A serious sport fisherman goes in search of species that fight back. It is not sport if they come jumping into the boat or you can scoop fish up with a net which is why big species make a great catch. You find these typically in very big bodies of water such as huge inland lakes, seas around the world, and in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. River species and those of smaller lakes can be fun to catch and tasty to eat, but nothing beats a beast like a Sailfish or Mahi Mahi for the ardent lover of a feisty fish and the thrill of catching a giant.
Piscine Wonders in Costa Rica
Charter boat rentals in Costa Rica are big business. Captains take their passengers along either the west coast lashed by the Pacific Ocean or the eastern, Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. They go inland too in search of freshwater varieties. The area is popular and busy, but for good reason: the sport fishing is excellent; worth of the money and time it takes to get here. That same warm, sunny climate which attracts tourists to the beaches here also attracts species which can become enormous, not to mention vividly colorful. Explore a website posted by a Costa Rican sport fishing charter captain (or check out our article on locations here), and see the images of fish as long as or longer than a grown man.
Finding the Fish
Discover which fish you want to catch and take yourself to the side of the country associated with that species. There are internet maps which lay it all out for you by charter fishermen posting info about which fish usually frequent which areas and the best seasons for catching them. They even provide icons indicating what the shape of that fish will be if you are unfamiliar with a species, and tons of data about these animals such as weight and size. Nothing replaces the real thing or prepares you for its beauty though.
Fish of Costa Rica
Now you know the where, but what fish are you looking for at this popular destination? The most popular varieties include Mahi Mahi or Dorado fish, a type of dolphin available mostly during the spring/summer season and also familiar in Hawaii (just like some of the others seen here). Sailfish strike a beautiful pose, stunningly silhouetted by rays of the sun as the day dwindles to dusk. They are very seasonal, so you have to check well in advance of your holiday before assuming you will catch one of these. Late spring and summer are best.
Tuna are big with fishermen in the area but your window of opportunity is even smaller than is the case with Sailfish. In fact, if you can time it right, Sailfish, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi will all be available at the same time. This will maximize a sport-fishing holiday and potentially provide variety in the freezer after you get your catch sliced up and ready for travel.
Snapper, available all year-round, is a tasty species loved all over North and South America. One great advantage of eating fresh, ocean-caught fish is how wild and clean it tastes. You will never eat anything like it again; at least not until you go out with a charter and catch some more.
Mackerel, Tarpon, and Snook form another trio of possibilities. English sea fishermen are familiar with mackerel in particular. Snook seem to prefer the north and east of Costa Rica, while Tarpon are found inland with Rainbow Bass which love these mild waters all throughout the year. Time your holiday to coincide with good weather, great exchange rates, and other prime fishing opportunities.
Mackerel are located on both coasts. Big Rooster Fish favor the west. As you can see, no matter which side of Cost Rica you make your base, there is a chance of catching some sort of giant.
We must not forget the Wahoo. The name is crazy, and so is this fish which is said to be a fast swimmer with lovely meat. This fish is found in all sorts of warm waters worldwide besides the Costa Rican coasts where, understandably, boats can be seen bobbing far out on the horizon many months of the year. Wahoo favor an earlier fishing season of around late winter to late spring, so if you want an affordable break, this is the fish to fight for.
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Sport fishing is a huge event; a day’s worth of activity and worthy months of anticipation. There are some huge fish in the sea waiting for a little sport of their own. In their eyes, you could be the catch of the day. Engage in battle with a Mahi Mahi, Yellow Fin Tuna, or big Red Snapper in Costa Rica.
Charter Fishing in Costa Rica
Among serious sport fishermen and women, Costa Rica is a type of mecca. Read about why Costa Rica is so popular. Their usual method is to hire a charter when they arrive or even prior to their arrival in the country. Some of the top locations for fishing are:
• Playa Flamingo, Tamarindo, and Jaco down the west coast
• Tortuguero, Limon, and Cahuta along the east coast
• Arenal and Caño Negro north-central
Fish up for grabs include Wahoo, Rainbow Bass, and Rooster Fish along with those mentioned above. If you are wondering where Costa Rica is situated, follow a map of South America and you will see the country bordered by Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south plus both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s not far for North American travelers to get far away from ordinary life.
The Language of Costa Rican Sport Fishing
Even in this Latin American country, one commonly hears English spoken. That’s one of the comforting reasons people choose Costa Rica as their sport fishing destination. Charter captains, in particular, not only speak the language but are often from an English-speaking country. They are transplants who love the sea. They even have great fishing resorts too.
You can do it alone, hiring a boat and using technology to find fish. This is not relaxing. You have to learn about the various features of an unfamiliar coastline; the habits of these fish such as where they tend to travel at what time of day. One must either travel with thousands of dollars (and hundreds of pounds) of equipment or hire, potentially even buy it onsite.
Charters with experienced captains reduce the workload and possibly cost less in the long run. Even if you know how to drive a boat, which many sport fishermen cannot do, it’s so nice to leave the work in hands that know the seas you travel blindfolded.
Hire a charter, but choose carefully. As in any tourist-focused industry there are cowboys. They don’t have a license or insurance. Their boats are not seaworthy or only just. There is no safety equipment onboard and the main goal is to get your money. Once on the water, maybe the English-speaking captain will suddenly only speak Spanish. It can happen anywhere in the world.
A good captain takes you where fish are known to live and congregate at a certain time of year and of day. He recognizes where the fish a customer wants to catch are located and takes the appropriate direction. Some favor the north coast; others the south.
A licensed, experienced, insured charter boat skipper is conscious of your enjoyment and safety. His fishing boat is ready for action, serviced and maintained, with a working radio and a captain who knows how to use it. Life jackets are available and one is encouraged to wear them. Fishing equipment might be available as well plus snacks and drinks. There are levels of rental and various boat sizes to accommodate a pair of fishermen, a family, or a corporate group. Luxury tours are stocked with lovely food and cold drinks and participants are waited on courteously. At the end of the working day, a charter operator has to make it known to existing and future clients that they are worth hiring again; that word, as it spreads about them, should be positive. This charter deserves your custom. The cowboy doesn’t care what you say. He has your money and another sucker comes along every minute.
Finding Sport Fishing Charters in Costa Rica
Research from home or in the country. There are a number of great companies with reviews, videos, and testimonials from happy customers. Lots of established businesses are online, so you can get a snapshot of the sorts of fish customers catch. Explore which side of the country these fishing tours are situated and corresponding species of fish. If you have a fish in mind, then orient your holiday closest to where that species is found and where charters take people to the right places in the correct season.
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Worldwide, the best locations for sport fishermen to cast a line include Florida, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. Many of the same species of fish frequent all three locations and others around the globe. Costa Rica is favored by sport fishermen and women for a variety of reasons, one being its affordability; another being the variety of Atlantic, Pacific, and inland fishing available. It doesn’t hurt that non-fishing members of the party will also have a good time either watching loved ones have fun during the boat ride or taking part in their own nautical adventures like para-sailing and windsurfing.
Best Sport Fishing Spots in Costa Rica
Travel up and down those two coastlines and you will see boats on the water; boats moored, waiting for passengers; captains and crew busily getting ready for a season or for a day; perhaps even putting their boats away if the fish they specialize in catching are only available on a seasonal basis and the season is over. There is usually something worth catching off the coasts of Costa Rica and along its northern rivers.
Always choose a registered, insured, licensed captain and go with your gut. This should not be a cheap transaction but one where you feel confident the vessel is safe and your safety is of the utmost importance. It’s okay to ask to see the life jackets and flares before setting off and to hear for yourself that the radio works before placing cash and, more importantly, the safety of loved ones into the hands of a stranger. Costa Rica Sport Fishing packages is credible and has plenty of options to choose from.
Top places, however, include Playa Flamingo and Playa Carrillo, Drake Bay, Jaco, and Tamarindo. All of these areas follow the western coastline. In the east, you have Limon, Cahuita, and Tortuguero. Head north and follow the rivers there near Arenal and Caño Negro (black channel).
Species of Sport Fish and Where to Find Them
These are the regions for sport fishing in Costa Rica plus a few others where one might find a hotel or a resort, and there is more to do besides fishing. For the visitor with a one-track mind, however, it is important to know which fish visit which locations. For example, Snook, Tarpon, and Rainbow Bass are all river fish. The three of them are all seen and caught at Caño Negro, but while the Rainbow Bass is also closer to Arenal, Snook and Tarpon head east along San Juan River. Bass and Snook taste great and are easy to cook. Snook is a particularly welcome plate at the supper table. Tarpon should be regarded as a sport fish; a worthy opponent only.
Snapper likes the west, any part of that coast. Fishing charters will come upon them up and down this shoreline but probably will not see them in the east. As most people know, snapper is not only edible but delectable.
MahiMahi (Dorado or Dolphin Fish) don’t discriminate; they like the east and west equally, part of the reason they are so popular with fishermen. In fact, Mahi Mahi are among the most coveted of piscine prizes. While edible, perhaps the aspect of catching Dorado most enjoyed by those fortunate to catch one is the fight they put up. Believe it or not, some fish simply are not as vigorous on the line as the species listed here which is why they are listed as sport fish.
Wahoo are equal opportunity swimmers, just like the Mahi Mahi. One might catch both Wahoo and Dorado on the same fishing trip. Both of these fish are potentially large, trophy-worthy animals and taste great, but you need to keep the Dorado meat moist as you cook it (poaching in broth or sea-salted water could do the trick). Fishermen claim the Wahoo is one of the best-tasting sport fish around and it doesn’t take a lot of preparation to wind up with a flavorful finish.
Meanwhile, Sailfish is not coveted as much for its flesh as for the thrill of reeling one of these beasts into the boat. That’s not to say you should waste a beautiful fish; the flesh is edible, but it’s worth following a few culinary tips to make the most out of dinner if you are unfamiliar with its flavor and the potential failure it can be on the plate for the unwary chef. But you probably don’t fish in Costa Rica for food. The hunt is your joy.
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Those of us who live for fly fishing know that it’s not as much as much like sport fishing (although we’ll certainly be writing about that as well!) as it is about art. Or meditation.
If you don’t fly fish, you wouldn’t understand. For example, if you see the book Zen in the Art of Flyfishing by Henry S. Butler, you see where it’s said that it is almost spiritual, and that Fly Rod and Reel magazine calls the author (Henry S. Butler) a “haiku master.”
So, let us take a moment to breathe deep as we get the site built up, and then you’ll be able to browse to your heart’s content!
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