Can I take my kids fishing in Costa Rica?
The little Cessna rolled to a stop on the airstrip at Barra del Colorado. Out stepped a man and a young boy around 10 years old. “Welcome to Rio Colorado Bob”, I said. With a stern look he replied, “I prefer to be referred to as Dr. So and So.” I fed them breakfast and sent them out fishing. Later I saw the boat headed back in early and thought the poor kid probably got sea-sick.
We got the hook removed without too many tears, but the kid had no desire to head back out on the water to chase tarpon with dad. I told dad he would be ok here at the lodge and thought to myself, I wouldn’t want to spend all day in a boat with that guy either. A while later I grabbed a couple of small spinning rods and the two of us spent the afternoon catching little snook, roncadors, and machacas off the dock. The kid was in heaven.
Twenty-five years later and I have entertained hundreds of families with kids fishing. The last 18 years at Crocodile Bay. Costa Rica is God’s place on earth to spend family time. Jungles, waterfalls, beaches and volcanos are all close to each other. Fishing should never be overlooked as family activity. Costa Rica is the perfect place to introduce your kids to fishing or just enjoy the hobby together. With the world moving fast-forward with fast food, single parenting, and electronic babysitting, family time seems to get scarcer and scarcer.
Mike Pizzi began fishing with us fifteen years ago and has since become a good friend. I have fished him as a single guy, while he courted his wife and again just recently as a family man. As a single guy he always had me in stiches but was not the luckiest of anglers. Although over time he caught many good fish, the grand prize of offshore fishing, the marlin had eluded him. We were sitting one night at happy hour when an elated customer who had never fished before began telling me all about his 500 lb marlin. Pizzi told him how much money he has spent to date chasing a marlin and directed the man to a fiery place where believers say is somewhere below the surface of the earth and people who live unsaintly lives go when they die. The first time Pizzi brought his wife Ann, who was then his girlfriend, she caught two marlins.
Today the Pizzi’s have been married 10 years and travel here once or twice annually with their daughter Eloise 8, and son Finn who is six. The kids each started fishing before their 4th birthday and refer to me as “Tio Fish”, Uncle Fish. They both have become quite the little anglers. Dad introduced then to fishing the correct way.
Rule #1. When you take a youngster fishing it is their day not yours. It is all about them, not you. If you take them out in the hot Costa Rican sun to watch dad or mom catch a big fish, you really haven’t accomplished much. As we know children have a short attention span, and need to be kept busy. In fishing they need action and fish small enough to entertain them, not scare them. Pizzi started his kids out catching bait. They could only handle a few hours on the water when they were small and by catching sardines and goggle-eyes, Pizzi accomplished two things. He showed them fishing was fun and had plenty of bait to use the next day while mom took them to look at monkeys.
By her Eloise’s 6th birthday, the kids had enough experience to tackle a full day on the water soaked in sunscreen and were ready for bigger quarry. Bottom fish like small snapper and triggerfish are in great abundance and it kept them busy while also teaching them about catch and release.
Then they were ready for something more challenging that took a little more patience. They started to chase small roosterfish and little yellowfin tuna. By now they were beginning to learn how to play a fish, not fight them and mom and dad were having more fun watching Eloise and Finn than if they were catching fish themselves. This year it was time for the big leagues.
I often have people call me before they come and ask if their 12 or 13-year-old child can catch a sailfish. I tell them they are a few years behind schedule. Costa Rica Sailfish are the perfect fish for a youngster, with close supervision and just a tad bit of help of course. First it is a giant of a fish compared to the size of a small angler and it cooperates very well. Sailfish make one powerful and amazing run putting with an acrobatic show not soon forgotten. Then they kind of just settle in near the surface. With a little support on the rod and the backing down with the boat of a capable captain, a relatively small child can catch a big fish.
Show and Tell will be a little more exciting for Eloise and Finn this year as they both caught their first sailfish. With all the crazy other stuff they did like chasing lizards, monkeys and crocodiles they had a great vacation. The tears in their eyes as they did not want it to end when the left made it all worth it. Mission accomplished mom and dad. Mission accomplished Tio Fish!