Tag: costa rica billfish conservation

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.

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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 fishing Satelite Tagging Program

FECOP to Tag 25 Marlin and 25 Sailfish – Seeking Volunteers

Dr. Larry Crowder to SAT tag 25 marlin and 25 sailfish in Costa Rica this season. Dr Larry Crowder and FECOP will be placing Satellite Tags in 25 marlin and 25 sailfish this upcoming season. Looking for volunteers to either be trained to tag these fish or allow a biologist to ride along and tag. Especially interested to tag some marlin on FADs to see what these fish are doing. Dr. Crowder will be in the country September 23-27 to speak to prospective taggers. Leave message and we will contact you (Marlin Magazine Photo) for more information:

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New Director of INCOPESCA

FECOPs Director of Science Appointed to Head INCOPESCA

From Coastal Angler Magazine: Costa Rica Edition – FECOP’s Director of Science Appointed to Head INCOPESCA

What is surely a loss for FECOP is a gain for Costa Rica. President Carlos Alvarado picked Moises Mug to head the fisheries department of the country for the next four years. Mug is a Fishery biologist with 32 years of professional experience in sustainable fisheries, and ocean conservation and development.

Moises Mug, new President of INCOPESCA

His experience includes high-level policy work and advice, strategic planning and implementation of complex fishery programs, teaching and research. For the last 15 years, he has worked in international fisheries focusing on several aspects of oceanic fisheries including policy, governance, capacity building, markets and livelihoods, and sustainable finance. He holds a Master’s degree in Fisheries Science from Oregon State University (OSU) in a joint program with The University of Washington (UW). Fulbright – LASPAU scholar (1990-1993). Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Stakeholder Council Member (2015 to present). He grew up in Limon, where he worked in his father’s store and surf cast for snook in his free time as a youngster.

Best known lately for his research working on the “Tuna Decree” created in 2014, protecting a total of over 200,000 square kilometers of territorial waters from tuna purse sein operations including moving tuna boats out 45 miles from the coast to eliminate conflicts with both Costa Rican commercial and sport fishing fleets. In 2017 his researched convinced the government to reduce tuna licenses issued to foreign fleets from 43 to 13. According to observer on-board catch records, this saved 25 metric tons of what would have been marlin by-catch as wells as dorado, wahoo, sailfish, turtles, sharks and marine mammals.

Mug has also been spearheading a co-project with INA (Costa Rica’s technical institute), INCOPESCA and FECOP, supplying technical and scientific support for the “greenstick” project, a method of fishing tuna with almost zero bycatch.

One thing is for certain, INCOPESCA now has a leader who truly understands fisheries management, understands the value of sport fishing to Costa Rica and the number jobs it supplies to Costa Ricans, and the contribution sport fishing is to tourism. Best of luck Mr. Mug, and Congratulations

PanAmerican Picks Costa Rica for First International Roosterfish Tournament

Luis Miguel Garcia, president of the Mexican Sport Fishing Federation and Ben Blegen and Sean Warner from USA Angling, all board members of the PanAmerican Delegation recently visited Costa Rica in search of a place to hold the First International Roosterfish Tournament. The PanAmerican Delegation is made up of anglers from North, Central and South America. FECOP represents Costa Rica in the Delegation. The goal is to one day include sport fishing in the Pan American Games and eventually make it an Olympic sport.

“We chose the southern zone because of the vast area of inshore fishing, and looked at some beautiful properties including Casa Roland in Golfito, Gofito Marina Village, Zancudo Lodge and Crocodile Bay Resort,” commented Blegen, head of USA Predator Fishing team. “It being the first tournament and not being exactly sure of the participation, we think we will have between 20 and 30 four-person teams to fish the event. Logistically it made more sense to use Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica to host but we will most likely be using boats from other operations as well.” Costa de Mar sunglases has already committed to sponsor two women’s teams. Private boats can also fish the tournament.

The tournament is scheduled November 16 to the 19th. For more details contact BenBlegen@USAPreatorTeam.org or todd@fecop.org

FECOP Kicks Off Social-Economic Study

Henry Marin, FECOP’s project manager is looking for all captains, mates, and boat owners to help demonstrate the impact of sport fishing on local communities and Costa Rica as a whole. A study done in 2009 estimated sport fishing added $600 million to the Costa Rican economy but those numbers have been challenged on several levels.

FECOP is giving away fishing caps for your help in study

Marin wants to show the value in eight different coastal communities, as well as the entire country. He has chosen Golfito, Puerto Jiménez, Quepos, Jacó-Herradura, Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playas del Coco and Barra del Colorado. That way he can show the effect on the livelihood in each coastal region separately.

His methodology is to focus on captains, mates and boat owners and will measure five big areas: Social, economic, financial, environment and governance characteristics around that population.

FECOP will use this information to show the government, local and national authorities, other non-profit organizations, civil organizations and general public; the importance of sportfishing to Costa Rica in two levels, macro and mico economically.

This information will show how different families and communities around the country are being included in the dynamics of sportfishing and how they are being impacted.

Local goverments of Quepos, Garabito and Santa Cruz are being involved in the process and CANATUR, as part of the tourism industry.

If interested on being part of the research and helping demonstrate the value of sport fishing in your community, please contact Henry Marin at hmarin@fecop.org. This email should include phone number and if possible the contacts of others working in the industry who could also take the survey. You can also leave you name and number at the FECOP office, telephone 2291-9150. If you are an owner please encourage your crews to participate.

FECOP staff will be calling to apply the surveys. All personal information is confidential and will be used only for research. Marin will give all participates a fishing cap in appreciation for taking the survey.

Todd Staley has managed sportfishing operations in Costa Rica for 25 years. He has been involved with FECOP since its inception and is former President of the group and was co-recipient of IGFA’s Chester H. Wolfe award in 2015 for his conservation efforts in Costa Rica. He is currently Fishing Columnist for the Tico Times and works full-time with FECOP as Director of Communications. Contact Todd at todd@fecop.org

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Gray Roosterfish Tagging Update by Todd Staley

Tagging Roosterfish with Gray Fish-Tag by Todd Staley

Todd Staley FECOP

Todd Staley – Special Content Contributor

I have never enjoyed fishing under pressure. I prefer to fish for fun. There was a time in my life I fished a few money tournaments and even won one or two. Nowadays, if I am fishing a tournament, it’s a charity event, where the winners are generally children with illnesses.

Even when fishing a client, I like to fish with someone who was more interested in having a good time on the water rather than catching a ton of fish or a giant fish. A much better fisherman than myself who actually was just inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame explained it very simply to me. Larry Dahlberg said, “Your chances of catching a really nice fish is directly related to how much you deserve it.”

I have noticed over the years that a good attitude catches fish and a bad attitude eats dirt. One’s relationship with the fish gods play a big part. Inexperienced anglers with good mojo have better luck than a good angler with a bad attitude.

On this particular day, the pressure was on. Gray Fish-Tag research center coordinator Bill Dobbelaer and marine scientist Travis Moore were down from Ft. Lauderdale to place another archival electronic tag in a roosterfish. Usually this would be a simple task, today was different. An ominous gray sky loomed on the horizon and the breeze was much stronger than usual for an early morning. We needed a fish around 30 lbs so it could comfortably wear the device that needed to be implanted.

 The event was co-sponsored by Crocodile Bay Resort and FECOP, the sport fishing advocacy and marine conservation group in Costa Rica. Crocodile Bay Resort’s crew was Oldemar Lopez and Sharlye Robles. Anglers, Christian Bolanos from Gray Taxidermy in Quepos and myself. Capt. Lopez suggested we try Matapalo Rock a popular roosterfish at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce. The overnight showers had muddied up some other popular inshore spots so it made sense.

Roosterfish is the perfect choice for this kind of study. It is a strong fighting fish, popular inshore game fish and Gray Fish-Tag has already learned a lot about them from the traditional spaghetti tag. Because it is a coastal animal, a good number of tagged fish have been caught again. The spaghetti tag is inserted on the shoulder of a fish and has a serial number. The number is reported to the research center by sport fishermen who recapture the fish. With this method, the information is limited to where it was caught and what size it is. When recaptured we learn how much it has grown over the period of time between captures and how far it traveled. The electronic tag records much more information but the fish must be recaptured also. The success with spaghetti tags made it worth the bet because they cost $1500 a piece. Four have been placed first time around. One in Quepos, one in Herradura, and two in the southern zone around Golfo Dulce.

As we reached the mouth of the gulf we were hit by a wall of wind in our face. Still a half mile from Matapalo Rock we trudged on. As we finally arrived I thought about renaming the famous landmark, at least for this day, Whirlpool or Maytag. It stood like the spindle of a washing machine and the surrounding waters were in the agitate cycle. We worked a nearby pinnacle but it was almost impossible to do a decent drift over the spot. Over and over we worked the area, fishing with one hand and holding on with the other. Somehow the conversation turned to the relationship between biologists and fishermen. A lot of biologists have never fished and a lot of fishermen don’t know the difference between an otolith and an eyeball. They are at times at wits end with each other because sometimes neither respects the opinion of the other. Travis laughed and said, “I can tell you a whole lot about roosterfish, but to be honest I have never caught one.

Costa Rica roosterfish taggingAbout that time Bolanos’s rod twitched and then slammed down towards the water and line screamed of the reel. After a 20-minute balancing act he had a 35 lb roosterfish on the surface. Travis jumped into action, made an incision in the fish’s belly and had the tag inserted and stitched up in less than two minutes while running water over the fishes gills. The rooster took off like he had a firecracker under his butt when placed back in the water. Mission Accomplished!

We had heard some chatter on the radio about a school of tuna working a couple miles off the beach so we ran out. We found the dolphins and tuna but the tuna wasn’t interested in anything we had to offer. Then we made a unanimous decision. Let’s go back to the rock and see if we can get Travis a rooster. Back to the washing machine!

It took about thirty minutes but finally Travis was hooked into his first rooster. He got the fish to the boat a dozen times and each time it would peel off another 50 yards of line. Eventually he had the fish to the boat and it went an easy 50 lbs. That is like winning the lottery the first time you by a ticket. I think we made a fisherman out of Travis. I know one thing. My biologist friend knew a hell of a lot more about roosterfish than he did when the day started.

Costa Rica Roosterfish Tagging

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Your Dream Photo Isn’t Worth It – Leave the Fish in the Water

Note: I first wrote about this many years ago in The Tico Times, but it seems not much has changed since then, and it is time to rethink our actions once again.

Bragging is part of human nature. We all do it, no matter what activity we partake in. I’ve seen bird-watchers nearly exchange punches as they reviewed their sighting scorecards at the end of the day, accusing each other of inventing the number of different species they saw. Fishermen, I believe, were born with a more dominant bragging gene than most of the public. For any type of bragging, photographic proof is the most convincing tool of all. Thus, the “hero shot” was born.

The traditional hero shot shows an angler posing in front of the camera with a giant smile, proudly displaying in his hands – or on his lap, if the fish is too heavy to lift – the trophy he or she has caught. If one is keeping the fish as a food item, it doesn’t much matter how you take the picture, because the fish is going in the icebox. If the fish is going to be released, however, it is a different story altogether, especially a fish the size of a sailfish or marlin.

As 90 percent of anglers coming to Costa Rica are after sailfish or marlin, and all sailfish must be released by law, let’s talk about these species.

You can go to almost any website that features fishing in Costa Rica and see photos of sailfish being dragged across the gunwale of the boat and posed with the angler for the “hero shot.” Then the fish is put back in the water. This had been the norm for more than two decades. Most marine biologists agree that pulling the fish overboard for pictures can severely harm the fish. Air exposure reduces intake of oxygen and offload of carbon dioxide, which causes stress to the fish. Dragging a big fish across the gunwale can damage internal organs as well as remove the protect slime making them susceptible to bacteria and parasites.

This photo, taken legally 12 years ago before new regulations were passed, is typical of the “hero shots” taken at that time.

(Courtesy of Todd Staley)

Over eight years ago, in December 2008, Costa Rica passed regulations making it illegal to remove sailfish from the water for the purpose of taking a photo. A fine of ₡2 million (around $3,500) can be imposed on those found in violation. For the most part, this regulation has been ignored by the sport fishing fleet for various reasons.

First, I’d bet you a boatload of ballyhoo most people don’t even know this regulation exists. Website and brochure photos with happy people posing with big sailfish out of the water sell fishing trips, just like years ago a bunch of dead fish hanging at the dock sold trips. When tourists see these types of photos advertised, they want to bring home their own hero shot, with the sailfish onboard, to show all their friends back home. Fishing crews oblige them in hopes of getting a good tip.

The original “hero shot.” Lots of fish hanging on the dock usually sold a charter for the next day.

(Courtesy of the Sailfish Club via Todd Staley)

A good crew does an orientation with the client before leaving the dock. This includes discussing the boat’s safety equipment, the level of the angler’s experience and how we fish billfish in Costa Rica. I have found that when clients are informed before leaving the dock that removing billfish from the water is not permitted in Costa Rica, and why, they are very receptive. A good owner or manager insists that his or her crews give a good introduction. Good communication is a big part of the whole experience, and it should start at the dock.

The Costa Rica government is finally starting to get its feet wet in marine conservation that is long overdue. So far, all their major decisions have continued to allow sport fishing in the new management areas. The Costa Rican Fishing Association (FECOP), a sport fishing advocacy project that started with President Laura Chinchilla, has protected over 200,000 square kilometers from tuna purse sein activity as well as moving them 45 miles from shore. Sport anglers have reported better tuna fishing as well as larger pods of spinner dolphins which are often associated with yellowfin tuna.

FECOP is currently investing more than $100,000, and the government even more, in a joint project with INCOPESCA and the National Training Institute (INA) to teach the use of “Green Sticks,” a selective type of commercial fishing for tuna which eliminates bycatch of sailfish. This also includes proper handling of the catch to receive the best market price.

The regulations are far from perfect in this country, and way too many billfish die each year as bycatch in commercial operations, but that does not give us the right to not follow the regulations in place. It is not difficult at all to leave them in the water and still get a good hero shot.

Taking a good photo of a billfish: After your crew has a calm fish alongside the boat.

1.      Leave it in the water.

2.      Have your camera ready. Most people want a shot with their own camera, so make sure your friends know how to use it. Valuable time is wasted explaining how to use it and the chance of a bad photo increases.

3.      Always touch a fish with a pair of fishing gloves on. Lean over and gently place one hand on the bill and the other hand on the dorsal fin.

4.      SMILE and click. All this can be done in less than a minute if you are prepared.

5.      Then you can either pass the fish back to the crew or hold it yourself while the boat moves slowly forward to pass water over the fish’s gills. When you can feel the fish resist, gently push it away from the boat and watch it swim away.

6.      High-five your friends and crew and keep fishing.

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