San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Fishing crews gear up for high season

In a couple of weeks, all this rain we have been experiencing should be all but over and the showers will begin to fall mostly at night instead of all day long. For the past few weeks, operators in central and southern Costa Rica have been putting on fresh bottom paint, tuning engines and making sure fishing tackle is in top condition.

November and December are prime months for marlin from Los Sueños in the Central Pacific all the way down to the Panama border. These months are historically exceptional for dorado (mahimahi) also. Although the dorado were mysteriously absent last season, some boats working out of Quepos are already reporting the appearance of dorado in the area. Football tuna will be plentiful in schools, and the bigger tuna will be moving with the spinner and spotted dolphins. Both dorado and tuna are favorite foods for marlin.

As the rain subsides, the water clarity near shore will begin to improve and the inshore fishing will return to normal. All the water rushing down from the mountains these past weeks has been carrying tons of silt with it, making inshore fishing a washout for the most part. Roosterfish will start biting again, and anglers who enjoy fishing with poppers will see better action with both roosters and cubera snapper.

Some time around the beginning of December, the Papagayo winds will begin to blow from the east, across Lake Nicaragua into the Pacific Ocean. This is a yearly event – except in the presence of the El Niño weather phenomenon – and lasts about four months. What happens is this wind pushes the surface water offshore and the upwelling water does not have enough oxygen to support sailfish, forcing them to move south. You can catch a sailfish or a marlin any day of the year in Costa Rica, but when the Papagayo wind is blowing, the population is more concentrated in central and southern Costa Rica. 

A couple of satellite tagging studies are planned for this high season in which fish will be tagged in Quepos and also in the Golfito area to the south, to see where they actually go when the Papagayo wind stops and oxygen levels return to normal. We know the fishing improves greatly in northern Costa Rica then. Some studies have already been done revealing that fish have moved from Mexico down to Guatemala and from southern Costa Rica to northern Nicaragua. The same population of fish can be found from Mexico to Ecuador. Sailfish seem to spend the first few years of their lives off Mexico and then move south. The lifespan of a sailfish is between eight and 15 years. 

Another good sign is that some operators are reporting more reservations for the upcoming season. A busy season would be a godsend for operators hit hard by the recession and skyrocketing fuel costs. 

Costa Ricans are increasingly aware of the importance of sportfishing to their communities. More than 100 major supermarkets have removed sailfish and marlin from their stores. Hilton was the first hotel chain to officially declare its menus billfish-free, and the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s decision to require sustainably certified hotels to have billfish-free menus is all good news for the industry.

I myself am looking forward to the wettest time of year being over, and to my fishing line being the only thing of mine getting wet.

Fishing report, Nov. 3

Tarpon fishing in Barra del Colorado on the Caribbean coast continues to be really good, with great weather and flat seas, according to Diann Sánchez of the Río Colorado Lodge.

Between Oct. 21 and 28, with five boats in the water, a total of 127 tarpon were jumped and 58 were brought to the boat, along with several jacks.

From Japan, repeat angler Takayuki Usui with three others, Hibiki Sakaguchi, Yuichiro Kato and Iwama Hiroaki, in four days jumped 54 tarpon and brought 16 to the boat. Guests from the Ukraine Yuriy Shulak and Serhiy Semenenko fished six days and jumped 34 tarpon, bringing to the boat 18 of those, along with eight jacks.

Repeat guests Bruce Bosch and Rob Gagnon of Oregon and Louis Ferreira of Washington, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, fished eight days, jumping 40 tarpon and bringing 24 to the boat. These anglers also caught eight jacks.

Guanacaste continues to be the hot spot on the Pacific side, but the action will soon be moving south as well. Big roosterfish are still feeding off Playa Blanca, and offshore the water has been a little cleaner than down south, with sails, dorado and marlin making an appearance.

The Quepos area is still reporting dorado and a few sails. Hopes are up for a good dorado run, which will mean lots of marlin behind them. Some snapper have been coming in a little south of town, and roosterfish action has picked up since last week.

Lots of football tuna have been entertaining light-tackle enthusiasts down south, just outside the Golfo Dulce. Green water is hampering offshore action, but 30- to 40-pound roosterfish are hitting off the beaches. Surf casters willing to put in the work are being rewarded with snook near Carate on the Osa Peninsula.

Todd Staley is the fishing manager at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jiménez, on southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Skippers, operators and anglers are invited to email fishing reports by Wednesday of each week to To post reports and photos on The Tico Times’ online fishing forum, go to

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