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 representative of the piranha family—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.
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 take some convincing when we tell them there are 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.
A sport fishing license (Carné Pesca Deportiva) is required for each person fishing from a boat in Costa Rica. A separate license is required to fish from shore in the ocean, estuaries, rivers and lakes or from a kayak, stand-up paddle board or other non-motorized watercraft.
A third category of license covers SCUBA and snorkel spear fishing, and finally a fourth license is required to whale or dolphin watch. It’s not clear what happens if you accidentally spot a cetacean without a license ;-)
Costa Rica fishing license categories and prices for different lengths of time
|Sport fishing from a motor boat , rod & reel
Pesca Deportiva desde embarcación
|Sport fishing from a kayak or on land
Pesca Deportiva desde tierra o en kayak
|1 year||¢5,500 (~$10)|
|SCUBA or snorkel spear fishing from a boat or shore
|Whale & dolphin watching
Realizar observación de cetáceos
All licenses are the same price for every residency status (tourist/foreigner, resident, citizen
Tourist charter operations often include the appropriate license in packages for marlin, tarpon, roosterfish etc. It is also possible to purchase a Sport Fishing License for fishing from a charter or private boat (Carné Pesca Deportiva desde embarcación) online by visiting INCOPESCA licenses.
All other licenses must be purchased in person and require a passport or current national id, a passport photo and payment. There are offices across Costa Rica
|INCOPESCA Office Location||Phone||Address|
|Coco/Ocotal||2630-0622||Del Office Center 100 metros al este y 75 norte, Playas del Coco Guanacaste|
|Cuajiniquil||2630-0621||Cuaniniquil distrito Santa Elena, cantón La Cruz, del Super Compro de Cuajiniquil 2 Km al oeste, muelle Terminal Pesquera de Cuaniquil|
|Golfito||2630-0625||Diagonal a las oficinas de la Municipalidad de Golfito|
|Guápiles||2763-3293||300 metros este de la escuela El Jardín, El Prado de la Rita, Pococí, Limón|
|Limón||2758-3170||Limón centro, 75 metros norte de Palí|
|Herradura (Los Sueños Marina)||2637-6017||Contiguo a Costa Rica Dreams, muelle Pozuelo, Marina los Sueños, Herradura|
|Heredia||2630-0628||Cenada Barreal de Heredia, en las oficinas de mantenimiento del PIMA, detrás de los puestos de Papaya-Sandía-Melón|
|Nicoya||2630-0623||Detrás de las oficinas del MAG, Nicoya|
|Puntarenas MAIN OFFICE||2630-0600||Barrio El Cocal de Puntarenas, diagonal al Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (I.N.A)|
|Quepos (Marina Pez Vela)||2630-0624||100 metros al sur del muelle de Quepos, contiguo a la estación de guardacostas|
|San Carlos||2630-0630||50 metros sur del Liceo Ciudad Quesada|
|San José||2630-0629||de Purdy Motor de Paseo Colón 200 metros norte, edificio esquinero, segundo piso de las oficinas del INCOP|
|Santa María de Dota||2200-5049||Ojo de Agua de Dota, Kilómetro 78, carretera Interamericana Sur|