

Can I catch Tarpon in Costa Rica?

Yes, Tarpon can be found on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. Read more about tarpon fishing in Costa Rica here.

When should I go Fishing in Costa Rica?

Sailfish, marlin, dorado, tuna, and wahoo can be caught any day in Costa Rica but these pelagic species peak at different times, consult your fishing lodge or guide for peak times. You can also read this primer/guide on Costa Rica fishing and what to expect here

How do I catch Snook in Costa Rica?

There are variety of ways to fish for Snook or robalo in Costa Rica. Here is an article on one of Costa Rica’s best snook fisherman

Can I Eat Roosterfish?

Roosterfish are protected and may not be taken. They are a catch and release species and one of the oceans top fighting fish with amazing physical attributes. Learn more about Costa Rica roosterfish fishing here

Please send your questions to info“at”

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Costa Rica Fishing – 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

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.


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.


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 Costa Rica 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.

Costa Rica Fishing Sailfish

The last few years have seen record numbers of sailfish on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. 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.

Costa Rica Fishing

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.


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

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Fresh Water Fly Fishing in Costa Rica

Extreme Fresh Water Fly Fishing in Costa Rica with Jesse Males, Stone Mountain Outdoors and ADPK.

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In Search of Guapote Landia. Extreme Fresh water fishing in Costa Rica’s back rivers by kayak and paddle-board. Join Jesse Males, 506 Outdoors, Stone Mountain Outdoors and BackWater Fly fishing  in search of the best Guapote fishery in Costa Rica aka “GuapoteLandia”.

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First Sailfish On The Fly – Costa Rica Fly Fishing

First Sailfish on the “Fly” by Todd Staley

Photo above by Pat Ford

Published for The Tico Times

The Tico Times

The angler stood on the veranda of Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica and looked at the vast sport fishing fleet in awe. A Colorado native and avid fly fisherman, he had never been on the ocean before. He was quite adept on his home waters, walking the bank or wading in streams, casting a dry fly to trout.

He had seen fishing shows on television and read many an article about anglers casting to and challenging big pointy nose fishes with a flimsy fly rod on a deep blue ocean. It became a dream of his. Then an obsession. It moved to the top of his bucket list. Finally, the day had come. He walked down the stairs at the marina to the boats and stepped aboard the Big Eye II.

Captain Franklin Araya shook his hand and confirmed the angler’s mission was to catch a sailfish on the fly.

“There are plenty of fish out there, but they are muy mañosa,” Araya said, explaining that the fish are lazy and finicky.

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El Niño is the culprit — the weather phenomenon that makes every blue water fisherman in the Eastern Tropical Pacific cringe. The water temperature goes up, the fish don’t follow their normal patterns, and they become lethargic.

Captain Franklin Araya. Photo via Todd Staley.

The Big Eye II idles out of the marina and Araya pushes the throttle forward. The angler from Colorado is paying attention to every detail. They pass green water, then emerald water. The water turns blue and they pass a large pod of pilot whales. Araya motors forward. Finally, the water turns a deep cobalt blue that boat captains like to see. Sailfish feed mainly by sight. The cleaner the water, the happier the sailfish. Deep blue means nutrient-rich, clean water.

Araya throttles down and begins trolling around 6 or 7 knots. For fly fishing, he prefers to pull four teasers, lures without hooks to entice sailfish to the surface. The Sailfish are fooled into thinking it is something they usually prey on, like a bonito, flying fish, or one of several other tasty species.

The theory behind fly fishing for sailfish is quite simple. The sailfish comes up chasing and slashing at the teaser. The mate reels in the teaser with the sailfish chasing behind, and at the last second jerks the teaser from the water. At the same moment, the captain is putting the boat in neutral and the angle is casting the fly. Only a short cast is necessary. The only option for the charged-up sailfish is the fly that was just presented and a hungry sail will almost always strike it. It is really a team effort. Floating flys with a popper head works best in Costa Rica. When asked for his top three-color choices Araya replied, “pink, pink and pink!”

Teaching people or taking folks to catch their first sailfish on the fly is a passion for Araya. He says first timers or novices are his best students, because they listen well to instruction. People with saltwater fly experience sometimes seem more set in their ways and don’t always take instruction well. Every ocean is different. What works in Florida might not work so well in Costa Rica, and vice-versa.

They had been trolling nearly three hours and passed at least a half dozen “floaters,” sailfish cruising the surface with either their tail fin or their whole sail above the surface. One or two came into the teasers, took a quick sniff and faded off. The fish were definitely lazy. Araya put out a couple “naked ballyhoo” in the spread of teasers. Natural baits which will give the fish a scent to follow or even a taste, but with no hook in the bait.

Sail on the surface. Photo via Todd Staley.

Shortly, a sailfish showed up in the spread of teasers that was ready to play. It smacked the left long teaser, then charged into the short, the closest teaser to the boat. It was lit up like Christmas in a purple hue, and Araya knew with thiCosta Rica Real Estates fish it was game on.

Araya dropped the boat into neutral and hollered down to the Colorado angler to cast. In all the excitement, he remembered the captain’s instructions. “Fish it just like you would with your dry fly. When the line comes tight strike him, and hang on.” He made his cast. It was picture-perfect after that. The sail hit the fly going away, and the line immediately went tight. He struck hard. Line screamed off his reel, and the reel handle slammed into his knuckles hard for a painful initiation of hooking one of the fastest fish in the ocean.




Sail hook up fly. Photo via Todd Staley.

He recovered nicely, and 150 yards of line screamed off the reel while the sail did a fast-forward ballet across the surface before it slowed. The rest was simple angling knowledge. You don’t beat a big fish with strength; you beat it with finesse. It pulls left, you pull right; it pulls right, you pull left. When it runs, you rest. When it stops, you work.

He had the fish boat-side in around twenty minutes, an amazing time for a first sail on the fly. They gently released it. He even managed a second before the day was over, sin busted knuckles.

It might be months before someone can wipe the smile off his face.

The last thing he said to Franklin as he left the boat was, “see you next year — I think I am ready to try a marlin!”

Capt. Franklin Araya is willing to answer any of your questions about fly fishing in Costa Rica. On a busman holiday, he travels over to the Caribbean side of the country to tangle with tarpon on a fly. He can be reached at 8379-1702. 

Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He recently decided to take some time off to devote full-time to marine conservation and is the communications director at FECOP. Contact him at


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