With a name like “Rich Coast” few are surprised to hear that Costa Rica has some of the finest deep sea and coastal sport fishing anywhere. The list of world records encompasses all types of tackle on both shores. The big sailfish in both the Pacific and Caribbean include Black and Blue Marlin and you can also pursue wahoo, roosterfish, corvina, makerel, snapper, and grouper. Barra del Colorado offers tarpon, snook and multitude of light tackle game fish where the river flows into the Caribbean Sea.
While excellent blue water fishing is no surprise, fewer people are aware that inland Costa Rica’s lakes and rivers offer incredible fresh water fishing. You may never have heard of jaguar guapote, mojarra, and the area version of the piranha—the machaca, but experienced local guides have, and know where to find them. The biggest surprise of all may come when you learn that Costa Rica’s high mountain streams offer excellent fly casting for trout.
So pack your rod and reel and plan to get out on the water sometime during your Costa Rican vacation.
Salt Water Fishing
Blue water is close to shore, and the bill fish are world class. Blue, black and striped marlin cruise along with wahoo, yellow fin and blue fin tuna, and dorado. Wahoo, rooster fish, snapper, and grouper are plentiful around the reefs, rocks and islands closer to shore.
Fishing trips are available up and down both coasts. A spot on a charter will run from $250 half-day, $400 full day and up depending on the size of the boat, number of fishermen and location. Full boat charters start at around $800 and go up to over $4,500 a day.
Pangas are the small (15-22 foot) outboard board fiberglass hull boats (some with a center console) that are available for charter in most fishing villages and at many tourist beaches for between $150 and $350 depending mainly on the tackle, bait and expertise included.
Shore casting is popular and was once productive. Pacific snook, jacks, corvina, and Spanish mackerel are around when you see the locals wetting their lines and I’ve caught a few with nothing more than a piece of line and hook I found and a hunk of driftwood to wrap it on. Unfortunately over fishing has depleted most of the accessible areas.
World class tarpon and snook fishing attract anglers from all over, and other jungle river game fish include bluegill, rainbow bass (guapote), alligator gar and machaca in the rivers of Barra del Colorado.
One of the richest undiscovered fishing grounds in the world, the lakes and rivers of Caño Negro offer unequaled angling for tarpon, garfish, rainbowbass, jaguar guapote, fresh water drum, mojarra, & machacas. Charters with tackle and license included can be had at the Caño Negro fishing club located next to the wildlife refuge entrance in the village.
Lake Arenal is the largest is Costa Rica, and was once renowned for guapote, mojarra, and the area version of the piranha—the machaca. Unfortunately, like many of Costa Rica’s fisheries it’s been devastated by local practices of putting anything bigger than 4″ on the dinner table and anything over 8″ on a restaurant menu. Lago Chato on the northeast end Arenal was protected by a private reserve until mid 2015 and supports a healthy population. It recently opened to the public so if you want to try tropical lake fishing get there in the next year or so.
Most people (including most long time residents) take some convincing when we tell them there’s trout fishing in Costa Rica.
We’ve seen trout in streams near the refugios below the peak of Chirripó Grande, in Tapanti National Park and in the Río Savegre (see photo above) in the valley below San Gerardo de Dota.