Tag: Cosat Rica Sport Fishing

Costa Rica Fishing, It’s Not Always About the Fish

It’s Not Always About the Fish

Special Holiday Fishing Feature by Todd Staley, Communications Director FECOP

One of the most exciting days fishing I ever had was in a lagoon in Nicaragua accessible by passing through myriad of rivers and creeks on the Caribbean side of  Costa Rica. Mike Holliday and I hooked over 60 tarpon on casting plugs. We tired of tarpon and went to the beach to cast for snook. The tarpon wouldn’t leave us alone. We were hooking them from shore. I watched as Holliday played and eventually landed a respectable tarpon from the beach with a fly rod. That was nearly 28 years ago.
What did I see that day? Fish, fish, and more fish.

 

I fished the same lagoon many times over the next several years and although I never matched that one fantastic day, I always had good fishing. Then one day I went and the tropical rains had the lagoon  all muddied up. I cast furiously for hours with memories of that fantastic day playing like a movie in my head. I had not one bite. My arm tired of casting and I sat down to rest. I looked over towards the shoreline. Then it jumped out at me. A beautiful flaming orange wild heleconia. I scanned the bank. One after another they rose from the jungle.

On the long fishless ride back into Costa Rica I started to notice things I never saw before even though I had crossed this path many times. Wild orchids hang over the creeks, some of them humongous and all of them spectacular. There were so many different kinds. I had made this trek many times and only saw water and fish.  The normal trip back took one and a half hours. This day it took almost four hours. That was the day I learned it is not always about the fish.

The ocean off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica drops off  fast. A couple hundred yards off the beach you’ll find a couple hundred feet of, and by the time you reach twenty miles there is more than a mile of water below your boat. Most of the Costa Rica big game fishing is rarely done beyond twenty miles unless green water forces the fleet further out. Fishing the Pacific can be like living the Discovery Channel.

The humpback whales come twice a year. Once from the North and once from the South and enter the near shore waters with their calves. I’ve seen killer whales eat a sailfish. I’ve also had them come and surf the wake of the boat. Dolphins pass by in schools of thousands. Both spotted and spinner dolphins put on a show that is just as exciting to watch as the 200 lb tuna that swims below them puts on a show while testing your back. Pilot whales group up in pods or by the hundreds and cruise right next to the boat to check things out.

While fishing roosterfish in the Golfo Dulce, I’ve stopped fishing to watch six whale sharks feed on plankton. Another time I saw a leatherback turtle as big as a pool table patiently waiting for the sun to go down so she could go to the beach and lay eggs in the volcanic sand. What’s funny about every one of those experiences is I don’t remember what I caught that day, but I will always remember what I saw.

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Costa Rica’s Tuna Decree Is Saving Billfish & Dolphin

  • In 2014 President Luis Guillermo Solis signed a Tuna Decree prohibiting tuna purse sein operations within 45 miles of the coastline of Costa Rica. Other important areas and sea mounts were also protected effectively prohibiting tuna netting operations in over 200,000 square kilometers of territorial water.

    billfish conservationTuna Decree Is Working

    This Tuna Decree was sponsored by FECOP, a Costa Rican nonprofit sport fishing Federation made up of 7 sport fishing associations encompassing Costa Rica.

    FECOP’s director of science, Moises Mug has been monitoring the results ever since as a part of the original agreement which not only includes fish stocks but also investigating more sustainable ways to supply the Costa Rican cannery with product.

    tuna limitsBefore the agreement 44 foreign tuna boats were operating, with 25,000 metric tons of tuna were being captured annually with only 36% of the catch going to the local port. The rest were being delivered in foreign ports.

    fishing costaCosta Rica’s governing body for fishing regulations, INCOPESCA, has put a temporary ban on new licenses for foreign fleets, (there are no Costa Rican flagged purse sein boats) until the end of the year. Hopefully this is a preamble of the new proposed tuna regulations.

    The new proposal will allow for only 7 to 9 licenses sold annually and a quota limit of 8,000 to 9,000 metric tons with all fish going to the local cannery. “This measure will reduce the bycatch impact tuna purse sein fisheries have on marine mammals, billfish, sharks, dorado, wahoo and sharks”, explained Mug. This is great news also for spinner and spotted dolphins who have a symbiotic relationship with yellowfin tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Dolphins are often netted and later released in the process of catching tuna, though not without some injuries.

    Tuna DecreeThe actions have reduced billfish bycatch in Costa Rica by purse seiners by 70% from over 30 metric tons annually to just over 5 metric tons.

    FECOP is currently investing over $100,000 in an ongoing co-project with two government agencies, INCOPESCA and INA, a technical learning institution where all people working on a boat must be trained and certified. The project includes learning to fish “green sticks”, a selective type of fishing with no bycatch, as well as the proper handling of their product to receive best market value. As longliners eventually begin using this method, the bycatch of billfish on longlines will be drastically reduced. The public demand for sustainably caught seafood is a boost to the project.

    “Costa Ricans are a proud people”, commented Captain German Bustos, who has over three decades of experience sport fishing while explaining successes in marine conservation issues. “FECOP’s entire staff are Costa Rican citizens. The decision makers here will listen more eagerly to its own people rather than outside groups suggesting how things should be done.”

    Other FECOP Success Stories

    • Stopped the exportation of sailfish for commercial purposes
    • Created the largest Marine Area of Responsible Fishing in Central America, the topical fjord, Golfo Dulce
    • Is teamed with Gray Fish-Tag research granting Costa Rican University students scholarships to study species related to sport fishing.

    For more information contact info@fecop.org or check out more about fishing in Costa Rica.

    Photos of spinner dolphins caught in tuna net and sailfish bycatch courtesy of Divine Dolphin, Costa Rica.

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