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Big Game Fishing – Marlin and Billfish in Costa Rica

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Big Game Fishing – Marlin and Billfish in Costa Rica

Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
Read this entire feature FREE with photos at
http://jetsettersmagazine.com/archive/jetezine/sports02/fish/costa/bigfish/costa.html

Giant marlin, sailfish beyond number, high-jumping tarpon, record class snook and a dozen or more hard hitting fresh water species . . . Costa Rica has them all!

World Class Marlin often approach record breakers.

Fishing just doesn't get any better than you will find in friendly, peaceful Costa Rica, and because this is a small nation, it's possible to enjoy it all on a single visit perhaps with a day of white water rafting and a volcano and rain forest tour thrown in.

On the Pacific, it's common to release a dozen or more sails and even a marlin or two in a single day, and not unusual to release more than 30 sailfish a day. There are also dolphin (including the long standing International Game Fish Association's all tackle record 86 pounder), giant yellowfish tuna, wahoo, cubera, roosterfish, a variety of snapper, grouper, blue runners, rainbow runners, snook and much more. And Costa Rica boat operators release all billfish that are not record contenders, so the future of the resource is assured.

The all-time tournament record of 1,691 billfish releases by 120 anglers in four days was established in Costa Rica a few years ago during the International Sailfish Tournament. And all were caught on 20-pound test line. At last count, there were more than 70 current IGFA world record fish from Costa Rica waters, including 17 all tackle trophies.

There's not been a year in recent memory without three or more Super Grand Slams reported on local charter boats, with sailfish, blue, black and striped marlin released on the same day. Grand Slams, with three of the four billfish species released the same day, are routine during peak season.

If hanging a giant billfish on a fly rod is more to your taste, a number of charter operators specialize in big game fly-fishing. The first Pacific blue marlin ever caught on a fly was taken in Costa Rica, along with eight other marlin and sailfish tippet-class IGFA records. The Annual Billy Pate International Sailfish Fly-Fishing Tournament consistently posts the highest catch and release record of any similar tournament in the world.

The Caribbean coast offers an entirely different type of fishing, with fine lodges and even luxury houseboat accommodating anglers and nature lovers in pursuit of tarpon, snook and other species for many fishermen, there's simply no bigger thrill in the world than having one of these 80- to 100-pound aerial acrobats smash a lure and immediately become airborne, often soaring 12 feet or more out of the water, twisting and turning, only to land and leap again, time after time.
Most operators on the Caribbean have put in bigger and faster boats in recent years and are now able to get out from the river mouths more frequently when the surf is up and where tarpon often spread for acres just offshore. When they are schooled it's not unusual to jump three or more of the Silver Kings on a single cast, as one fish throws the lure and another picks it up the moment it hits the water.

The larger boats are also able to make the longer run to the less frequently fished San Juan River where it forms the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. With miles of lagoons and tiny lakes tucked into the jungle, it has been virtually untouched by fishermen for nearly two decades and represents a new horizon for anglers based in Costa Rica, an easy run by boat from the Barra.

The 23- to 25-foot boats now available provide still another option. Tarpon fishermen on the outside have found barracuda, jacks, kingfish, sierra, tripletail, cubera, grouper, jewfish, and other gamesters just outside the river mouths, but with better equipment and some intensive training of the guides, fishermen on the northern Caribbean today regularly catch all of the above along with Atlantic, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, tuna to over 100 pounds and even an occasional Atlantic blue marlin. Costa Rica has long been known for the best snook action in the world; with the bigger fish most often caught fishing from shore near the river mouths.

The all-tackle 53 pound, 10 oz. IGFA snook record was caught at the mouth of the Parismina River and has been in the books since 1978.

Light tackle fishing up river in the backwaters and lagoons is unsurpassed, especially when the calba, or fat snook (Centrapomus parallelus) are running. These are small snook that swarm the Rio Colorado area from about September through November, sometimes overlapping as much as a month either way. They average about five pounds, with eight and nine pounders fairly common.

Costa Rica is "Rich" in stream and lake fish species, such as rainbow and largemouth bass.

Rainbow bass (guapote), mojarra, vieja, machaca, catfish, drum, alligator gar and other light tackle species also abound, while sawfish and freshwater sharks are occasionally caught well up the river, usually fishing at night with natural bait. Guapote are a largemouth bass fishermen;s dream, and are fished exactly as you would for bass at home, readily taking spinner baits, jigs and crank baits.

For the dedicated fresh water fisherman, Costa Rica also offers literally hundreds of miles of rivers and some lakes that always provide plenty of sport. Lake Arenal is the most popular inland water, located about a four-hour drive from San José. It's loaded with rainbow bass, a member of the cichlid family as is the peacock bass found in some parts of South America and more recently introduced to Florida waters. The mature male develops a bizarre hump at the back of its head that can be as large as softball, displays the shadings of rainbow trout and has the fishing characteristics of a largemouth bass, but is related to neither. During a 1-1/2 day tournament at Lake Arenal not long ago, the winning two-man team weighted in a record 17 fish at 91 lbs, 5oz.

IGFA record for the species found only in Costa Rica and parts of Nicaragua, is 11 lb, 8 oz., and was caught in Lago Hule or often called Lago Echandi on some maps, a beautiful postage stamp sized lake near San Miguel, but very difficult to access. Lago Cato, just above Arenal, Caño Negro Lagoon in northern Guanacaste, and Lake Nicaragua, located across the border but most easily accessed from Costa Rica are other inland hot spots.

Many rivers also have rainbow bass, along with bobo (a fresh water mullet); mojarra, another colorful cichlid related to the guapote that looks like a giant bluegill with teeth; machaca, often called sabalito, or little tarpon, because of its acrobatic jumps that make it a favorite of fly fishermen; drum and others. Caño Negro is an immense inland lake that is home to the largest tarpon you're likely to find in the country. Largest actually weighted in from there was 205 pounds. It also has snook, drum, guapote and others of those mentioned above.

There is rainbow trout fishing in Costa Rica, but access to most of the more productive areas is challenging. Trout eggs from the United States were first stocked in many of the country's high elevation rivers and streams more than 20 years ago, and the rainbows now propagate naturally. Access to the trout waters generally is very difficult and requires a guide and a horse, but there are some exceptions, including a section of the Savegre River near San Gerardo de Dota.
Lake Arenal is open to fishing throughout the year, but is a closed season in most inland waters, and a valid Costa Rican fishing license is required for freshwater fishing in the country. Seasons may vary, so it is best to check. Most guides and resorts catering to inland fishermen provide the license as part of their packages. Because Costa Rica is a small nation geographically, there's hardly anyplace you can't reach within a few hours drive. The fishing areas on both coasts are serviced by regularly scheduled in-country airlines and charter flights.

There is always plenty of action someplace in the country, but it varies with migratory patterns, seasons and prevailing wind, weather, currents and other natural conditions at any given time. The best time to come fishing in Costa Rica? Whenever you can get here!

Costa Rica Fishing Regions

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast region is divided roughly into the Northern, Central and Southern Pacific fishing areas, with conditions varying with the seasons in each area.

Northern Pacific

Cabo Blanco to the Gulf of Papagayo

Read this entire feature FREE with photos at
http://jetsettersmagazine.com/archive/jetezine/sports02/fish/costa/bigfish/costa.html

By Kriss Hammond - Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent - at www.jetsettersmagazine.com


About the Author

Kriss Hammond Jetsetters Magazine. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com

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