Tag: Costa Rica Caribbean fishing

costa rica jack creavalle

Inshore Fishing – Jacks or Better to Open

Costa Rica Inshore Fishing: Jacks or Better to Open

The Tico Times

Published for the Tico Times

by Todd Staley February 23, 2019

for the better part of the year, the rivers running into the Caribbean side of Costa Rica look like coffee with cream because of the runoff, mostly from the volcanoes. The San Juan, which borders Costa Rica, Rio Colorado, Tortuguero and Parismina river mouths have become famous over the years for catching tarpon.

The coffee-colored freshwater floats on the surface of the saltwater and brings nutrients to the sea that start the chain of life. The surface water looks dirty, but a couple of feet before the water is Caribbean clear, and fish have no trouble seeing to feed. As the river water pushes offshore, it collides with a current and forms a horseshoe, leaving and coming back to shore. It is as if nature had drawn a line with dirty water on one side and Caribbean emerald on the other. One side of the current will usually be flat as a pancake and the other like a washing machine on gentle cycle. Baitfish gather on the current, and the predators move in to feed.

Captains fishing the current will usually stop about 50 yards on the clear side of the current and drift back toward it. The bait of choice for years was the old Porter Sea Hawk, and bucktail and plastic jigs. In recent years, sardines, which are jigged up on small gold hooks, have become very popular.

Rolling tarpon always gets an angler’s adrenaline pumping. Photo via Pesca sabalo.

A seasoned angler from Florida worked his jig just outside the rip. Tarpon rolled on the surface nearby and the adrenaline level was rising. Finally, a tap on the line and then the rod doubled over. The angler drove the hook home and line began to scream off the reel. He was expecting to see his line head toward the surface, as it does when a tarpon takes to the air. Instead, it dug deep and he felt that old familiar head shake. He gritted his teeth as he grunted out, “It’s a #+#*#*## Jack!” Thirty minutes later, he had a 35 lb jack next to his boat that he considered a waste of time — he could have been pulling on tarpon.

Jack Crevalle are often referred to as head-shakers, bulldogs, thumpers, or the not-so-tactful words chosen by this angler because of the way they fight when hooked. They are found on both coasts of Costa Rica. For a seasoned angler used to fishing in saltwater, they might be considered a trash fish, but for a vacationing angler from somewhere in the midwest, they are one hell of a battle.

Dan Aled with a Pacific Jack caught while filming with BBC. Photo via BBC

I truly believe if they jumped and tasted better, they would be right up there on the top of the game fish list. I remember when I was about 8 years old, when my little brother and I brought home a stringer of small jacks we had caught. My mother cooked them for dinner. I never kept another jack, although I did have one prepared by Clifford the chef on the Rain Goddess years ago in Barra del Colorado that was excellent. Local Costa Rican fishermen eat them regularly. I’m sure they know something my mother didn’t.

Jacks are ferocious eaters and fighters. They readily hit a live or dead bait, jig, popper, or almost any type of artificial offering. The Atlantic jack crevalle grows larger than its Pacific counterpart. They can grow to over 60 lbs; the Pacific species can obtain a weight of nearly 40 lbs. They are for the most part an inshore species but have occasionally ventured offshore.

If you are fishing tarpon on the Caribbean, or roosterfish on the Pacific coast, you are more than likely going to encounter a Jack crevalle. If you are dealt a hand of a pair of jacks or better, you’ve still had a good day of fishing.



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

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Archie Fields

Costa Rica Legend Archie Fields

Remembering Costa Rica Fishing Legend Archie Fields

Printed for the Tico Times by Todd Staley

Archie Fields, a giant of a man, sat wearing a white guayabera shirt on the veranda overlooking the Río Colorado. Next to him were myself and two local women who worked at his hotel, the world-famous Río Colorado Lodge on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. The women jabbered away in Spanish and I didn’t understand a word they were saying. But I kept hearing over and over again the words “don Archie.” I remembered “The Godfather” movies from the ’70s and thought to myself, Holy crap! I’ve gone to work for the Mafia.
That was my first day of work for the late Archie Fields.

I have since learned to speak Spanish and that the word “don” is the equivalent of “mister,” a respectful title that has nothing to do with organized crime. Fields hailed from Tampa, Florida, and arrived in Costa Rica by way of the Bahamas, where he had set up a thriving tourist business but found it difficult to do business after the British gave up rule of the islands.

He then set up shop in Costa Rica and founded Swiss Travel, which today is one of the biggest travel agencies in the country. The landing of the first cruise ship in Costa Rica at the Caribbean port of Limón was organized by him. His Costa Rican Tourism Board license was No. 17.

In 1972, he bought a cabin in Barra del Colorado on the Caribbean coast and started the first boat tour down the Río San Juan and Tortuguero canals.

When he discovered what a great tarpon fishery the area offered, he added sport fishing. Cabin by cabin, he built the lodge until he had 19 rooms and created what has been called a “Rube Goldberg designed, Swiss Family Robinson type of fishing lodge.”

A history of celebrity and folklore infuses the lodge. Actor Lee Marvin and Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant used to fish there. Jimmy Buffett, in his book, “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” describes Río Colorado as a place where overweight older guys who do not know much about fishing can get their picture taken with a large tarpon with relative ease and comfort. Novelist Randy Wayne White titled his “Batfishing in the Rainforest” after an experience at Río Colorado.

There are rumors that at one time a secret compartment below the lodge’s bar held a stash of guns that were secretly slipped upriver to Edén Pastora, “Comadante Cero,” and the Contras during the Nicaraguan Revolution. This was around the same time a Nicaraguan fighter plane blew up the fish house in Barra del Colorado because the pilot mistakenly thought he was over Greytown, Nicaragua.

Fields didn’t just come down here and grow wealthy. He gave back. The school system in Barra del Colorado went only up to the sixth grade in his day, so he sponsored many children who had to be fostered in Guápiles or San José to continue their education. Some have gone on to become doctors and business professionals.

He also led a campaign for conservation of Costa Rica’s marine resources. His secret to success was to “underpromise and overdeliver.” He never put really large fish in his brochures or advertising materials. He wanted all his guests to catch a bigger fish than they were expecting.

The current owner of Río Colorado Lodge, Dan Wise, was in Costa Rica celebrating his 40th birthday when he met Fields at a hotel in San José. Fields convinced him to go fishing at his lodge. Over the years, Wise became a regular visitor. When Fields fell ill with cancer, he thought it would be too taxing for his wife, Anita, to run the remote lodge, so he decided to sell the business.

Wise humorously describes how he ended up owning the famous Archie Fields’ Río Colorado Lodge: “The name Archie Fields in the tarpon fishing business is equivalent to Colonel Sanders in the fried chicken business. [Fields] was quite a salesman, as he sold me a termite-infested wooden hotel in a town with no road access or fire department and talked me into leaving the country of my birth, abandoning a good law practice and living in a totally different culture in a tropical paradise. Meeting this silver-headed old man by chance certainly was a life-changing experience for me to say the least.”

Speaking from experience, I can say that living and working in Barra del Colorado is the Costa Rican version of Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” Archie Fields left a lifelong impression on many people. To this day I can’t remember the date of my own father’s death, but I remember the day the big fisherman in the sky took Fields: April 8, 1993. A lot of people miss you, don Archie.

Todd Staley is the fishing manager at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jiménez, on southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Skippers, operators and anglers are invited to email fishing reports by Wednesday of each week to todd@crocodilebay.com. To post reports and photos on The Tico Times’ online fishing forum, go to www.ticotimes.net/Weekend/Fishing/Fishing-Forum.

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