San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sportfishing with Bahía Rica in the Gulf of Nicoya

From the print edition

When Captain Thomas Jones unmoors his 25-foot “super panga,” the Mono Congo, or Howler Monkey, and motors out into Gulf of Nicoya, the boat’s namesakes hoot lewdly from the mango trees near the beach.

It is just a little after dawn and anticipation hangs in the air along with the metallic tang of seaspray. A Costa Rican Coast Guard cruiser accompanied by a sleek, gray interceptor boat lurks in the middle of the gulf, easily visible from the slice of beachfront land where Jones and his wife, Vigdis Vatshaug, run their Bahía Rica Sportfishing and Kayaking Lodge.

Located near the sleepy burg of Paquera and just a few miles south of the Puntarenas-Paquera ferry landing, Bahía Rica Lodge offers easy access to beautiful beaches, the Gulf of Nicoya’s famous islands and quality inshore and offshore sportfishing. From San José the area is only a short three- to four-hour trip by bus and ferry.

“This place has a special ambience,” says Jones as he throttles up the 150 horsepower Suzuki outboard motor on the Mono Congo. “It’s close to everything, but it’s also in the middle of nowhere. If someone is looking for a different experience in Costa Rica, this is a really special place.”

We stop to pick up Jones’ deckhand, an old shark fisherman named Beto, and Jones turns the Mono Congo toward the Negritos Islands just off the inside coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. We motor around the outside of the islands where waves generated by an outgoing tide crash against spires of rock jutting out of the clear, blue water. Within a few minutes Beto has jigged up three lively bonito on a handline, and Jones rigs them on heavy rods, drops them behind the boat and begins trolling the baits near the rocks in hopes of catching the eye of one of the huge rooster fish known to frequent these parts.

Jones and Vatshaug came to Costa Rica in 2007 from their native Norway, where Jones operated another sportfishing business. They wanted to live the Costa Rican dream – great fishing, lots of sunshine, lots of nature and the chance to make a living through their hobbies. 

They offer sportfishing trips for big roosters inshore and will also take clients out to look for sailfish and marlin in the blue water outside the gulf. Additionally, they offer tours to secluded beaches in the inlets and bays inside the Gulf of Nicoya in their fleet of touring kayaks. A special treat, Jones said, are nighttime kayak tours to see abundant bioluminescence – eerie green-blue light emitted by aquatic organisms when they are disturbed in the water. Paddle strokes and even swimming fish will ignite the light show, “like fireworks under the water,” Jones said.

The big roosterfish elude us on our day on the Mono Congo. A 25-pound Crevalle jack took the bait, though, and after a 20-minute fight left Tico Times Weekend Editor Ashley Harrell gasping for breath and wondering if she’d ruptured a vertebra. Later we tossed metal spoons along rocks on the shores of the Negritos Islands pulling out several smallish snappers and a handful of various grouper species.

Jones and Vatshaug wrapped up our half-day trip back at the Bahía Rica Lodge with a lunch of French bread pizza and icy beers. Outside and above us, the resident troop of howler monkeys dozed in the mango trees.

For more information on kayaking, sportfishing and tour packages and rates with Bahía Rica, visit or call (506) 2641-0811.

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