Every year, anglers from all over the world visit Costa Rica to catch sailfish, marlin, tuna and mahimahi on the Pacific coast because it offers some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world. Many of these anglers, and many local anglers, don’t realize that we also have some of the best tarpon and snook fishing in the world.
Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast has been famous for big tarpon and big snook for more than 40 years. On my first trip to the Rio Colorado Lodge, I remember seeing on the walls old photos of movie stars, professional athletes and famous people who fished at Archie Field’s back in the 1970s. The area is rich in sportfishing history.
In general, there are two peak times for tarpon. September-October and March-April are considered the best times for good weather and good fishing on the Caribbean coast. The rest of the year the tarpon are around and can be caught in good numbers if the we at her cooperates. Most tarpon are between 80 and 180 pounds.
Snook are also caught year-round on the Caribbean. There are two types: big snook and fat snook. Big snook can be over 50 pounds, and Costa Rica has had several world-record big snook, including a 53-pounder caught in Parismina. Fat snook are smaller, usually 5 to 10 pounds. There is a fat snook run November through February that offers some great light tackle action with the chance at dozens of good eating fish each day.
Caribbean Coast Fishing Lodges
Archie Field’s Rio Colorado Lodge
Jungle Tarpon Lodge
Rio Parismina Lodge
Silver King Lodge
Tarpon and snook can be caught in the rivers, the river mouths or in the ocean just outside the river mouths in 60 to 80 feet of water. The best tarpon fishing is usually when the fish are stacked up on the outside. I have heard captains talk about acres of rolling tarpon and 50-plus tarpon hook-ups per day.
For years, the most popular method for catching tarpon and snook was either lures or jigs, but recently some of the captains have been changing over to circle hooks with live or dead sardines. Capt. Eddie Brown of Tortuguero fished recently with circle hooks, and his clients hooked 15 tarpon and were able to get 14 to the boat.
Tarpon have bone-hard mouths and are hard fighters and high fliers, so when you use J hooks and treble hooks you are lucky if you hook 15 fish and get five to the boat. Circle hooks not only work better, but they also are better for the health of the tarpon, so it’s good to see them start to catch on.
Recently, some of the lodges have added larger boats so they are now able to fish farther offshore for wahoo, tuna, snapper, grouper, mahimahi and more.
To get to the Caribbean side, you can either drive or fly. The flight from San José is about 45 minutes and is very scenic. The drive is a few hours longer and not bad, except for the last hour of the trip; the road to Caño Blanco is very bumpy and not much fun.
This area of Costa Rica is very remote, so most fishing trips are packaged as all-inclusive. The lodges provide water taxis, rooms, boats, food and some drinks at a package price. I’ve fished at Rio Colorado Lodge and Tortuga Lodge and was impressed with the comfort of the rooms, the quality of the service and the large amounts of good food. I think all the lodges in the region do a good job of making anglers comfortable in the remote jungle river setting.
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica has a unique beauty, and the tarpon bite has been red-hot. Several captains have said it’s the best fishing they’ve seen in the past 10 years. One lodge hosted 10 anglers who in four days hooked more than 200 tarpon.
I hope to get over to the Caribbean a couple of times while the fishing is good. Take advantage of our world-class tarpon fishing and contact one of the lodges listed here.
Please send fishing reports, photos and comments to Jerry “Bubba” Hallstrom at fishreportCR@yahoo.com, or call 2778-7217 in Costa Rica or 1-800-9SAILFISH from the United States. To post reports and photos from your fishing trip, go to The Tico Times’ online Fishing Forum.