Category: FECOP News

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″@”yahoo.com

D.Ross Robertson: drr”@”stri.org

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Atlantic Tarpon in the Tropical Eastern Pacific_synthesis_revised_Final

 

Tarpon

This Fish Can Live Over 60 Years

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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 www.506outdoors.com 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 info@506outdoors.com.

Tight lines,

Jesse Males

Thank you to

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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.

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 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 www.fishcostarica.org

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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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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.

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

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 wetline@hotmail.com.

 

Please visit our friends and FECOP supporters at www.ticotimes.net

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Costa Rica Sea Lion

Lost Sea Lion Visits Costa Rica for the Holiday Weekend

Yet another sign Costa Rica is a great place  for fishing as a Sea Lion – a master fisherman himself, shows up for Holy Week in Costa Rica

Sea Lion Swims Ashore on Malpaís Beach, Costa Rica

This species belongs to the family of seals and walruses, which form the group of marine mammals known as pinnipeds.

NCRNoticias.Com Editorial Staff Published: April 18, 2

This Thursday a Sea Lion was seen on a beach in Malpaís Costa Rica.

A user of social networks recorded the moment in which the mammal left the sea to perch on the rocks.

Sea lions are always in areas close to the coast and are cooler than tropical waters, so it is not common to see them in Costa Rica, but rather in South America or very in the north.

In Costa Rica, there have been sightings on the beaches of Punta de Banco, Pavones de Golfito, and San Pedrillo, in the Corcovado National Park, located in the province of Puntarenas, as reported by tourists and foresters to the press.

One possibility of the arrival of these mammals is to hunt food and move away from their natural area, it can also be by marine currents, but they do not get to stay, and they do not establish a population here.

The sea lion is a carnivore that fishes and, according to its species, is very social, so it seeks to be in large communities other sea lions.

It is very risky to say that climate change has to do with the arrival of sea lions on the coast and that a pattern and more studies should be established to verify this.

Sea lions arrive for a few days to rest, for the loss of direction or because they are sick.

A sea lion weighs between 275 and 450 kilograms and measures between 1.7 and 2.5 meters, is capable of submerging up to 186 meters and can be under water up to 40 minutes.

Also, nothing up to 40 kilometers per hour, although some people may consider him a lazy animal because he likes to relax and sunbathe.

Currently, there are six species of sea lions: California, Steller, Australian, Galápagos, New Zealand and South American. Sea Lions love fish and are frequently seen harassing fisherman for their catch in areas up North such as Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.

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EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FISHING IN COSTA RICA – THE ANGLER’S PARADISE

One of few places in the world you can average 10 or more billfish per day with the possibility of catching and releasing 4 different species the same day. Only few other places on earth that can beat that record!”
— Press Release by Danny Lombardo for EIN News

JACO, NEW YORK, COSTA RICA, April 14, 2019 – Fishing in Costa Rica – The Angler’s Paradise

Nature has endowed Costa Rica with vast swathes of rich coastal ecosystems, making it one of the best fishing destinations of the world. Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica commands 800 miles of coastline. The sportfishing opportunities here are nothing less than phenomenal.

As a top fishing destination, the country attracts thousands of eager anglers and trophy hunters every year from the US and Canada. While the most sought-after game fish in Costa Rica is the billfish (the collective name for marlin and sailfish), anglers can put their skills to test in big game involving dorado, tuna, snapper, roosterfish, and wahoo.

In the unrelenting world of sport fishing, Costa Rica manages to emerge victorious many a time, going by the fishing records, which include dozens of prestigious IGFA titles. Many a reputation has been built here. Many a record created or trounced. To illustrate from a recent example, 54 marlins were caught and released during the Offshore World Championship Billfish Tournament held this year. If you know your marlin well, it’s one tough cookie. Forget 54; getting just one could be your crowning moment.

The Best Time to Fish in Costa Rica

All seasons are not made equal and neither is the fishing experience. But the good news is that in Costa Rica, any time is a good time for fishing. Says Parker Bankston, a fishing veteran, “The ocean is calm 95% of the time. There’s great fishing to be done, no matter what the season is.”

How can this be? Aren’t summers universally the best time to fish? To understand this, we need to make ourselves familiar with how the seasons play out in Costa Rica. (Most of what is explained here applies to the Pacific Coast. The Caribbean side has slightly different weather conditions.)

The concepts of summer and winter don’t really apply to Costa Rica. The country enjoys a tropical climate and experiences two kinds of seasons – dry and wet. The average annual temperature is 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no drastic variation in temperature during the dry or wet seasons; rather the seasons are distinguished by the amount of rainfall received.

Dry Season or Verano (Dec-Apr)

The dry season is marked by clear skies and calm waters. Together, they set the stage for some serious billfishing in the Pacific. Starting December, the billfish make their way into Central Pacific. Their numbers start swelling from January through April. Many a tournament is launched, creating near frenzy among anglers to exhibit their competitive prowess.

Wet Season or Invierno (May-Nov)

It is when Costa Rica receives most of its rain, which averages 100 inches. Also called the green season, Invierno comes as a relief from the summer spell. Fortunately, the rains are mostly confined to afternoons and evenings, which leaves a window of opportunity open for fishing in the mornings. During May, June, July, and November (called the hedge months), it only rains for a few hours in the afternoon. October, by far, is the rainiest month.

Inshore Vs Offshore Sport Fishing in Costa Rica

For inexperienced anglers, the whole inshore and offshore conundrum might be a little perplexing. Does it make a difference if you are fishing inshore or offshore in Costa Rica? Yes, it does. Where does the best fishing happen, inshore or offshore? In both places. It all depends on your tastes and the expectations and goals you set for fishing in Costa Rica. Let’s first unpack this whole inshore and offshore thing before wading deeper into those waters.

Costa Rica Sport Fishing

Inshore Fishing in Costa Rica

Fishing anywhere within 30 miles of shoreline classifies as inshore fishing. The average run time is between 15 minutes to an hour, so inshore fishing trips can be made with just half a day to spare. However, once you get the taste of inshore fishing and get reeled in by a giant rooster, you’ll want to hang out the entire day. Because of the relatively relaxed style of fishing, inshore fishing is a hit with families out with kids.

Offshore Fishing in Costa Rica

If your heart is set on the deeper treasures of the ocean, the marlin, sailfish, wahoo, or yellowfin tuna, you need to head as far as 120 miles into the Pacific. Equipped with sonar, GPS, and state-of-the-art fishing gear, and steered by a hardy captain and crew, your offshore fishing trip could result in some epic encounters with the elusive marlins, which travel at a speed of 60 miles per hour.

Costa Rica Marlin Fishing

Sport fishing in Costa Rica: Legal Aspects

Fishing is an important source of income for Costa Rica and regulations are in place to ensure that fishing-related activities are responsible and the fish stock is not depleted. Here’s a quick rundown of things to be aware of when fishing in Costa Rica:

Fishing License All anglers need a valid fishing license issued by INCOPESCA, the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute. The license, which can be obtained online, costs $15 for 8 days, $30 for a month, and $50 for a year, regardless of whether you are a native or a foreigner.

Catch and Release All billfish should be live-released by law. To ensure their chances of survival, they are brought only up to the side of the boat before being released into the ocean. Anglers are free to keep and consume other fish they catch, such as snapper, dorado, tuna, and wahoo.

Start Planning Right Away!

A great time is guaranteed, no matter whether you are a new, lapsed, or an accomplished angler. Remember to pack your camera and leave your tackle behind. They aren’t as effective in the Pacific as they are in the Atlantic. All the leading fishing charters in Costa Rica are fitted with top class gear for the fast-paced fishing demanded by the Pacific.

 

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Costa Rica Circle Hook Fishing

The Circle Hook Revolution

Costa Rica Fishing Conservation – The Circle Hook Revolution

 

Marlin Magazine

Published for Marlin Magazine

The Beginning

In 1998, circle hooks exploded on the American sport-fishing scene with Capt. Ron Hamlin’s declaration that he would use nothing but circle hooks when fishing with bait. The announcement came as he was accepting the annual release award for the most Pacific sailfish in a single season (546 sails caught on J hooks in 1997). Tired of seeing gut-hooked billfish gushing blood, that night he denounced the J hooks that had brought him so much success. What the spectators did not realize was that Hamlin had experienced a catch-per-unit effort rate of 65 percent or better for circle hooks on sailfish in Guatemala, compared to 50 percent with J hooks. From his perspective, it was a no-brainer that would tremendously benefit the fishery.

black and white image of boat captains

Capt. Ron Hamlin, Joan Vernon and Tim Choate each made a substantial case for industrywide circle-hook use, which prompted the rest of the fishing world to follow.

Richard Gibson

His employer, Tim Choate, had mandated the use of circle hooks by all five of his Artmarina-owned charter boats even before science had proved that billfish survival rates greatly increase with circle hooks. In his speech that night, Hamlin acknowledged Capt. Peter B. Wright and angler Skip Walton for bringing circle hooks to Guatemala after first using them in the giant bluefin tuna fishery off North Carolina.

A charter captain, and owner of Red Drum Tackle in Hatteras, North Carolina, Capt. Bob Eakes had a lot to do with pioneering the area’s bluefin tuna fishery, bringing in Wright and marine scientists such as Dr. Eric Prince

Prince, now retired from his post as head of the NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami says it all began in 1995, approximately two years before they started tagging bluefin tuna with implantable, archival and pop-up satellite tags. “The big question was how to minimize the damage and stress of capture so the tuna would survive the surgical implantation of the oversize tags, which then cost about $4,500, so survival was essential,” he says.

Wright and his mate, Scott Levin, suggested a plan to bring the fish aboard through the tuna door and insert a saltwater washdown hose in the tuna’s mouth to oxygenate the fish, along with using a cloth to cover the eyes and body.

“This helped eliminate stress from handling,” Prince relates. But it was the circle hook that Eakes first suggested that eliminated gut hooking, ensuring the long-term health of the fish. “On our fishing trips, every tuna caught on circle hooks was hooked in the hinge of the jaw. Looking at it with a little biological insight, I could see the benefits not just for endangered bluefin tunas, but also to reduce gut-hooking sailfish.”

After expressing those insights to Wright, Prince shared them with Choate, who suggested a fishing trip out of Guatemala, where catch rates exceed 40 sailfish per day, to provide a suitable test. The success of that expedition led to a scientific study by Prince in March and May of 1999.

Dead-bait trolling off Iztapa, Guatemala, showed conclusively that circle hooks produce more fish that are released without evidence of bleeding. Out of 461 sailfish bites, they hooked 360. Using an equal number of J hooks and circle hooks, 125 were caught and released on J hooks versus 235 on circle hooks. Out of those 235 releases, only 14 sailfish showed any signs of bleeding, six of which were deemed severe. Of the J-hook-caught fish, 71 had bleeding, 32 of which were deemed severe. The conclusion? Sailfish caught on J hooks are 21 times more likely to suffer hook-related bleeding — and possible death — than fish caught on circle hooks. Furthermore, circle hooks had a higher hookup percentage. Follow-up studies all came to the same conclusion: Significant conservation benefits can be realized in dead- and live-bait fisheries for billfish and tuna by simply changing the terminal tackle from J hooks to circle hooks.

“The simplicity [of one change] really touched a chord,” Prince says.

sailfish jumping in the air

Sailfish caught on circle hooks benefit both angler and fish with higher hook-up ratios and lower mortality rates

Bubba Naquin

Central America Leads the Way

Like a messiah spreading the gospel, Hamlin broadcast the success of circle hooks to every influential angler he knew. In Joan Vernon, he found a disciple. Since the year 2000, she has personally caught more than 2,200 billfish — all on circle hooks.

“Hamlin explained he had a new hook he wanted me to try,” she recalls. “At first, I was a little skeptical about using circle hooks with the 8- and 12-pound-test tackle I used for sailfish, but I had no trouble hooking them. Every fish was hooked right where Hamlin predicted: in the hinge of the jaw. I was convinced, but getting everyone else on board would be a challenge.”

Vernon is also the executive director of the Presidential Challenge of Central America tournament series. Founded in 1996, the tournaments were originally held in Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Guatemala (now also in Aruba for the past decade). They are fun events, but at their core they are meant to ensure the continued abundance of healthy billfish populations throughout Central America and the Caribbean through research and education. At the 1998 Sport Fishing Economic Conference of Central America — held for scientists, resort and charter operators and politicians — she floated the idea of circle hooks as a tool in reducing billfish mortality.

Putting her money where her mouth is, Vernon announced the 1999 Presidential Challenge series would become the world’s first all-circle hook release tournament.

“I had no idea if the anglers would go for it, but there was no opposition,” she says. A few years later, Costa Rica and Guatemala declared circle hooks mandatory for recreational billfish caught in their territorial waters.

“By 2005, virtually every tournament in Central America had gone to circle hooks,” she adds. “And in countries with no recreational circle-hook laws, they were mandated by the local resorts and lodges in these fishing destinations.”

Vernon also helped found the Yamaha Contender Miami Sportfish Tournament — previously known as the Miami Billfish Tournament — and was its executive director in 1982.

“The whole premise was to raise funds for conservation and education, but committee members were afraid of losing participation if we went to circle hooks,” explains longtime tournament committee member Capt. Bouncer Smith. Despite Prince’s convincing research that circle hooks produced better hookup rates while substantially reducing mortality, the others on the board were resistant. “Finally it was suggested we ease into circle hooks by creating a separate division.

Vernon refused. “‘It’s a complete rule change, or nothing,’ she said at the time, making it the first tournament in the United States to require the use of circle hooks,” Smith relates.

circle hook rigging bait

In just 10 years, a small change in terminal tackle has made a significant difference in billfish survival rates around the world. The design also produces higher catch rates for most species.

©️Scott Kerrigan/www.aquapaparazzi.com

Bridling and Larger Hooks

Smith first joined the circle-hook revolution after hearing an impassioned talk by Hamlin and Choate at the Miami Rod and Reel Club in 1998. Experimenting first with 5/0 Eagle Claw circle hooks that matched the size of the J hooks he used for sailfishing, he was discouraged.

“I lost two sailfish in a row on them, so I went back to my J hooks,” Smith says. “Months later, I caught a white marlin on a J hook that bled to death. It was then I recalled Hamlin’s speech at the fishing club. So, I upgraded the size of the circle hooks to a wide-gap 7/0 and gave them another try. I started having immediate success. Larger-size hooks were the answer.”

Twenty years later he’s still having success, having gone from using 7/0 Eagle Claws to 6/0 VMC circle hooks for sailfish and other species.

“I’ve found the more exposed the hook is, the better the hookup percentage,” adds Smith, who primarily fishes bridled baits with non-offset circle hooks. Another refinement is using slightly rounder rubber bands when rigging his baits. “They solved the problems I was having with common rubber hair bands that cut into the baits.”

Capt. Bobby Brown first used circle hooks for pitching baits to marlin well before it became the norm. In 1996, he was working for Fonda and Wayne Huizenga of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, teaching them the pitch-bait technique with a favorite blue marlin bait — fresh squid — when he encountered a problem. “The squid was wrapping around the J hooks, so I decided to try circle hooks. On the first cast we caught a blue marlin,” he says.

After a month of marlin success, he tried trolling for sailfish with circle hooks, but the only hooks available at the time were made of heavy wire, and in sizes too large for sailfish. “The fish were coming to the bait and fading away,” he explains. He had all but given up on circle hooks for smaller billfish when Eagle Claw and The Billfish Foundation launched a lighter wire hook that became an instant hit.

circle hook in fish jaw

Keeping the circle hook a short distance from the bait gives it enough room to find its way to the corner of the fish’s jaw — where it belongs — without obstruction.

©️Scott Kerrigan/www.aquapaparazzi.com

East vs. West

In the early 1990s, long-range fishermen out of San Diego began experimenting with circle hooks while chunking for southern bluefin tuna. Using small-diameter fluorocarbon leaders and circle hooks with live sardines, the catch rates skyrocketed. Not only were the hooks stronger for their size, the bait swam more naturally. By using circle hooks that tend to lodge in the hinge of the jaw, they also solved the problems they’d had with fish chafing the light leaders

Since then, circle hooks have become standard equipment, says well-known Southern California angler Ben Secrest. “Circle hooks are like a mousetrap for bluefins; once they latch on, they don’t come off,” he reports. These days, he fishes skipping Yummee flying fish and bridled natural baits with Owner 11/0 circle hooks — straight from the rigger or from a kite stabilized with a helium balloon. “I have had the best results with larger-size hooks, and my hookup ratio is running 20 percent better with circle hooks.”

ringer swivel bait

The Ringer Swivel makes changing baits easier as well as allowing the hook to rotate freely.

ringer swivel bait

Rigging Techniques Vary

Capt. Kyle Francis of Jensen Beach, Florida, has been fishing circle hooks since he was 15 and has complete confidence in them. Francis — who regularly works the Costa Rica, Florida and Bahamas billfish circuit — says there have been innovations like the rubber O-ring for ease in bridling the hooks to the bait. He prefers a small barrel swivel though. “The O-rings impede the natural movement of the bait,” he explains.

When rigging combination baits such as a chugger or Ilander, he is more open. “With the Ilander, I position the bait with the hook crimped down tight to the lure. With a chugger-and-bait combination, I use one size larger hook. Instead of a 7/0, I’ll go with an 8/0 or 9/0 and add a swivel connected by copper wire with the bill going up into the chugger. It may be simple but it works great,” he explains.

Creating a streamlined circle-hook rig — with the maneuverability of a barrel swivel and ease of rigging with an O-ring — was the concept behind James Turner’s invention of the Ringer Swivel.

Article courtesy Marlin Magazine

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Petition Signing Locations Now Available Across Costa Rica

Tuna For Ticos in San JoseForeigners living in San Jose with legal residency can now help STOP the Illegal fishing and the killing of sea turtles, billfish and marine mammals by signing our petition. Several local businesses in Coastal areas and the Captial City are offering physical locations to sign the Tuna4Ticos petition. Please have your cedula #id with you for the sigining. Every signature is important to protect Costas Rica’s valuble marine resources.

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