Tag: FECOP

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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Explaining The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

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Explaining The Costa Rica Tuna Decree

Costa Rica Fishing Conservation: Why is the Costa Rica Tuna Decree so Important?

There is nothing like enjoying a fresh yellowfin tuna sushi, sashimi, or even a big fat juicy fresh tuna steak when your arms are almost too tired to lift the chopsticks. Recreational anglers are catching more tuna than ever all along the Costa Rican Pacific seaboard. Fighting yellowfin tuna on rod and reel is like having your line attached to a freight train. The increased availability of tuna has been a saving grace for many a charter captain in the off season for billfish.
People are asking: Why so many tuna?

In 2012 FECOP (Federacion Costarricense de Pesca), a non-governmental group made up of different sport fishing associations around the country began researching the tuna purse industry in Costa Rican waters. Territorial waters are 11 times greater than Costa Rica’s terrestrial area. Costa Rica does not have any national flagged tuna vessels and purse licenses are sold to and operated by foreign flagged vessels in Costa Rican waters. FECOP approached then President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla explaining a problem existed and she advised them to submit a project supporting their claim.

“It is estimated 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch in purse sein operations were saved in Costa Rican waters in 2017 alone.”

FECOP then discovered that over the 2008-2011 period, 193 purse vessels operated in Costa Rican waters while INCOPESCA the governing body of fishing in Costa Rica reported only 81 licensed vessels sold for the same period. Apparently 114 or 58% of the vessels were operating illegally. Much of the tuna never made it to port in the country. Costa Rica benefited a mere $37 a ton for tuna stored.

Knowing the government would be slow to react to just a group of sport fishers’ complaints, FECOP held meetings with the longline fleet. After decades of throwing stones at each other the two groups decided to present the project to the government together. The longline fleet expressed if there were a steady supply of tuna available they would have no interest in sailfish which are a major bycatch problem in Costa Rica with non-selective types of fishing gear.

Yellowfin Tuna Costa Rica

 

 

President Chinchilla signed the “tuna decree,” as it is known near the end of her term and newly elected President Luis Guillermo Solis delayed the publication of the decree, but it eventually passed in October of 2014. The decree protects over 200,000 square kilometers of territorial water (44%) from purse sein operations, (see map). The most important area to recreational anglers is the first 45 miles from the coastline in which sein operations are now prohibited.

In March of 2017, using data supplied by FECOP’s Director of Science Moises Mug, INCOPESCA reduced tuna purse sein licenses sold to foreign fleets from 43 vessels down to 9 for the rest of the year. The government amended the agreement and sold 13 licenses. A new decree is waiting to be signed that would only permit 8 licenses permanently. It is estimated 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch in purse sein operations were saved in Costa Rican waters in 2017 alone.

According to agreements in the Tuna Decree there are a few provisions that have yet to be implemented. A management plan for the coastal and special polygons. Polygons A and D on map. An onboard observer program must be created for longline fleets, and a research program including horizontal and vertical migration using archival tags. The management workshops have already begun with sport and commercial fisherman, government agencies and NGO’s all participating.

INCOPESCA, INA the governmental technical institute that trains for many occupations including different types of fishing, and FECOP have all teamed up for a year- long “greenstick” and vertical line study which started with the first voyage in October. Greenstick is a method of fishing tuna with almost zero bycatch that is common in the Atlantic side of the United States but INCOPESCA requires technical support studies done in Costa Rica before they will give licenses for fish them here. With more tuna available and a growing demand for sustainably caught tuna on the International market with a higher value at the dock, hopes are one day a portion of the longline fleet will convert to greenstick fishing. This would decrease the amount of billfish bycatch.

Cuando pensé que todo estaba bien que estaba siendo feliz que al fin Dios me recompensaba, te me vas y me dejas sola, me dejas con un vacío profundo pero sobretodo con ganas de verte una última vez de besarte y decirte lo mucho que te amo me dejaste sola en este mundo que era para los dos!! Nunca pensé sentir un Dolor ni parecido parece que pensar que esto es una pesadilla es la mejor salida porqué simplemente no veo mis días sin esa sonrisa sin tus llamadas repentinas que cambian mis días sin tus msj que me hacían pensar que todo estaría bien no me imagino mi vida sin ti que eras el hombre de mi vida te amo y no se como seguir sin ti no sé cómo se supera este dolor!!

Si en otra vida te vuelvo a encontrar me aferrare a ti tan fuerte que nunca más te volveré a soltar!!!

bycatch tremendously.

FECOP was formed in 2008 by a small group of anglers who discovered 480,000 kilos of sailfish were being exported annually into the United States. Much of this was served in seafood restaurants as smoked seafood spread and people had no idea they were eating sailfish. FECOP convinced the government to stop the exportation of sailfish but it can still be sold on the National market as a low-cost supplement to the Costa Rican diet.


The first major conservation project FECOP tackled was the creation of the largest Marine Area of Responsible Fishing in Central America. Sport fishing is allowed and small scale artisanal fishing is permitted in the Golfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, but shrimp trawlers and gill nets are no longer allowed. A Golfo Dulce Commission was formed with representatives of all the users of the gulf as well as governmental agencies and NGO’s who meet monthly to manager the area.

FECOP has not existed without controversy. While the whole Costa Rican sport fishing community should have been celebrating the Tuna Decree when it passed, they were distracted by a campaign from The Billfish Foundation labeling FECOP as “quasi-green environmentalists” and a threat to sport fishing in Costa Rica. The controversy started when a FECOP member voiced his opinion at a public forum on regulating more the organized billfish tournaments in Costa Rica. TBF ran with it claiming it was FECOP’s stance to discredit the organization.
A blessing in disguise, the incident prompted FECOP to re-evaluate itself. The staff was reduced and Moises Mug, one of the most respected marine scientists in the country was hired full time. Today their agenda is quite simple. Promoting sport fishing in Costa Rica both recreationally and professionally with a focus on bycatch, research and communication. The staff is supported by a board of directors from both the recreational and professional fishing sector including sportsman and Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs who is an avid fisherman and conservationist.

Continuous maintenance of the Tuna Decree will be needed in 2018 which Dr. Mug will oversee. Henry Marin will head up a socio-economic study concentrating on coastal communities individually, demonstrating the importance of sport fishing.

One study FECOP will be doing that will be especially exciting is Pacific Tarpon. Not indigenous to Pacific waters the numbers caught on the Pacific coastline has been increasing annually. It is suspected they have come through the Panama Canal and are breeding in Pacific waters. Fish will be captured, tagged, a tissue sample taken and then released. Genetics and feeding habits can be determined by a tissue sample. The study will be done in the southern zone where more fish have been taken, but tarpon have been caught up on the Nicoya Peninsula and one was caught recently as far north as El Salvador.

More information can be found about FECOP at www.fishcostarica.org

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Costa Rica’s Marine Resources – Sport Fishing Isn’t The Problem

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Costa Rica Fishing Species

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costa rica fishing lures

FECOP and Larry Dahlberg Team up to Create Jobs for Displaced Workers

Production of artificial fishing lures for displaced shrimp industry workers

FECOP and Legendary Fisherman Larry Dahlberg Team up to Help Employ Displaced Shrimp Industry Workers

Todd Staley February 7, 2019 Published for The Tico Times
 
Costa Rica fishing lures hand made

A group of former shrimp peelers listen to a plan to teach them lure making. (Photo courtesy of Todd Staley)

Many people applauded Costa Rica for outlawing shrimp trawling last year. The new ruling has survived many court challenges and even today the shrimp industry and INCOPESCA, which manages the country’s fisheries, is doing technical studies on a supposedly sustainable type of trawling.

Henry Marin, a socioeconomic expert and project manager for FECOP, an organization that advocates for sport fishing and of sustainable fishing in Costa Rica, understands that conservation also has a social cost.

“What most people don’t realize is that the ruling displaced 300 women in Puntarenas who worked as shrimp peelers that now are left unemployed. Many of these women are the heads of their households,” Marin said.

Hundreds of people in Puntarenas were employed by the trawling industry.

Larry Dahlberg, the legendary fisherman, lure maker, and host of television show Hunt for Big Fish, visited Costa Rica recently and Marin explained the shrimp peeler blight. They both agreed that conservation had a social cost. Then they agreed they could do something about it.

Dahlberg has designed many famous fishing lures and last year offered to come down and teach these women displaced from the shrimping industry how to make fishing lures since they were well adapted to working with their hands.

Marin started the leg-work and contacted the women’s group. Then there were meetings with INCOPESCA, which is in charge of Costa Rican fisheries, and Instituto Nacional de Aprenizaje (INA), Costa Rica’s technical institute. Both groups were eager to participate.

Dahlberg enlisted the help of Mike Faupel, President of Alumilite Engineering Company who owns MakeLure.com; Amazing Casting products, suppliers of molding and casting products; and Brad Roberts, a well-known lure maker and owner of Jaw Sportswear. The three will be spending the last week of February in Costa Rica training a group of these women as well as five INA instructors to carry on the training to keep the program growing.

The group will be making fishing lures for both hard and soft baits and are planning to develop a bio-degradable lure. After they learned the molding process, they can expand to other products like souvenirs for cruise ship tourists that visit Puntarenas.

The project will not be the solution for all 300 women, but if done properly, the co-op they form will employ a good number of women. Marin understands this is only the first step.

“They will need help learning how to manage a business and INA has plans to include this in the program,” Marin said. “Volunteers are invited to participate, especially university students in business administration or with knowledge of 3D printing looking for a community project are welcome.”

For more information or to volunteer for the project contact Henry Marin at 2291-9150 hmarin@fecop.org


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.

http://fishcostarica.org/monthly-costa-rica-captain-profile-remembering-archie-fields/
 

Costa Rica Top Global Fishing Destination

 

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Costa Rica Wahoo

How and Where to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

What you need to know to catch the Eastern Pacific’s iconic roosterfish

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Tough guy of nearshore reefs, rocky headlands and sandy bays, roosterfish — iconic game fish of the Eastern Pacific — is a bucket-lister for many anglers.

Adrian E. Gray

A lazy swell rolled in from the open Pacific, gradually forming into a single cresting wave as it encountered ever-shallower water. Our panga steadily chugged along at little more than a walking pace just behind the surf line, so close to the verdant jungle backdrop that I could see flocks of scarlet macaws browsing on sea almonds.

Beaches such as this offer prime real estate for predators to pick off smaller fish that dart about the turbulent water to feed on the countless shrimp, sand eels, shellfish and other tasty tidbits revealed by powerful wave action continually scouring the sandy seabed.

An open beach off Panama’s Coiba Island is not a great place for a lone blue runner to be swimming, especially one bridle-rigged to a circle hook. Certainly the fish so tethered at the end of my line was not having the best of days, and a sudden increase in activity telegraphed up the rod told me things were about to get much worse for that hapless baitfish.

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Nematistius pectoralis occur in a limited area, mainly from Mexican waters south through Ecuador.

Sport Fishing

I tensed in anticipation of an ­imminent strike. Moments later, I spotted the runner skipping across the surface, closely followed by the unmistakable seven-stranded dorsal fin of a roosterfish as it surged forward to engulf the fish in an explosion of whitewater

For two or three seconds, I allowed line to pour unchecked from the reel, then gently eased the lever drag forward to the strike position. I waited for the line to tighten, and smiled as my rod bent in confirmation that the hook had indeed found its way into the sweet spot in the corner of the fish’s jaw.

“Cinquenta!” shouted my captain a bit later, when he leaned over the side and grabbed my fish just ahead of its tail. Hoisting it aboard, he announced that I had indeed caught the 50-pound roosterfish he knew I so desperately wanted to catch. I could see that he was being overly generous, the fish weighing at best 40 pounds or so. I knew it wasn’t the 50-pounder I have sought for so many years now.

Roosterfish, Nematistius ­pectoralis, inhabit the eastern Pacific, from the Baja Peninsula south to Peru. It’s the only species in the genus Nematistius and, with its iconic seven-stranded dorsal fin — like the rooster’s comb from which the species gets its name — the roosterfish is one of the most recognizable species of game fish. For a great many saltwater anglers, as for me, it’s a bucket-list species.

Over the years, I have caught lots of roosters during numerous trips throughout Costa Rica and Panama. Often I have fished destinations where fish over 50 pounds are caught with some degree of regularity, but a 50-plus-pound trophy always seems to elude me.

Are there ways I can fine-tune where, when and how I fish in order to maximize my chances of catching that elusive trophy rooster? Keen to put the odds as much in my favor as possible in my ongoing quest, recently I contacted several experts who regularly see big roosters caught in their waters.

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Roosters often feed in the surf zone around rocky outcroppings.

Dave Lewis

Tricks from Tropic Star
Tucked into Piñas Bay in southern Panama, very close to the Colombia border, Tropic Star Lodge ranks as one of the world’s great fishing lodges. Numerous world-record roosters have been caught by anglers fishing these prolific waters, including the men’s 8-pound class, currently held by a 54-pound, 9-ounce rooster.

“There is always a degree of luck to catching any trophy fish, but there are certainly things that anglers can do to increase their chances, namely look for the optimal time of year depending on area, baits and techniques,” says Capt. Richard White, Tropic Star’s fishing director and assistant manager. “In our waters, the best months for larger roosterfish are from April, when the water starts to become very clear, till around August.

“Live bait is the best bet for larger roosterfish, especially hardtails [blue runners], mullet and bonito,” White continues. “Large roosterfish have such big mouths, a 50-pound rooster can easily engulf a large mullet or bonito. We swim live baits bridled with a circle hook. Smaller hooks are generally preferred, but you need a hook with a gape big enough to hook those larger fish.

“A lot of the bigger fish are hooked from a downrigger, with baits fished at about 30 to 50 feet down.” White emphasizes that big baits take big roosters: “You’ll have less action overall, but when you do get that bite, you know it’s going to be a big one.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

No lure, beats a live bait, with bridled blue runners such as this one being one of the roosterfish’s favorite hors d’oeuvres.

Dave Lewis

White says that both swimbaits and poppers work effectively for roosterfish. Color seems less important than matching the hatch in terms of size. Adjust your retrieve until you find the speed that the fish want, and note exactly where you get bit. “Was it on the sunny side of the rock or the shady side? Was it in the whitewater or the swirls?” White asks. “Was it just after a pause, or was it a reaction bite? If you can start to identify a pattern, you’ll be able to refine your technique to catch more fish.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Many roosters are taken on poppers and stickbaits worked along sandy beaches.

Dave Lewis

Roosters on the Tuna Coast
Panama’s remote “tuna coast” on the Azuero Peninsula is home to Panafishing Lodge, another destination where trophy roosters are very much a house specialty.

“Catching a 50-plus-pound rooster on the tuna coast is definitely a realistic target,” lodge owner Pierre-Andre Demauge says. “Big roosterfish can be elusive and picky, but some anglers will catch a trophy on their first day, while it might take others several trips before they catch a really big one.”

Demauge says that in their waters, “big roosters are much more likely to eat a live bait than a lure. We find that the big fish move around a lot, with no one spot consistently producing trophy fish. In our area, there is no such thing as ‘targeting a big rooster.’ We just fish a likely spot, have fun with whatever wants to bite, and sooner or later a big rooster will show.

“On the tuna coast, the biggest roosterfish tend to be caught in the wet season, especially in May, June and October,” Demauge continues. “I think this is due to the fact that bigger fish feed primarily on green jacks, which are abundant during the wet season. Juvenile roosters love to hunt the balls of anchovies so abundant in the dry season.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

The unique, telltale “rooster comb” dorsal fin often slices the water behind a lure.

Dave Lewis

For Demauge, live bait is much more effective for trophy roosters than any lure. The best bait in these waters is a 7- or 8-inch cojinua (green jack), but many other species will work. “We’ve seen big roosters eating anything from 2-inch anchovies or needlefish to small yellowfin tuna or jack crevalle.”

But Demauge says that many anglers like to fish lures, and “we catch our share of big ones on all kind of artificials.” Demauge cites one major upside to lure‑fishing: “Nothing beats the strike of a big rooster on a topwater lure!”

Lures that can be worked fast produce best, he says, citing a 6- or 7-inch popper or stickbait worked energetically with short strokes and nonstop action as the most reliable lure for roosters there. However, at times, roosters can be reluctant to strike lures on top. Then it’s time to send down the jigs.


Read Next: Breathtaking Roosterfish Leap


“For the past few years, slow-jigging has proved a really effective and unexpected way to target trophy roosters. Fighting a big rooster on slow-jigging tackle is something that even the most experienced angler will remember!

“When that big rooster does ­eventually show up behind your lure, its comb sticking aggressively from the surface, whatever you do, don’t stop working your lure!” Demauge cautions. “When you are hooked up, maintain steady pressure, and if the rooster races toward the boat, be ready to reel as fast as you can. Roosterfish are masters at unhooking themselves if you let them have any slack.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Perhaps no area is more renowned for its consistent roosterfishing than southern Costa Rica’s Matapalo Rock, on the west side of the Golfo Dulce, where this monster was caught from a Zancudo Lodge boat.

Adrian E. Gray

Costa Rica in the Offseason
Repeating the refrain of big baits for big roosters, Allan Smith, fishing director at Crocodile Bay Resort on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, says: “Big roosters want a meal, not a snack. Our bait of choice are live bonitos, trolled slowly.” It can take longer to get live baits the right size, and you won’t get as much action, but when you do get the bite, it will likely be the big fish you’re looking for.”

Smith says the odds of bigger fish also increase when fishing pressure has eased off.

“The best months here off the Osa Peninsula are the offseason, August through November, when fewer boats on the water mean some spots don’t get touched for weeks at a time. “The big fish tend to make more mistakes when there is little fishing pressure.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Even when sailfishing offshore is hot, lots of anglers will take at least a day to fish nearshore for roosters.

Julien Lajournade

Mexican Monsters
More anglers have probably caught their first roosterfish in the waters of Mexico than any other country, especially around the Baja Peninsula. The current International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record is held by a 114-pound fish that was caught at La Paz in 1960. A quick scan through the list of various line-class records reveals no fewer than a dozen current line-class rooster records from Baja.

“We catch many roosterfish in June and July over 60 pounds,” says Grant Hartman, owner and head guide at Baja Anglers in Cabo. For their waters, Hartman says, live mullet or ­caballito (scads) produce the biggest fish, though big Pencil Poppers and similar lures also work.

“For the really big fish, you usually have to put in the time on the water, but having said that, I have had many anglers catch a giant roosterfish on their very first day.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Large poppers such as this Halco Roosta Popper attract attention when fished at a modest pace.

Dave Lewis

Global Perspective: Fish Those Lures!
“Catching a big rooster on a lure has nothing to do with luck, only hard work and patience,” says Julien Lajournade, editor of the French global fishing magazine, Voyages De Pěche.

Lajournade, who has caught his share of large roosters, notes: “More people fish with lures than bait at the lodges I have fished, and in recent years, a lot of very big fish have been caught with poppers, including trophy roosters exceeding 60 and even 80 pounds.

“In my opinion,” Lajournade continues, “the best lures are big poppers. XL-size poppers made for giant trevally can fool monster roosters, especially in deep rocky places.” Lajournade favors a white belly with a light-blue back, rigged with a single strong treble hook at the rear. He attaches it to a 60-pound ­fluorocarbon leader.

But, Lajournade says, rooster hunters should avoid heavy drag settings. “You’ll lose many roosterfish if you fight them giant trevally style.” When fishing relatively deep or in agitated water, Lajournade suggests big, deep-cupfaced poppers fished slowly with pauses. But when shallower and in calm waters, he says, “use a steady retrieve, popping regularly but without violent splashes. Remember,” he adds, “make long casts and stay focused; roosters don’t strike a lure twice. Never slow down a retrieve, whatever is happening behind the lure.”

Where and How to Catch Trophy Roosterfish

Most guides favor circle hooks both because they work so effectively and minimize release mortality.

Dave Lewis

Other Rooster Destinations
In addition to several ­countries already mentioned, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru all have roosterfish hunting in their inshore waters. Guatemala’s Pacific resorts widely seek roosters inshore as an alternative to the popular sailfishing offshore.

The main issue when ­planning to fish in little-known or underdeveloped countries is finding a reliable outfitter who can arrange safe boats with knowledgeable crews. Following the recent cease-fire and peace agreement with the FARC terrorists, Colombia is already starting to attract an increasing number of sport fishermen; it certainly will become the next big Central American destination to draw anglers from around the globe — where, among other game fish, you can be sure they’ll target roosters.

 

About the Author
The work of Dave Lewis, a retired firefighter and U.K.-based angling photojournalist, appears regularly in publications around the world. He travels extensively, and acts as host and guide to groups of sport fishermen traveling to salt- and freshwater destinations (visit davelewisfishing.com).

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Costa Rica Fishing Species – Roosterfish

Gray Roosterfish Tagging Update by Todd Staley

 

 

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Fishing for Science – Tagging and Studying Sailfish and Marlin

Fishing for Science: Tagging and Studying Sailfish and Marlin Habits

By Todd Staley published for The Tico Times Jan 31, 2019

Left to right: FECOP member Henry Marin tagging expert Robbie Schallert, Captain Francisco Lobo, First mate Gerardo “McFly” Moreno, Dr. Danielle Haulsee, and Dr. Larry Crowder. (Todd Staley / The Tico Times)

The site of a billfish coming up into a spread of teasers, happily skipping across a deep blue ocean never gets old. Sailfish, named for their extremely tall dorsal fin and a sword-like bill, will light up in a purple hue when excited.

They generally come into the teasers — which are hook-less lures that trail behind the boat to attract sailfish — gracefully swatting them with their bills. This gives you time to place your bait in front of it. A marlin looks similar to a sailfish, but they’re much larger. They also almost always bust through the ocean like a linebacker blitzing the quarterback, or a bull tearing through the ring at Christmastime in Zapote. The adrenaline rush of catching one of these fish is always rewarding, but it’s even better when you know you’re helping science learn a little more about these fish.

FECOP’s Henry Marin brings a study subject on board

I recently helped a group of scientists, led by Dr. Larry Crowder from the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, catch fish to better understand and manage ocean pelagics like sailfish and marlin.

It was a good day for fishing and science. There was enough fish for the scientists to be selective with the ones they tagged. They placed satellite tags in three marlin and nine sailfish They chose the healthiest looking fish to place the tags. The tags cost around $4,000 a piece, so it pays to be careful. The tags they use have a “double loop” system which limits the drag in the water and keeps the tag close to the body. It’s black so predator fish won’t be attracted to it.

The team several scientists from Stanford University, tagging experts and several local captains. The team of scientists were here to start-up a four-year project called Dynamic Marine Animal Research (DynaMAR) and are placing satellite tags on marlin and sailfish along several points off the Pacific coast.

 

The tag is black so it won’t attract predators. (Todd Staley / The Tico Times)

 

It was a good day for fishing and science. There was enough fish for the scientists to be selective with the ones they tagged. They placed satellite tags in three marlin and nine sailfish They chose the healthiest looking fish to place the tags. The tags cost around $4,000 a piece, so it pays to be careful. The tags they use have a “double loop” system which limits the drag in the water and keeps the tag close to the body. It’s black so predator fish won’t be attracted to it.

The team several scientists from Stanford University, tagging experts and several local captains. The team of scientists were here to start-up a four-year project called Dynamic Marine Animal Research (DynaMAR) and are placing satellite tags on marlin and sailfish along several points off the Pacific coast.

The tag is black so it won’t attract predators. (Todd Staley / The Tico Times)

The tags will gather information on movement, location, depths traveled and water temperatures. They are set to pop off at intervals of, six, nine, and 12 months and float to the surface. Then an antenna will transmit the data to a satellite. Scientists will compare that data from other sources the fish have traveled to.

They are especially interested in what these fish are doing during an El Niño period. During this period, the water warms and changes the upwelling of nutrients. The fish’s normal patterns change and they become more lethargic.

They plan to tag fish every month of the year in future visits and hope to have data on nearly 150 billfish after they’re finished.Dr. Crowder says a similar study on swordfish of the coast of California changed the thinking on Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).

“Fish don’t always stay in the same place, especially pelagic species, they are always on the move,” Dr. Crowder said. “What we found was at times the fish and marine life we were trying to protect were not even in the area we were protecting”

Dr. Larry Crowder (Pictured Right –  by Todd Staley / The Tico Times)

With the information they gathered from the swordfish study, they were not only able to predict where the concentration of swordfish would be, but more importantly, they could predict where the highest concentrations of bycatch would be. In that case, it was blue sharks and Leatherback turtles, a highly endangered marine reptile.

That study led to the creation of Mobile Marine Protected Areas. By predicting the location of bycatch, areas could be closed to commercial swordfishing for a period and changed with the movements of the bycatch. This led to better conservation effort while allowing commercial fisherman a larger area to fish.

 

 

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costa rica conservation sharks

7 Cool Facts About Hammerhead Sharks

7 Things You May Not Know About Hammerhead Sharks

Hammerhead sharks are known for their unique head shape and wide-set eyes, which give them a better visual range than most other sharks, but there’s a lot more to learn about these distinctive fish than what you may already know.

hammerhead shark

The “hammer” shape of this unique shark’s head is called a cephalofoil.

(photo from Thinkstock)

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FUN FACT The scientific genus name of most hammerhead sharks is Sphyrna, which comes from the Greek word for hammer. Some scientists have theorized that the hammer-like shape of the head may have evolved to enhance the shark’s vision. The hammerhead’s eyes are positioned on the sides of the shark’s flattened “hammer” head, which gives it 360-degree vision — in other words, the hammerhead can see above and below at all times. However, they have a huge blind spot directly in front of their nose.

hammerhead shark

Unlike most sharks, hammerheads mostly swim in schools, sometimes numbering in the hundreds in places like Costa Rica’s Isla del Cocos and the Galapagos. At night, a hammerhead shark usually hunts alone.

Thinkstock

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FUN FACT There are nine species of hammerhead sharks. The great hammerhead is the largest, and typically measures about 13 feet long and weighs about 500 pounds.

hammerhead shark

A hammerhead scans the sand for its favorite meal, the stingray.

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SAD FACT Sharks are infamous for being labeled as the big, bad monsters of the sea, but there’s a monster out there that’s even more threatening — humans. Hammerheads are at a high risk for extinction because fishermen hunt them for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in some countries. After a hammerhead’s fin is sliced off, the fisherman will toss the creature back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark dies.

hammerhead shark

Hammerheads are found worldwide. They generally prefer warmer waters along coastlines and continental shelves.

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FUN FACT Hammerheads are found in both shallow and deep water. During summer, you can find large schools migrating to cooler water. Because they often school in shallow water, they are one of the few animals that can actually tan from exposure to the sun.

hammerhead shark

A hammerhead’s belly is white — this allows it to blend into the ocean when viewed from the bottom and enables it to sneak up on its prey.

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FUN FACT Like all sharks, hammerheads have electroreceptory sensory pores called ampullae of Lorenzini. Because of its unique head shape, the hammerhead can sweep the ocean floor for prey more effectively.

hammerhead shark

Hammerheads trap stingrays by pinning them to the seafloor.

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FUN FACT Fossil records for most sharks are scant since they do not have mineralized bones. Usually, it is their fossilized teeth alone that are commonly found. According to scientists’ DNA studies, the ancestor of the hammerheads probably lived about 20 million years ago.

hammerhead shark

Reproduction occurs only once a year for hammerhead sharks.

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FUN FACT A female hammerhead gives birth to live young. A single female can give birth to anywhere from six to 50 pups.

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Yellowfin Tuna Costa Rica

Costa Rica Sets the Bar High for Sport Fishing

Stop Illegal Fishing in Costa Rica

How Costa Rica Sets the Bar Higher for Sport fishing

Two distinctive coasts, a wide variety of fish, and the possibility of a sport fishing grand slam make this country a place to return again and again.

Costa Rica continues to set the bar high for sport fishing but is also known for many things: flavorful coffee, a remarkably relaxing pura vida lifestyle, and tropical rainforests. For most, fishing isn’t high on the list of reasons to visit this Central American country—but those in the know can attest that it should be. Why? When it comes to Costa Rican sport fishing, it’s all about variety. Year-round fishing, more than ten species to catch, a rich history of competition, and two completely different coasts make Costa Rica a sport fishing hotspot that you’ll need to visit more than once to truly appreciate.

There’s an important distinction between regular fishing and sport fishing. Regular fisherman typically keep and eat or sell their catch. Sport fishing is done at a higher, sometimes professional level, and is mostly catch-and-release. And certain fish—marlin, swordfish, roosterfish among them—are only meant to be caught for sport and released. Costa Rica is a fishing pro’s paradise for its large variety of fish species to be caught 365 days a year throughout the country. As the country’s legislation is trending towards prohibiting industrial-scale fishing, now is as good a time as ever to get your catch-and-release on in Costa Rica.

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It’s Always Fishing Season in Costa Rica

The best place to land a marlin in Costa Rica is on the Pacific Coast. [Photo Credit: MichaelMaywood, iStock]

Marlin in Costa RicaWhen planning a fishing vacation, it’s important to study up on your destination’s seasons and to know exactly what you can expect to catch at the time you’re traveling. Costa Rica has two distinct seasons: the dry season and the green (or wet) season. Dry season runs from December to April, and will be your best bet for catching most species. It’s also the high season for Costa Rica vacations. While dry season will get more hype, there’s a lot to love about wet season. The summer months can be the best time to catch billfish; schools of tuna will be easier to spot after a heavy rain; wahoo season heats up when the water cools down around May; and the jungle becomes lush and green as everything begins to bloom again.But truly, the best time to fish in Costa Rica depends on what you’re looking for. Costa Rica’s vast geography offers up so many different microclimates and currents that affect the fishing season that you can practice different types of sport fishing and catch plenty of totally different species. For example, snapper and roosterfish are catchable all year, while other species like marlin, sailfish, and wahoo virtually disappear during the fall months. In the North Pacific region, marlin can’t be found in January and February, while in the Central and South Pacific, they’re abundant at that same time.

Bottom line: Do your homework, set your goals, and plan accordingly.

Here’s a detailed chart to help you plan your Costa Rica fishing vacation

A Tale of Two Coasts

What makes Costa Rica a sportfisherman’s dream is its unique location. Close enough to the equator for its fishing season to last all year, Costa Rica benefits from two coastlines, each with strikingly different characteristics.

Pacific Coast

Marlin sailfish, Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is ripe with marlin, sailfish, roosterfish, and more. [Photo Credit: reisegraf, iStock]

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast enjoys more sunny days than anywhere else. It also boasts plenty of local Tico culture, and is the most popular for tourists. On the Pacific Coast, you’ll hunt marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, roosterfish, and tuna. Los Sueños—a small resort town in Punternas province—is one of the world’s top big game fishing spots for blue, black, and striped marlin, plus has lots of sailfish (which are easier to catch, especially in February!).The best Pacific fishing spots during the green season are in Papagayo Gulf, Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, and Playas del Coco. The best catches in dry season are found in Golfo Dulce, Zancudo, Puerto Jimenez and Golfito.

Visit: December – April
Avoid:October

Caribbean Coast

Costa Rica’s entire Caribbean coast is occupied by the province of Limón. It’s rich in Caribbean culture and preserves its Indian heritage, while its white sand beaches are uncrowded. It’s also more natural (read: less Americanized) and suited for laid-back travelers. Fishing here is year-round, though it often depends on the weather, which changes day-to-day. The east coast is known more than anything for tarpon, which fish best from December to May. Tarpon are massive—averaging 100-120 pounds and sometimes even cracking 200. What makes them a favorite among fishermen is their fighting ability. One of the toughest fish to catch, the tarpon’s nickname is the “Silver King.” The best fishing spots on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica are Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado, around the rivers, estuaries, and larger lagoons.

Whe to Visit Costa Rica: January – May; late August – early November
Avoid: June – July

Hit the Elusive Grand Slam

A grand slam is one of sportfishing’s most honored accomplishments. The impressive feat occurs when one angler has a day so successful that he or she catches three different species of fish in a day. In Costa Rica, three or four grand slams are reported each year. Each family of fish—trout, salmon, bass, and so on—has its own grand slam requirements. For a good shot at a grand slam. Its waters offer the opportunity to catch blue, black, and striped marlin, as well as a massive selection of sailfish, giving experienced fisherman a chance at the esteemed billfish grand slam. That particular feat requires catching any three of the following: the Atlantic blue marlin, Pacific blue marlin, black marlin, white marlin, striped marlin, Atlantic sailfish, Pacific Sailfish, swordfish, or spearfish.

Costa Rica Cements its Sportfishing Reputation

Boat for sport fishing Costa Rica

A sport fishing boat heading out for some offshore fishing in Costa Rica. [Photo Credit: THEPALMER, iStock]

Costa Rica is home to many of the world’s most recognized tournaments.Los Sueños hosts an annual three-leg billfish tournament in the winter called the Triple Crown, and is the self-proclaimed billfish capital of the world. Quepos, just 45 miles southbound down the coast, is another competitive fishing hotspot. It hosts the largest and most prestigious sport fishing tournament series in the world: the four-day Offshore World Championship.

World Record Catches in Costa Rica

For a country with only 727 miles of coast (612 on the Pacific side, 115 on the Caribbean side), Costa Rica boasts an impressive amount of outstanding sport fishing achievements. Here are six of the country’s best catches, ranked by Sport Fishing magazine:

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Win a 5 Night Costa Rica Fishing Trip for Two at Crocodile Bay Resort

Win a Dream Costa Rica Fishing Trip for Two at Crocodile Bay Resort – We’ll even outfit you with AFTCO apparel from “Head to Toe” worth $9,270

Enter Below for your chance to win a 5 night all inclusive Costa Rica fishing vacation on a 33′ Strike VIP Tower Boat with a full set of AFTCO gear from “Head to Toe”. See full package details below

For Details and rules visit The Contest Page

Costa Rica Fishing Vacation and AFTCO Apparel Prize Details:

Wishin’ I was Fishin’ at Crocodile Bay in Costa Rica

November 24, 2018 thru May 1, 2019

Includes 3 day Tower Boat fishing package and 2 free days to explore one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, at Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica for 2 people (Total 5 nights at the resort). Plus AFTCO sport fishing apparel from “Head to Toe” for Two. Once you arrive at our front door, enjoy three full days of fishing offshore or inshore on our Tower Boat. Also includes luxurious air-conditioned accommodations, meals, and soft drinks at Crocodile Bay Resort.

Once you arrive at our front door, enjoy three full days of fishing offshore or inshore on our Tower Boat. Also includes luxurious air-conditioned accommodations, meals, and soft drinks at Crocodile Bay Resort.

Retail Value $9,270

 

Costa Rica Fishing

 

AFTCO “Head to Toe” Apparel Package Includes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Void After December 15, 2019 NO VALUE.

Package does not include international air transportation – Juan Santa Maria International airport in San Jose Costa Rica. (SJO), meals in San Jose, alcoholic beverages, or gratuities at the resort. Package also does not include domestic transfer pack. This transfer package may be purchased for $415 per person which consist of ground transfers, round trip *domestic airfare from San Jose, Costa Rica to Puerto Jimenez, and inbound night at a San Jose hotel. * Does not include overweight Costa Rica domestic airfare tickets.

Includes wine at dinner at the resort and cooler with beer when fishing. This trip may be taken April 1, 2019 – December 15, 2019 *

LEGAL RESTRICTIONS:

Other legal restrictions may apply in your country. Winner must be at least 18 years old and hold a passport issued by their country of residence and valid for at least 6 months following departure from this country. Package prize details may change at any time

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This Fish Can Live Over 60 Years

FECOP Fish Facts – Tarpon

Top 5 Cool Facts About Tarpon

Costa Rica Stomping Grounds

Caribbean side, Pacific Coast of Costa Rica (rarely),can live in both fresh and saltwater and have even been found in Lake Nicaragua

World Record

TarponThe all-tackle world record tarpon stands at a monstrous 286lbs 9oz. It was caught by Max Domecq off Guinea-Bissau in Africa on March 20, 2003. If that’s not hard enough to take in, try this on for size: prior to that day, Domecq had never caught a tarpon. The near-300lb behemoth, taken on a live mullet, was his first tarpon bite ever. Where do you go from there?

Respect your elders

The oldest tarpon in captivity lived to be 63 years old. So, the next time you’re down in the Keys or off the coast of Costa Rica, and you hook one of the big girls, remember, there’s every chance you’ve just attached yourself to something older than you.

The Name Game

Megalops atlanticus is the Latin name for the Atlantic tarpon. But what does that mean? Well, the “atlanticus” bit I think we can all work out. As for “Megalops”, that’s a combination of two words: “mega” meaning “large” or “extreme”, and “lops” meaning “face”. Sometimes those Latin names don’t seem nearly as clever once you’ve translated them.

May I See Your Passport

Tarpon are more widely distributed than many realize, and are found on both sides of the Atlantic. They’ve been found as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Brazil. Tarpon have also been discovered in small pockets of Pacific waters – off Costa Rica’s Pacific Costa in the South and on the Pacific side of Panama.

Tarpon Video From Tortuguero, Costa Rica by Eddie Brown

Prehistoric Perfection

You have to feel for the tarpon, they’re the classic victims of their own success. Just one look at them and you know this is a fish that’s been around for a while. Fossilised evidence confirms it – with roughly 125 million years of evolutionary development under their belts, these guys have become one of the ocean’s most efficient predators. They thrive in either saltwater or freshwater, they can tolerate oxygen-poor environments thanks to their unique air bladder, they can move at huge speed when hunting prey, and that bucket-sized vacuum for a mouth ensures that when something goes in, it stays in. Ironically, this incredible physiology that has allowed them to survive for so long is exactly what has turned them into such a prized sport fish.

Valenciennes, 1846; MEGALOPIDAE FAMILY; also called silver king, cuffum

Occurs in warm temperate tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This coastal fish can be found both inshore and offshore. Because of its ability to gulp air directly into the air bladder by “rolling” at the surface, the tarpon is able to enter brackish and fresh waters that are stagnant and virtually depleted of oxygen. Such areas are relatively free of predators, thus offering a convenient refuge for the young.

The body is compressed and covered with very large scales. The lower jaw juts out and up. The teeth are small and fine, and the throat is covered by a bony plate. The dorsal fin consists of 12 16 soft rays (no spines) the last of which is greatly elongated. The back is greenish or bluish varying in darkness from silvery to almost black. The sides and belly are brilliant silver. Inland, brackish water tarpons frequently have a golden or brownish color because of tannic acid.

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. Tarpon, bonefish, ladyfish and eels all undergo a similar leptocephalus stage, but the first three fish all have forked tails even at the larval state, whereas the eel does not. Tarpon grow rather slowly and usually don’t reach maturity until they are six or seven years old and about 4 ft (1.2 m) long.

Fishing methods are still fishing with live mullet, pinfish, crabs, shrimp, etc., or casting or trolling with spoons, plugs, or other artificial lures. The best fishing is at night when the tarpon is feeding. They are hard to hook because of their hard, bony mouths. Once hooked they put up a stubborn and spectacular fight, often leaping up to 10 feet out of the water. It was one of the first saltwater species to be declared a game fish

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