The Pacific Coast

Imagine what a sight it must have been. A million or so years ago when the volcanoes blasted out of the ocean floor piling rocks and lava for hundreds of miles creating what is now known as Central America.
This also created an underwater maze of formations that many species of sport fish call home or frequent to feed during their migratory routes.
The entire western shore of Costa Rica is made up of these spectacular coastline works of nature. They are home to an untold number of varieties of snappers and groupers. The finicky and celebrated "sport fish," the roosterfish hangs out in this area along with several varieties of jacks, rainbow runners and sharks.

Offshore the volcanic activity has formed pinnacles that rise hundreds of feet out of the ocean floor, attracting baitfish that start the "bigger fish eats littler fish" chain of life. Marlin, sails, tuna, and dolphin fish take advantage of the feeding opportunities here. One of the exciting things about Costa Rica is that these popular species can be taken year round.

The fish move up and down the coast and one time of year a certain area will be excellent during several months but slow during the others. Generally speaking, from December through April the major bite of migratory species will be in the center of the country and south. The rest of the year the best bite will be to the north. There are exceptions to every rule, of course.

Like the tremendous marlin run off of Playa Carillo the last couple of years and the bad boy "El Nino" that had most of the world in a tailspin. We will cover the major fishing areas in more detail describing the fishing opportunities, the facilities available and the most productive time to fish that area. Costa Rica offers world class fishing--some of the best there is to offer. If you're too busy to come down and test the waters, you're just too busy!
Northern Pacific - Bat Island to Cabo Blanco
The coast along the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste offers traveling anglers a diverse selection of fishing opportunities. Flamingo is the center of activity and is home to the largest marina in Costa Rica. There are as many as 30 charter boats operating out of the marina ranging from 23 to 47 feet in length. There you will find modern facilities able to accommodate boats to 70 feet in length. The hotels in the area are luxurious and most have pools and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Although the main fishing season is considered April through December, in the months of January and February the waters off Nicoya produce some of the best marlin fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Most of the fishing there is out of Playa Carrillo to escape the Papagayo winds that often blow that time of year.

The Catalina Islands are a short run out of Flamingo and produce the same inshore species as the Bat Islands but not in the numbers as the islands to the north. At times they have a great run of wahoo that stop at the island to feed during their migratory runs.
The Bat Islands are a long run from Flamingo, but boats like North-South Sportfishing's "Blue Marlin" and "Swordfish" can make the run in about an hour out of Playas del Coco. The volcanic underwater structure of the islands make for great haunts for a variety of species to prowl the fertile waters. Because of the little fishing pressure in this area, inshore species like roosterfish, snapper, grouper, amberjack, wahoo and dorado are readily available. Anglers have even been surprised with marlin and sailfish hook-ups fishing for other species.
Tamarindo is also an excellent spot to stay while on a blue water quest. A little more laid back than Flamingo, there are luxury hotels as well as inexpensive but comfortable lodging.

Central Pacific - Puntarenas to Dominical
Puntarenas, Punta Leona, Jaco Beach, and Dominical all have small fishing operations on the central west coast of Costa Rica but the nucleus of the fishing action is Quepos. In the height of the season it is possible that over fifty boats of all sizes will be charter ready ranging from $450 to $1,200 a day. This may seem like a large number of boats but in January and February it is difficult to find an available boat. Several of the more popular captains are booked more than 100 days in a row.

The National Park at Manuel Antonio makes Quepos a premier destination. Many families with non fishing members enjoy the park, rafting or horseback riding while the fishing members test their skills against the blue water species that roam the waters just offshore. Manuel Antonio offers four different beaches with hiking trails along the beach as well as a trail that runs along the cliffs with a spectacular view of the Pacific and nearby islands. It is common to see white face monkeys, iguanas and other types of wildlife while walking through the park.

Billfish is the main attraction out of Quepos. The best fishing is from December through April which makes many American anglers happy to escape the "great white north" for a hot tropical climate with some of the best fishing in the world. On a typical day trolling out of Quepos, anglers can expect to have 10 to 20 sailfish up in the baits and possibly a marlin. Depending on the experience of who is setting the hook, releasing 10 or more in a day is more on the common side than something spectacular.

In late September of last year, six weeks before the normal season begins, boats were seeing 15 or more billfish everyday. In the prime season, numbers were way down and anglers were lucky to see 10 fish a day. In late April, boats were raising 20 to 30 fish a day, which is unusual for that time of year.
Although the target for most anglers are the billfish, Quepos waters hold good numbers of dorado and tuna also. Some tuna caught are up over 200 pounds and the dorado sometimes reach 60 pounds.

Inshore fishing can be very good around the rock formations and at the river mouths. Roosterfish and cubera snapper are the main attraction but snook are also abundant in the area. In fact they had a run of snook in 1999 that hasn't been seen in years.

Forty pounds were common and the numbers caught were phenomenal. The world record black snook came from these waters (57 lbs. 12 oz.) and bigger fish are there to be had by record seekers. Every river mouth in the central Pacific region holds snook and many can be fished by surf casting. 
Southern Pacific - Sierpe to Punta Burica
This southern region, including the Osa Peninsula, Golfo Dulce, and south to Punta Burica offers some of the best possible fishing opportunities to be found anywhere on earth. Drake Bay and Cano Island.

Drake Bay is most commonly accessed by way of boat traveling the Sierpe river, but an airstrip capable of handling six passenger planes is now in place. The mouth of the Rio Sierpe is surrounded by a lush mangrove estuary system that offers fishing for snook, snapper, and corvina. Between the island and the mainland, outside the protected area is a massive volcanic rock reef system. Trolling in this area often produces tuna, wahoo, and an occasional sailfish or marlin. What the reef is famous for is giant Pacific cubera snapper. These "freight train" of a fish often go over 50 pounds and several world records have been broken fishing the reef. Along the coast of the mainland several volcanic structures attract many varieties of snapper as well as roosterfish. The most popular hot spots are Corcovado rock and the Plates. The Plates are a series of underwater rock plates that resemble dominos that have toppled over.

Golfo Dulce There are quite a few lodging and fishing choices out of Golfito, Zancudo, and Jimenez on the Golfo Dulce. Boats running offshore have easy access to the blue water species and the gulf offers excellent fishing as well.
The entire eastern shore is volcanic structure, holding several types of grouper and snapper and the Esquinas river in the northeast corner of the gulf produces some big black snook. Rio Coto at Zancudo is also a snook producer.

This mangrove lined river also holds big snapper, but the underwater roots of the mangroves make for a convenient escape route. Probably the most famous structure in this region is Matapalo Rock. Just outside the mouth of Golfo Dulce, the structure is home to good numbers of amberjack, snapper, and roosterfish. Occasional surprises in this shallow water have been sailfish, wahoo, dorado, and mako sharks. An ideal trip if you can talk one of the local operators into it is a run down to Punta Burica, the southernmost tip of Costa Rica at the Panama border. Because of the contour of the coastline the voyage from Punta Banco to Punta Burica takes you through a section of blue water on the way to the rarely fished rock structures at Burica. This offers anglers a chance to tangle with sails, tuna, dorado, snapper and roosterfish in one day of fishing.

For information, reservations or to design a custom itinerary
Call the Tico Travel sportfishing desk toll free 1-800-493-8426

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