Costa Rica Indo-Pacific Sailfish
Shaw & Nodder, 1791); ISTIOPHORIDAE FAMILY; also called spindlebeack, bayonetfish
An Excerpt from Costa Rica Sailfish for Dummies by Todd Staley Communications Director, FECOP
The lifetime of a sailfish varies from 4 to 10 years. Most of the juveniles spend their first few years off the coast of Mexico. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were born there. For example, a west coast Florida tarpon starts its life 100 miles or so off the beach, but spends its early years in the estuaries. The largest sailfish and the long-standing world record of 222 pounds came from their farthest range to the south in Ecuador.
The tropical Pacific is really not a very inviting place for sailfish. The low oxygen content in the water will not support them, but two famous currents bring in healthy water. The Humboldt Current flows north from Chile and Peru and collides with the California Current flowing south from the U.S. and Mexico off the coast of Central America, forming a “tongue” of current that supports sailfish, though to a depth of only 100 meters or less. Unlike the striped marlin that is caught off Mexico but might spawn off Australia, the eastern tropical sailfish’s range is limited to the coastal waters of the two currents and the tongue formed off Central America.
Another phenomenon happens each year: Three distinct and powerful winds blow from land offshore. They start in December or January and blow until March or April. In Mexico, winds that start in the Gulf of Mexico push across the Tehuantepec lowlands offshore into the Pacific. Likewise, the Papagayo winds from Lake Nicaragua push offshore across Nicaragua near the Costa Rican border. Also, a Caribbean wind current crosses Panama heading into the Pacific near the Panama Canal.
As the Pacific surface water is pushed offshore, the upwelling sends to the surface oxygen-depleted water that cannot support sailfish. The entire population is forced into pockets of healthy water, which happen to lie in front of windless parts of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and parts of Panama. During this period, El Salvador, Nicaragua and other parts of Panama are nearly devoid of sailfish. This is the equivalent of taking the entire population of San José and moving everybody to the Pacific coast for four months out of the year, with no one living in between. Fortunately for the sailfish, their main food source, squid and sardines, follow the same pattern.
The reality is that these areas do not have a tremendous abundance of fish, but the whole population is forced to share these pockets. When there is a strong El Niño, the winds do not blow, so the population is not condensed into oxygen-healthy pockets caused by the normal upwelling. The surface waters also warm, and peak-season fishing results in Guatemala and Costa Rica drop dramatically.
Costa Rica has the benefit of two peak sailfish seasons. From the Gulf of Nicoya south, the peak is January through April. The Guanacaste region to the north begins to peak in May after the winds die and the fish begin to move freely out of prisons formed in Guatemala and southern Costa Rica.
Dr. Ehrhardt’s studies have shown that a strong management plan is needed with all Central American countries working together. The Costa Rican Tourist Fishing Federation (FECOPT) is working with sport and commercial fishermen and the government on management plans within Costa Rica. In addition, CABA, The Billfish Foundation and local groups are working with Central American governments to form a united effort to conserve the region’s sailfish populations.
Inhabits tropical and subtropical waters near land masses, usually in depths over 6 fathoms, but occasionally caught in lesser depths and from ocean piers. Pelagic and migratory, sailfish usually travel alone or in small groups. They appear to feed mostly in midwater along the edges of reefs or current eddies.
Its outstanding feature is the long, high first dorsal which is slate or cobalt blue with a scattering of black spots. The second dorsal fin is very small. The bill is longer than that of the spearfish, usually a little more than twice the length of the elongated lower jaw. The vent is just forward of the first anal fin. The sides often have pale, bluish gray vertical bars or rows of spots.
More on the Saifish from the IGFA.org Fish Database
Its fighting ability and spectacular aerial acrobatics endear the sailfish to the saltwater angler, but it tires quickly and is considered a light tackle species. Fishing methods include trolling with strip baits, plures, feathers or spoons, as well as live bait fishing and kite fishing. The most action is found where sailfish are located on or near the surface where they feed.
Recent acoustical tagging and tracking experiments suggest that this species is quite hardy and that survival of released specimens is good
FECOP Fish Facts: Pacific Sailfish
Fastest Fish in the Sea at up to 70mph
World Record 222 lbs (Ecuador)
Common Name: Sailfish
Scientific Name: Istiophorus
Group Name: School
Average life span in The Wild: 4 years
Feeding Tactics: Uses its bill to stun individual fish or slash groups of fish
Size: 5.7 to 11 ft
Weight: 120 to 220 lbs
Size relative to a 6-ft man:
Related Sailfish Articles
Want More Articles Like This – Join the FECOP Mailing List
Dorado, Mahi or Dolphinfish, are some of the fastest growing and swimming fish in the oceans.
Dorado can spawn every two to three days at the early age of four to five months old. A female releases an average of 50,000 eggs each time they spawn. dordado can grow to an estimated 0.5 to 1.0 inch in length per week while gaining two to three pounds per month.
Aftco (aftco.com) has sited a case of a big bull dorado that lived for 18 months and when it died, there was no guessing of its weight, as it was immediately taken from the tank to a scale. In 18 months the 1.5 lb dorado grew to an amazing 68 lbs.
The females and the younger Dorado generally live among floating grass and floating debris while the larger males tend to roam free in the open ocean. A large male dorado can weigh up to 85 pounds in their short five-year lifespan.
When to Catch Dorado in Costa Rica – November through January and occasionally in February – averaging 20 to 40 lbs. Dorado can be taken year round but not in the same numbers as the months listed above.
Dorado is low in saturated fat and is a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, and potassium and a very good source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium
Nutrition Table Via: fishwatch.gov
Help FECOP Make an Impact – Join Our Mailing List
Costa Rica Chosen to Host International Roosterfish Tournament
The PanAmerican Delegation recently sent representatives from the USA Angling team and the Mexican Sport Fishing Federation to choose a location for the First International Roosterfish Tournament. They scouted out several locations in Costa Rica and decided Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica would be the best venue to hold the event. (www.crocodilebay.com)
The PanAmerican Delegation is made up of fishing organizations from Canada, United States, Mexico, Central and South America. They hold tournaments in various countries promoting the sport as well as conservation with the goal to one day place sport fishing in the Pan-American games and eventually in the Olympics. FECOP, the sport fishing advocacy group is the Costa Rican representative of the PanAmerican Delegation and will co-host the event.
“First we picked the area of Costa Rica which we felt had the most productive inshore fishery with more available area to fish,” said Ben Blegen captain of the USA Predator Fishing Team. “We decided Southern Costa Rica had more to offer.”
Next, they had to find a location that could easily house a big group and move them around with ease once they arrived in the country. “Crocodile Bay’s close proximity to the regional airport, the ability to house everyone in one location and the on premise private pier were all a big plus in making our decision,” explained Blegen.
The event will be held November 16 until 19, 2018 with open ceremony dinner on the 16th, tournament fishing on the 17th and 18th. Blegen went on to explain the it is not a money tournament put rather anglers will compete for bronze, silver and gold medals and fish for their country of residence. For example if you live in the USA and enter the tournament you will be assigned to fish on the USA team.
This will be PanAmerican’s first roosterfish tournament and first tournament the organization has held in Costa Rica. They are planning to add a tarpon tournament in Costa Rica to the agenda in 2019 as well.
“People’s first comments were, how do we fish a roosterfish tournament when we don’t know how to fish roosterfish,” explained Blegen. “I tell them the Costa Rica team took the bronze medal in the Black Bass tournament last February on Lake Okeechobee, Florida competing against some professional bass anglers, and there is no bass fishery in Costa Rica.”
The tournament will be a catch and release format with each team consisting of 4 anglers. The cost includes one-night lodging in San Jose, in country air transportation to Crocodile Bay and airport transfers, 3 nights at the resort will all meals, two days of tournament fishing, and fishing license. Price is $1250 per angler quad. $1300 triple in room and $1375 double in room.
November is historically a great month for large roosterfish. The tournament is open to all anglers. Costa del Mar sun glasses has already committed to enter two women’s teams from the US. Individual anglers who do not have a full team can participate and will be placed on a team by drawing at the opening dinner. All Penn tackle provided, or you can bring your own.
More information at email@example.com on BenBlegen@USAPedatorTeam.org or www.crocodilebay.com
Sign-up Below to Learn More about this Event!
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 a 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.
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.
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 tune 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 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