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Three Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Three Billboards Outside San José, Costa Rica: Can a fish bring a country together

Published by Sport Fishing Magazine Online Edition

 

 

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

These billboards, modeled after the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, now appear prominently along the highway connecting Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, with the international airport. The first says, “There are foreign boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica.”

If you are driving from the airport towards San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, you will pass two simple sets of three billboards each. Lettered in Spanish the signs basically translate into English as:

1. There are foreign boats fishing illegally in Costa Rica
2. They are taking our marine resources without permits
3. Together we can change this… Find out how at fecop.org

The campaign billboards were modeled after the ones depicted in the award-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.” Designed to be a simple yet effective message, it is estimated that more than 25 percent of all tuna taken by foreign purse seine boats in Costa Rican territorial waters goes unreported or is harvested by vessels not licensed to fish in Costa Rica with zero benefit to the country.

tuna for ticos

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, says that the country loses mil-lions of dollars in the illegal fishing of tuna. According to the minister, of the total $50 million generated by the sale of licenses to foreign purse seiners, the country only receives $1.3 million. An estimated $12 million more is un-documented. Through an analysis done by Conservation International and the Coast Guard using satellite technology, it was determined more than 100 vessels in 2016-2017 were involved in illicit activities.

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

The yearly average legal take from these boats had been around 25,000 tons of tuna a year. Of this 9,000 tons goes to the cannery in Puntarenas and most of the rest never lands in Costa Rica. A study done by Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP) in 2013 showed Costa Rica only earned $37 a ton from tuna taken by foreign vessels. This triggered the first tuna reform legislation in 2014, which moved the tuna fleet 45 miles offshore and protected other important areas like the waters around Coco Island and a total of 200,000 square kilometers from purse seine fishing. In 2017 INCOPESCA, the governing board of fishing regulations in Costa Rica, reduced the number of legal licenses from 43 down to 13 and this year put limits on the overall harvest. The problem is with very little enforcement and control, the illegal fishing activity is bound to increase. The initial tuna harvest rules were enacted after sport and commercial fishermen set aside their differences and worked together to accomplish shared goals.

FECOP staff recently met with commercial longliners in Puntarenas and Quepos to discuss the tuna industry and the market need for sustainably caught tuna. Sport fishermen are seeing noticeable increases in tuna catches in the protected 45-mile zone since the Tuna Decree went into effect in 2014. The amount of tuna being taken illegally or by foreign vessels remains a deterrent for li-censed local commercial fishermen to switch to more selective gear like “green sticks,” or pole and line which have nearly zero bycatch and still make a reasonable profit.

The longliners are receptive to using sustainable gear if it’s economically feasible. Tuna is a premium value species and if they were targeted selectively, it would take pressure off sharks and bill-fish as bycatch in longline fishery. The incidental catch rate of other species would drop drastically.

FECOP also met with several marine-related non-government organizations to discuss the issue of sustainable fishing.

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

More than 25 percent of all tuna taken by foreign purse-seine boats in Costa Rica waters goes unreported, with zero benefit to the country.

Tourist Sport Fishing
The recreational sport-fishing industry generates $380 million or more for the Costa Rican economy annually and supports thousands of jobs for locals. Critics claim sport fishing is a senseless sport and a form of cruelty to animals.

Commercial Fishing
Commercial harvest is also a multi-million dollar industry and the life blood of coastal communities. Critics claim the high rate of bycatch in certain types of fisheries is unsustainable and damages the environment.

NGOs
There are many non-governmental non-profits headquartered in Costa Rica that specialize in marine conservation issues. Many have an accomplished track record. But conservation is a competitive business as organizations compete for limited donor contributions. Because of this, communication between the groups is often lacking. Many times groups are working on similar projects but don’t share information for fear of losing donations or credit for successes (which is parlayed into more donations). If communication among the groups was more common, positive changes could come more rapidly on smaller budgets.

General Public
Costa Rica has the highest cost of living in Central America. Many sectors have been on strike or protesting the proposed new tax reform for the past month. Critics are upset with tax breaks companies receive whose products manufactured in Costa Rica cost nearly double domestically as the same product sold by the same company in neighboring countries. Many feel it is unfair to give away Costa Rica’s resources to other nations with little benefit while its citizens are asked to pay higher taxes.

Billboards Warn of Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

Many marine mammals are killed as bycatch in these illegal fisheries.

Tuna Canning Industry
The tuna cannery in Puntarenas employs more than 1,000 local workers and processes 9,000 tons of tuna annually. Because of the high demand of sustainably captured seafood products, the cannery is forced to import tuna harvested with sustainable gear from other countries to meet the demand.

Tuna and Dolphin
The fish and the mammals have a symbiotic relationship and swim together in the ocean. Most nets set by purse seiners are made over dolphins on the surface. Historically over 6 million dolphins perished with this method. By today’s standards, after the set one end of the net is lowered for the dolphins to escape to qualify for the “Dolphin Safe” label. The estimate of dolphin mortality is still around 1,000 a year in the tuna industry. Critics say the repeated netting of the same pods of dolphins should not qualify for the dolphin safe sticker on cans of tuna.

Critics also question whether boats fishing illegally are careful about dolphin welfare. Boats have been observed throwing explosives from helicopters or speed boats to herd the dolphin into the nets. There are also questions about how carefully the dolphins are released.

The goal is to bring all these various interest groups together to make more tuna available to benefit Costa Rican fishermen and the country’s economy. An increase in sustainable harvest would have a domino effect. With more tuna available there would be less bycatch of sharks, billfish, turtles and marine mammals, plus better economic conditions for struggling coastal communities.

The billboard campaign directs viewers to the FECOP website, www.fecop.org. A link on the site leads to a petition urging decision-makers to support more responsible ocean management and fair-ness for the people of Costa Rica.

Help FECOP Make an Impact – Sign the Tuna for Ticos Petition Below

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

 

FECOP Featured On Channel 7 – Tuna for Ticos

 

 

 

 

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Costa Rica Roosterfish Tournament

1st Roosterfish Tournament Nears

Costa Rica’s Famous Roosterfish Finally Gets its’ Own Tournament!

Costa Rica’s 1st International Tournament Set to Kickoff November 16th, 2018 ( Enter Here ) at Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica’s South Pacific.

Costa Rica really hit the jackpot when it comes to sportfishing. From the river mouths to the bluewaters and way inland, the country is bursting with monster gamefish. But of all the fish out there, it’s the Roosterfish Costa Rica anglers are really proud of.

Funny, then, that there’s no Roosterfish tournament in Costa Rica. But now there is. On November 16 this year, Golfo Dulce’s Crocodile Bay Resort will kick off the first International Roosterfish Tournament. Teams will travel from the US, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and of course, Costa Rica itself to take part.

Man in a white shirt holding a large Roosterfish
Roosterfish are a species well worth traveling for.

Who is organizing the event? Why Costa Rica? What can we expect in years to come? We got in touch with some of the organizers to find out. From what we heard, it sounds like the teams are in for a treat!

What’s the Big Deal with Roosterfish?

Roosterfish are one of those species that can get you hooked from the first time you see them. They’re unlike anything else out there. Their wild mohawk and blue shimmer scream for a camera. Try catching one, and it’s the reel that starts screaming.

Roosterfish fight hard and don’t give in easy. The way they move is erratic, bordering on berserk. They have enough power to break your line and burn your drag if you’re not careful. They’re made even more interesting by the fact that you can’t catch them in the US. It’s easy to see why some anglers spend their lives chasing Roosters around Central America.

You can catch Roosterfish all the way from the north of Mexico to the south of Peru, but very few fisheries compare to Costa Rica. Sure, Baja might have the world record, but Costa Rica has some real monsters, too. And that’s just part of what makes the area unique.

Angler in a blue shirt holding up a Roosterfish in front of his face
Whatever the size, Roosterfish have some real star appeal.

Why Golfo Dulce?

We catch Roosters everywhere here” – says tournament organizer Todd Staley – “We catch them on the reefs. We’ve caught them in over 200 feet. We’ve caught them in the middle of the gulf away from the shoreline.”

This will come as a surprise to anyone who has tried Roosterfishing farther north. In Mexico, Roosters are only really caught along the surf line. Most anglers wouldn’t think of targeting them in more than a couple of fathoms of water. Not so in Costa Rica, clearly.

The fish don’t lack for size, either. According to Beau Williams, Crocodile Bay’s General Manager, Roosters can hit 100 pounds or more in Golfo Dulce. Sure, these aren’t your everyday catch, but on any given week they pull in plenty of fish in the 40-60 lb range.

What draws Roosterfish to the gulf? Several things, says Williams. “It generates an abundance of bait fish that Roosters prefer – sardines, mullet, goggle-eyes, blue runners, moonfish, and bonita.” He also points to the mix of sandy beaches and volcanic rock outcroppings. This all adds up to year-round Roosters. Sure sounds like a good place for a Roosterfish tournament.

View across Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica with mountains in the distance
To be fair, we would also live here year-round if we could.

The PanAmerican Delegation: Big Fish, Big Dreams

So who exactly is organizing the tournament? The people behind the event are the PanAmerican Sportfishing Delegation. They organize tournaments all across the Americas. They have two Bass tournaments, a Snook Tournament, and as of this year, a Roosterfish Tournament.

The Delegation’s aim is to get sportfishing recognized in the Pan American Games. Eventually, they even want to see it in the Olympics. For now, though, they’re happy putting on tournaments and building friendships through fishing. That’s exactly what they’re doing in Costa Rica.

The PanAm Delegation has partnered with FECOP, a Costa Rican non-profit which focuses on protecting the country’s fisheries. This is where Staley came in. He has worked with FECOP since it was first created in 2008. He also worked at Crocodile Bay for the best part of 20 years. This made him the perfect man to help set up the event.

Staley brought the tournament committee to Golfo Dulce and showed them around several resorts in the area. Crocodile Bay came out the clear winner because of its size and easy access to Puerto Jimenez Airport. It also has a large fleet of well-maintained, near-identical boats. This gives each team the same chance of landing a winner.

Angler holding a Roosterfish on a boat with water in the background.
Catching Roosterfish is tough enough without having to worry about the boat.

The committee found the spot for their tournament. It was time to get the teams together. It didn’t take long for the word to spread. A dozen teams from five countries signed up and will be heading down to Crocodile Bay in search of the biggest Roosterfish Costa Rica has to offer.

Catching Roosterfish Costa Rica-Style

One of the many things that makes Costa Rica great is the country’s dedication to responsible fishing. Billfish and Roosterfish are catch-and-release only and circle hooks are the norm on most boats. Local groups like FECOP work hard to keep the fishing sustainable, especially during tournaments.

In keeping with this, the PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament is entirely catch-and-release. The fish won’t even be weighed. As Staley explains, “we’re not weighing the fish because they have to be out of the water and it’s too much of a strain on them.” Instead, teams will measure each Rooster they catch and submit their top ten every day. The healthiest fish will also be tagged to help scientific study into their movements.

A Roosterfish ready to swim off and fight another day.

How will the teams be fishing? That’s up to them. Tournament rules say up to 30lb line and no treble-hooks with natural baits, but other than that, anything goes. We asked Staley for some of his top tips for bringing in big Roosters and he gave some sound advice:

Here’s my analogy of a Roosterfish: They’re dumb as a rock to a live bait. You can fool them with a popper, or a jig, or an artificial. No-one’s found the holy grail yet on the fly. Fish all the columns of water – don’t just concentrate on the surf or the surface. Try it deep, try it on the surface – they’re gonna be someplace.”

A Big Deal Locally?

It sounds like everyone involved is going to have a blast, but what does it mean to the town? Many tournaments pass the local community by, especially when they’re organized from abroad. Williams says that isn’t the case here, though.

“The locals in this area are extremely excited to have an international tournament,” he says, explaining how the tournament trail has largely missed the south of the country. “While many experienced captains in our area have also fished professionally in Quepos for their Billfish tournaments, they are very excited to get Puerto Jimenez on the map.”

Staley also says that Golfo Dulce’s Rooster fishery doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That’s part of the reason for the tournament: “There’s plenty of other Sailfish, Marlin, and Dorado tournaments in the country,” he says, “Nobody’s really doing an all-Roosterfish tournament.”

a Roosterfish underwater with the hull of a boat behind it
This is definitely a fish that deserves its own tournament.

So how involved is the local community? Not hugely, at least for this year. Staley is sticking to his golden rule of “keep it simple, stupid.” This is the tournament’s first year, after all.

That’s not to say they’re not involved at all. There will be a presentation by the head of the local fish board and a performance put on by the local school. The captains and crews will also be from the area, but the Costa Rican teams won’t – it would be a little unfair if some teams were fishing their own backyard, we guess.

What’s next?

“The Pan-American Delegation was formed less than 2 years ago.” Explains Staley. “It’s in its infancy but hopefully it will take off.” He says that organizations in Europe have had a lot longer to get going and that the PanAm is still catching up. If that’s the case, they’re catching up fast. They already have four tournaments in three countries, fishing both saltwater and freshwater.

This is the first PanAmerican tournament held in Costa Rica, but it won’t be the last. If everything goes well, we could also see a Tarpon tournament sometime next year. The delegation is a long way from their Oolympic dreams, but they’re making a solid start.

November 14-19, almost 50 competitors will comb the Golfo Dulce on a dream Costa Rica Roosterfish adventure. They will put back all the fish and take away prizes for their countries instead. If nothing else, it sounds like great fun. We’re hoping for even more, though: more tournaments, more fishing friendships, and eventually, maybe even angling Olympians.

Have you ever caught a Roosterfish? Ever visited Golfo Dulce? We’d love to hear your experiences, so let us know in the comments below!

Article Courtesy www.fishingbooker.com

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Deep Jigging in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Fishing – Deep Jigging Costa Rica Oddities
Article from Florida Fishing Weekly

Todd Staley FECOP“Jigging the depths of Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce brings returns of grouper, snapper, African pompano…as well as a host of other strange-looking fish. Better yet, it’s within sight of shore”

This is the time of year the rain forest shows its stuff on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. More than 20 percent of the annual rainfall comes in October. The Papagayo winds in Nicaragua have yet to blow, but when they do some time this month, the sailfish population will push to the South. Until the main body of sailfish arrive, marlin and dorado will be the primary targets for offshore anglers looking to troll. Anyone that fishes for marlin knows the Pacific is a big ocean, and locating fish is a matter of covering water and eliminating options. That means anglers have two choices; go hunting (for marlin) or go fishing (for other species). A patient angler will generally get his marlin. It might be like sitting in a tree stand all day waiting for that one big buck to walk by, but patience is typically rewarded in Costa Rica. And odds favor that the marlin will be substantial.

For those that aren’t up for the hunt, they might want to go fishing instead. What I mean by that is, if action is more important than trophy, stay closer to shore this time of year and get in on the terrific bottom fishing.

Thirty years ago when I was dropping baits for grouper in the Middle Grounds off the West Coast of Florida, if someone told me one day I would be jigging with a fairly light spinning rod in 400 feet of water for grouper and snapper, I would have thought they were crazy. And if they told me I could see people walking on the beach while I was doing it, I’d have called for the straight jacket. But that’s exactly what you can expect in southern Costa Rica. Bottom fishing in Costa Rica doesn’t mean a run offshore. To the contrary, a mile offshore will put you in water deeper than you care to fish almost anywhere on the Pacific side. Fortunately, I live on one of four tropical fjords in the world. The depth of the entrance to the 30-mile long Golfo Dulce is around 150 feet. It then gets deeper the farther up the bay you go and has a hole up at the end of the bay that drops to 900 feet. Here as in many parts of the world, deep jigging has become one of the most successful ways to fool deepwater predators. There is a reason the military puts jigs in survival kits, that’s because almost anything that swims will eat one.

FishingCosta Rica´s volcanic terrain runs not only to the coast, but also forms some very interesting structures underwater as well. And the deeper you go, the more the menu changes. Cory Craig from Tropic Fins charters is a guy who came down to Costa Rica on a fishing vacation, and within a couple years was building a house and charter business at the same time. He has studied the inshore fishing well and is not afraid to try new methods. When Craig’s charter landed a 60-plus pound roosterfish using a moonfish for bait, live moonfish became the hot offering, and everyone switched over to targeting roosterfish with these baits. Now Craig has taken his progressive methods into the bottom fishing realm. As far as deep jigging goes, the first hundred feet or so of water bring a variety of snappers, including the famous cubera, African pompano, broomtail grouper, roosterfish, amberjack, bonito and tuna. That’s a large variety of hard-fighting and good-eating fish that can be caught within sight of shore.

Costa Rica Deep Jigging Fishing CongriaDropping deeper than 150 feet of water is like venturing in the twilight zone, where there’s the potential to bring up fish you have never seen before. The Pacific red snapper is a good example of a species that won’t be found in less than 200 feet of water, and like the American red snapper, this fish is great table fare. Gulf Coney, a strange but tasty grouper, will hit a jig in 400 feet of water. There are other grouper-type fishes that I have no idea what they are, and can’t find them in books, but we catch them on a regular basis when deep dropping. Tilefish, rose threadfin bass and congria are other weird members of the deep-water clan that make the trip back to the dock and the dinner table.

All this great deep dropping action happens inside the Golfo Dulce, a short run from the dock, so if the offshore seas are rough or you want to break up a week of marlin fishing and change out to a
more action oriented trip, you just have to shorten the distance of your excursion. Depending on weather, your decision to opt for action or a short at a trophy, and your patience level, this time of year make the choice: Do you want to go hunting or fishing. In the Southern Pacific peninsula of Costa Rica, we can offer both.

Todd Staley has spent the last 18 years in the sport fishing business in Costa Rica, running fishing
operations on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

Related Articles

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

How to Catch Cubera Snapper in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Roosterfish – A Fish to Crow About

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How to Catch Cubera Snapper in Costa Rica

If there are rocks, there are snapper, and that pretty much describes the entire Pacific coast of Costa Rica

Article from Florida Fishing Weekly by Todd Staley

“Rocks and big poppers equals aggressive cubera snapper in Costa Rica”

This particular reef has a peak that rises an additional 40 feet. Today it was something unusual. In the clear water hovering just a few feet below the surface was one big orange ball after another. It looked like a patch of pumpkins. What it was, though, was a group of big snappers taking advantage of the slow tide to see if a school of sardines, mackerel or maybe bonito might come passing by.

When Colin Belton is not designing landscapes fit for the Queen in his native England, he hops on a plane and heads for Central America. He has big orange pumpkins on his mind. Belton has been chasing
them for nearly a decade and could care less about a pointy nosed fish like a sail or marlin.
He chases snapper. His ammo… poppers, and one of his favorite locations is southern Costa Rica.

Belton likes to fish blue water. The clearer the better. “Snapper will come up from 150 feet to take the
popper off the surface,” says Belton. “Make sure you have the drag up on your reel very tight, because snappers always go back to the hole where they came from.” Water color plays a role in Belton’s success. Green water will produce a few snapper, but his personal best day came when the water was
extremely clean and he caught 32 snapper, with the largest going 62 pounds. The bigger the popper, the better, according to Belton.

He prefers a huge popper made in France by Orion Lures, but will also throw a Yo-Zuri Bull. Lure color doesn’t seem to make much difference. It’s the noise and spray these lures produce that bring the fish up.

Work the popper with long slow pulls making as much splash as possible. When you get a boil, don’t stop. The snapper will come back and hit it. Hooking a big snapper is like tying into a freight train. Something you might think would take a 4/0 reel, spooled with straight 100- pound test and the drag hammered down to tackle attached to a broomstick.

That might be a good bottom fishing set up, but impossible gear to toss poppers all day. Belton prefers the Shimano Stella spinning reels with 80-pound braided line on an 8 1/2-to 9 1/2- foot rod. He claims the Shimano Aspire is a good all-around rod to get the job done. Belton always uses a short piece of 120- to 150-pound mono for leader.

The months of January through July are the most productive according to Belton, although his best day ever came in August. “Look for rock, both above and underwater. If there is rock, there is snapper.” he advised. The entire Pacific coast of Costa Rica fits that description. Finding snapper habitat is only a matter of looking for it.

Roosterfish, and sometimes wahoo also visit these reefs. Catching a big snapper may not always be as easy as pulling up on a pumpkin patch, but make enough commotion around the rocks and it can be Halloween any day of the year.

Costa Rica Fishing Species – Roosterfish

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Costa Rica Roosterish

Costa Rica Fishing Species – Roosterfish

FECOP Sport Fishing Species – Roosterfish

Experience the thrill of the roosterfish, one the worlds most extreme fighting fish (pound for pound) in Costa Rica’s inshore waters (catch and release species)

Unlike  pelagic species, roosterfish are found inshore and can be targeted year round in Costa Rica. Roosterfish average 10-15 lbs but individuals in the 40-60 lb range are not uncommon in Costa Rica’s Pacific waters. These fish are caught inshore cruising reefs and are voracious predators. Roosterfish are considered to be one of the strongest and most exciting fighting fish in Costa Rica. Their meat is dark and not good eating and this is definitely a catch and release fish. These fish can be caught from the shoreline during changing tides near drop-off points on lures including poppers but live bait trolling seems to be the most productive method to experience a fight with these bruisers. Not only are these fish aesthetically pleasing to the eye…but unlike other inshore fighting fish they will take to the air on occasion making the experience that much more exciting for the angler. If you are going to photograph this fish, do it quickly and release as soon as possible. Especially with larger/heavier individuals as being out their buoyant environment is hard on the fishes internal organ structure.

Costa Rica Roosterfish

The roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis, is a game fish found in the warmer waters of the East Pacific from Baja California to Peru. It is the only species in the genus Nematistius and the family Nematistiidae. It is distinguished by its “rooster comb”, seven very long spines of the dorsal fin.

Costa Rica Sport Fishing Species Roosterfish

Photo by Bryce Johnson

Roosterfish Facts

The roosterfish has an unusual arrangement of its ears: the swim bladder penetrates the brain through the large foramina and makes contact with the inner ear. It uses its swim bladder to amplify sounds.

Roosterfish can reach over 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) in length and over 50 kg (110 lb) in weight.[4] The weight of the average fish hooked is about 20 lb (9.1 kg). The fish is popular as a game fish, but it is not considered a good eating fish. The roosterfish is a catch and release species.

 

More Roosterfish Information

Costa Rica Hosts The First International Roosterfish Tournament Novemeber 2018

SAT Tag Recovered from Roosterfish off the Coast of Costa Rica

Catching a Roosterfish in Costa Rica – A Fish to Crow About

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Costa Rica Roosterfish

Costa Rica Roosterfish – A Fish to Crow About

Costa Rica Roosterfish – One of Costa Rica’s Most Sought After Inshore Fish – Catch and Release only

Written by Todd Staley for the Tico Times

Super Bowl placekicker Adam Vinatieri shows not all roosterfish are monsters.

International Roosterfish Tournament

Most visiting anglers come to this country with either marlin, sailfish, or tarpon on their bucket list. These are all spectacular fish and great angling challenges, available almost any day of the year – but they are not always around in great numbers, or they at times pass through periods when they are just not going to eat. Another drawback is that some anglers just can’t handle the open ocean, and a day being seasick is not going to be the highlight of your vacation.

Fortunately, there is an inshore fishery here that has quite a plethora of species. One can only be called sexy, like a sleek race car: The roosterfish should be on every visiting angler’s bucket list. They are strong, fast, painted in a brilliant hue, with a spoiler on top. They usually haunt the coastal waters which are generally calm, especially in the morning. They readily devour a live bait, and will take an artificial like a jig, lure, or a popper. They absolutely drive fly fisherman nuts for their reluctance to hit a fly. The angler that figures out the “Holy Grail” – the secret of taking a roosterfish on the fly – will forever be considered a legend in fishing circles.

Diego Torian with big roosterfish. Courtesy of Todd Staley

The Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica offers a vast area to fish for roosters. Las Islas Lodge, Zancudo Lodge, Crocodile Bay Resort and private charters in Golfito and Puerto Jiménez all specialize in catching roosterfish among the offshore species they are all famous for. Except when the afternoon sea breeze kicks in, the gulf is generally like a big lake.

While all these places specialize in roosterfish, Oscar Villalobos specializes in trophy roosterfish. Diego Torian, host of Pescando de los Cayos television, who is filming a yearlong series on fishing locations in Costa Rica, had only one day to test the waters in Golfo Dulce after filming an episode with Pablo Chaves from Rio Sierpe. Torian hosts the only Spanish-language fishing show in the United States.

“Your average client doesn’t have the patience to fish big roosters,” said Villalobos. “Sometimes the hardest part is catching the right bait that big roosters like. But once you do, the big ones are usually there.”

He prefers bonitos, skip jacks, and small yellowfin tuna to use as live bait and insists a five-pound bait is not too big. When he gets his bait he places it on the same size circle hook he uses for marlin. He says a roosterfish can swallow a bait up to 20% of its weight. This day was exceptionally slow to get the bait he wanted and after four hours he had only one medium-sized bonito.

As his search went on, he decided to put his lone bait out near a rock outcropping. Within five minutes, the rod tip bounced, then bent downwards and line started flying off the reel. Torian let the fish run, giving it time to turn the bait in his mouth, and the locked the reel in gear. Line continued to scream off the reel but now against the brake of the reel. Like most roosterfish, this one made numerous short runs and took back the line Torian had gained several times. Eventually the fish tired and checked in at just over fifty pounds before being released.


Luckily, getting more bait was not as difficult. In less than a half hour in, he had four more nice baits in his tuna tubes to keep them healthy. Every one of the baits got hit near the same rock and one more roosterfish came to the boat at 65 lbs and was released. The other baits were lost on missed fish or stolen by snapper leaving big teeth marks in the part of the bait that remained. Two big roosterfish on a spinning rod made great film and their mission was complete.

Villalobos is owner of Los Isla Lodge and captains one of their boats. More information at www.lasislaslodge.com.

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. His “Wetline Costa Rica” column appears monthly in The Tico Times.

Interested in more about Costa Rica Roosterfish?

Costa Rica’s First International Roosterfish Tourament November 2018

Costa Rica sport fishing- Where to Go, What You’ll Find

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Costa Rica Fishing Species – Yellowfin Tuna

Costa Rica Fish Species

Meet the Yellowfin

 

One of FECOP’s primary initiatives is to reduce “bycatch” resulting (most often times) from illegal, non-sustainable, tuna fishing operations in Costa Rica’s Pacific ocean. The aftermath of this illegal activity includes the  death of non-targeted species such as sailfish, marlin (billfish), dolphins, sea-turtles, and the destruction fragile marine ecosystems. Learn more about our current initiatives Tuna for Ticos, and The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

From the IGFA Fish Database
Occurs worldwide in deep, warm temperate oceanic waters. It is both pelagic and seasonally migratory, but has been known to come fairly close to shore.

Tuna Fast Facts

Did you know – The yellowfin can be distinguished from the blackfin by the black margins on its finlets?

Tuna are considered warm blooded because they can regulate their own body temperature . The very few partly or fully warm-blooded fish possess organs near their muscles called retia mirabilia that consist of a series of minute parallel veins and arteries that supply and drain the muscles.

IGFA FISH DATABASEMost large yellowfins have overextended second dorsal and anal fins that may reach more than halfway back to the tail base in some large specimens. In smaller specimens under about 60 lb (27 kg) and in some very large specimens as well, this may not be an accurate distinguishing factor since the fins do not appear to be as long in all specimens. The pectoral fins in adults reach to the origin of the second dorsal fin, but never beyond the second dorsal fin to the finlets as in the albacore. The bigeye tuna (T. obesus) and the blackfin tuna (T. atlanticus) may have pectoral fins similar in length to those of the yellowfin. The yellowfin can be distinguished from the blackfin by the black margins on its finlets. Blackfin tuna, like albacore, have white margins on the finlets. It can be distinguished from the bigeye tuna by the lack of striations on the ventral surface of the liver.

 

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

tuna for ticos costa rica

This is probably the most colorful of all the tunas. The back is blue black, fading to silver on the lower flanks and belly. A golden yellow or iridescent blue stripe runs from the eye to the tail, though this is not always prominent. All the fins and finlets are golden yellow though in some very large specimens the elongated dorsal and anal fins may be silver edged with yellow. The finlets have black edges. The belly frequently shows as many as 20 vertical rows of whitish spots.

tuna for ticos

The diet depends largely on local abundance, and includes flying fish, other small fish, squid and crustaceans. Fishing methods include trolling with small fish, squid, or other trolled baits including strip baits and artificial lures as well as chumming with live bait fishing.

It is highly esteemed both as a sport fish and as table fare. Its flesh is very light compared to that of other tunas, with the exception of the albacore, which has white meat.

If you would like to make an impact and help FECOP  stop illegal fishing in Costa Rica, please sign the petition below

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

More Costa Rica Fishing  Species

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FECOP Featured On Channel 7 – Tuna for Ticos

FECOP’s Tuna for Ticos Campaign Against Illegal Fishing Featured Today on Channel 7 News

Watch the Video Below to see the impact of illegal fishing first hand

FECOP’s Tuna for Ticos Campaign which is aimed at stopping illegal fishing in Costa Rica was featured today on Channel 7 News Teletica. We hope you’ll watch the following clips depicting video of the impact some of these non-sustainable practices have on Costa Rica’s precious marine resources. This kind of illegal fishing is also harmful to the prosperity of local communities via jobs in the artisanal fishing and the tourism sectors.

Click The Following Image to View The Video

Your Voice is Important – Sign the Tuna for Ticos Petition and help put an end to illegal, non-sustainable fishing practices – Make an Impact!

Dear representatives,

Presidency of the Republic,

Legislative Assembly Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,

National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Ministry of Environment and Energy,

Vice Ministry of Water and Seas,

National Coast Guard Service,

The situation of illegal fishing that is happening in our country is a serious problem that affects our marine resources, the national economy and that of our communities.

It is for this reason that through this petition we request better controls and effective surveillance for foreign tuna fleets.

Better penalization mechanisms for those who break the law of our country and exploit our resources indiscriminately.

As well as support and prioritization for national fleets in the consolidation of sustainable tuna fishing in our territorial waters.

I hereby support this cause by registering my information on the following petition.

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Costa Rica Snook Fishing

Meet The Snook King of Costa Rica’s Pacific

FECOP Featured Sport Fishing Captain:

Roy Zapata – Snook King of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast

Published for the Tico Times by Todd Staley

Costa Rica Snook FishingRoy Zapata thinks like a fish. A really big fish. A big snook in fact. He has guided anglers to several world record snook over 50 lbs, the largest was Ward Michaels’s  60 lb fish, caught in March of 2014. He has 3 records in the book and a 51 lb fish caught last July by Whitney Thomas is pending verification from the International Game Fish Association as the new women’s world record.

Zapata comes from a long line of fishermen in Quepos. The oldest of seven siblings, his father left while he was still young, so he went from big brother to father figure, working and going to school. His uncles taught him how to fish. He began fishing at night as a handline artisanal fisherman, bringing his catch in at daybreak to sell at the dock. This allowed him time to attend to his brothers and sisters.

“I did that for almost 15 years and came in one morning with a boat load of snapper. There was this crazy gringo on the dock that said I want to fish with you. I explained I did not have the equipment or lures as I was a handline fisherman and he said he would buy them.” The “gringo” fished with him for a week. Zapata smiled as he recalled that the angler bought nearly 20 lures a day and lost many to toothy mackerel but also caught plenty of roosterfish and jacks and snapper and paid him almost $200 a day. That was the beginning of his charter career.

Snook Womens Record

He continued to fish commercially and when he had a request he would take a tourist fishing. He was fishing snook commercially and doing quite well. The big snook he brought to the dock caught lots of attention and the line of sport anglers that wanted to charter him grew.

In the meantime, Marina Pez Vez was built in Quepos and one day Zapata took Harbor Master Carter Tackas fishing. Zapata told Tackas he wanted to start fishing tourists out of the marina. Tackas gave him some good advice. He had to get completely legal and have insurance to fish out of the marina. This meant he had to give up fishing commercially because in Costa Rica a boat can not hold a license to fish tourists and fish to sell your catch also.

“A fishing license to commercial fish was $40 dollars a year and the tourist license $400. Insurance is very expensive also, but I made the decision and now release most of my catch. (Tourist fishing boats are allowed 5 fish per day). I take very few snook these days.”  He won Marina Pez Vela’s annual inshore fishing tournament three years in a row and decided not to fish last year. His younger brother who is also a snook guide won that tournament.

His boat or as he describes it, “is my office, my machete, and my computer. It is my work tool.” The vessel is bare bones but very sea worthy and set up to fish where the big fish hang out. He has painted the interior of the boat bright pink. Most people think that is a bit strange but when people share photos of their catch, there is no mistake which boat they were fishing in. Quite the marketing strategy. The boat is also a powerful tiller driven motor which allows him to move quickly about the waves. The big snook hang at the breaking waves near shore.

I call it rodeo fishing. Zapata’s experience has made him an expert at timing waves. Getting your bait in the zone is a coordinated effort between him and his anglers to place the bait, in the zone. He prefers mullet or sardines. He sits behind the breaking waves watching the set. After the last wave from that set comes in, he races forward, and the anglers cast their baits. They free-spool line as he heads back outside before the next set of waves arrive, leaving the bait just where the big girls hang. He has success slow trolling baits on the back side of the breaks also.

You can catch a snook any day of the year, but he says March through June is the prime season. Two of his records came in late March and his last in early July. Near the new moon in March is when it starts, and many fish are taken between 20 and 30 lbs. When he notices the male snook he is catching are full of milk, (sperm) he knows the big females have arrived. From then on, there is a good chance at a really big fish. He had a fish much bigger than his 60 lb record that the hook pulled the hook next to the boat. A new record id out there.

Whitney Thomas hired him to catch roosterfish and after she had taken several asked if they could try for a snook. She hooked the fish on 15 lb test line and coaxed it for 45 minutes before they had the massive snook in the boat. For more information you can reach Zapata at +506 8505 5819 and a 6 hour charter is $400.

By Todd Staley published for the Tico Times print edition – Don’t forget to pick up your copy!

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TOP 10 COOL FACTS ABOUT TARPON

FECOP Top Ten Tarpon Fun Facts

 

Yes, fish in general are very cool, but some fish take the “cool factor” to a whole new level. Meet the Tarpon. We think you’ll agree that this is one of the most interesting fish in the sea.

 

  • There are nearly 28,000 different fish, but only two species of tarpon.
  • Tarpon can survive in both salt and fresh water being found in Lake Nicaragua and other fresh water habitats
  • They may shed up to 12 million eggs. The eggs hatch at sea and the eel like larvae drift in shore where they undergo a metamorphosis, shrinking to half the size previously attained and taking on the more recognizable features of the tarpon as they begin to grow again.
  • Fishes were in fact the first vertebrates on Earth and date back to the Paleozoic era — the first fossil evidence of Tarpon is 125 million years old making these fighters older than a TRex.
  • Tarpon can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh nearly 300 pounds
  • There was a 64-year-old tarpon that died in the Shedd Aquarium of Chicago in the 1990s.
  • Tarpon have a potential lifespan of around 150 yrs
  • Tarpon have amazing color vision with five types of cones cells in their eyes, they can see into the ultraviolet spectrum even further than birds and insects that have four types of cones cells in their eyes. In case you are wondering, humans only have three types of cone cells.
  • Throughout history, tarpon scales have been used as nail files, wall art and pulverized for medicinal purposes. In Brazil tarpon scales werre pulverized into a powder and mixed into tea as it is believed to help with asthma,”  “Sadly, the plucked tarpon is most often left to die.” – so stick to your asthma inhaler
  • And the #1 Cool Fact About Tarpon -Tarpon breathe in oxygen from the water using gills, but they can also utilize oxygen from air in the atmosphere,” Guindon explained. “They have for long rows of lung-like material inside a swim bladder that allows this to happen.” Which explains their rolling behavior in waters with low oxygen levels

And if you think those facts are cool….watch this video of one jumping during a Costa Rica fishing trip, video courtesy Capt. Eddie Brown

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Are Tarpon Breeding in Costa Rica’s Pacific Waters

Amazing Tarpon Video from Costa Rica

This Fish Can Live Over 60 Years

FECOP Featured Fishing Captain, Eddie Brown

Sport fishing in Costa Rica: Where to Go, What You’ll Find

Costa Rica Fishing Species Tarpon aka The Silver King

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