Costa Rica is recognized as having some of the best Sport Fishing in the world, with total of 570 IGFA world records set in Costa Rica – 208 of which are currently standing. The Pacific coast of Costa Rica has phenomenal fishing for Marlin, Sailfish, Roosterfish, Tuna, Dorado, Wahoo, Snapper and more. While the Atlantic is also know for a wide variety it is more famous for Big Tarpon and Big Snook. Costa Rica fishing is good year round; however there are better times for certain varieties (See our Costa Rica Sport Fishing Calendar).
Why is the Pacific coast so amazing for big game sportfishing? Deep water upwelling’s along the Pacific coasts bring up massive amounts of plankton and feeder fish. These smaller fish draws large numbers of big game fish to Costa Rica pacific coast. These upwelling systems are active year round and subsequent fish movements are what make Costa Rica one of the best Sportfishing in location on the planet.
Costa Rica’s dense populations of Sailfish, Blue and Black Marlin have been attracting salt water anglers looking to tackle the oceans biggest trophies for decades. Whether you are an experienced ocean big game hunter or just trying it out for the first time, Costa Rica’s rich and fertile Central Pacific waters is the place to be!
The Costa Rican Pacific coast is 1,016 kilometers in length and includes numerous bays, three large gulfs, and a large continental shelf which, according to National Geographic Institute data, measures 589,682.99 square kilometers. This also includes the area surrounding Costa Rica’s famous Coco Island.
Because of these features and the higher fish productivity levels in the Pacific in general, marine fisheries in this region are very significant for a small country; ocean diversity is an estimated 3.5 percent of all marine species live in Costa Rica waters. The Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica boasts the current (and previous) world record snook, as well as 39 other records according to the International Game Fish Association’s world Record. There have been a total of 570 IGFA world records set in Costa Rica – 208 of which are currently standing (the others have been retired).
It’s not just a deep water sportfishing haven. Costa Rica fishing serves up exciting inshore action. The Pacific coastal area features large stretches of mangroves which, which are essentially larval development sites and nurseries which are chalk full of breeding fish. This food is flowing out from the mangrove nurseries attracting and feeding the inshore game fish. The volcanic coastlines and chains of islands extending below the surface far out into the ocean make up the natural bait havens that attract the areas inshore predator fish.
The biggest prize of deep water sportfishing is the Marlin. Blue and black species can easily approach 600 pounds and because of the power, size and tenacity of these big game fish, Marlin is one of the most highly prized trophy by all anglers. Marlin can be found from the southern part of Costa Rica in the Golfito area all the way up to the North Pacific Coast.
Top Marlin spots in Costa Rica include Golfito and Drake’s Bay in the South, and from Quepos to Los Suenos in the Central Pacific. Marlin fishing is the best in the southern and central areas from December to April. Black Marlin tend to show up the most during April and May. The smaller Striped Marlin is caught year-round.
FAD Fishing (Fish Aggregating Device) is sub surface flotation devices that are used to attract smaller fish which in turn attract predator fish like Marlin. It is not uncommon to raise and or hook 30+ Marlin in a single morning with FAD Fishing. An experienced Captain and crew is a requirement for successful FAD fishing, many Captains can put you on the fish, but if they don’t know how to fish the FADs you won’t be landing any. Learn more on FAD Fishing Costa Rica.
Sailfish are engraved on every international angler’s bucket list. These airtime acrobats are simple stunning to behold. Hook one of these bad boys and you are in for the ride of your fishing life. The tournaments are usually during June and July but there is not really a particular season regarding sailfish. The powerful fish, spending more time in the air than in the water when hooked and although is not as powerful as the Marlin, but always spectacular. Double and triple hookups are not uncommon. If you don’t have a video camera make sure your crew does, you’ll definitely want to show this catch off to your buddies back home.
From December to March, off the coast at Los Suenos is where the center of the action, with February being the key month with the highest concentration of sailfish. At this time of year there is the possibility of 20 or 30 hookups a day. Year round availability of Sailfish makes it a world leader for anglers in Costa Rica.
The northwest coast of Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste, called the Gold Coast, offers up some spectacular sport fish opportunities. A plethora of marine species makes fishing in Guanacaste one of the most popular fishing locations in the world. While you can every species found in the Central Pacific, the Rooster fish, Mackerel and Mahi Mahi are abundant in this region. These game fish are usually caught using trolling because they like fast preys that call their attention, they usually go for small sardines and crustaceans.
Mahi Mahi can be found in open waters miles away from the coast but also they can also be found near shore. Mahi Mahi just go where the food is and have no defined area, which makes catching one of these predators unexpected all the time. Mahi Mahi are fast like sailfish and are always fun to hook.
When the fishing is good off the Guanacaste shores, each boat can raise 2 to 5 Sailfish a day.
The region is also good for big Tunas which come and go all year long but June through September are normally the best months for 200 pounders.
As previously mentioned, the Central Pacific for Costa Rica fishing is internationally recognized as one of the top destinations in the world, especially for Sailfish and Marlin. It is common to have double digit sailfish hookups in one day, especially when you are FAD fishing.
Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast is from Puntarenas to Dominical. The region is prolific with game fish from bottom fishing for large Grouper and Snapper, inshore fishing for Roosterfish and Snook and of course for the deep water, big game of Marlin and Sailfish.
Los Sueños Marina is internationally known as the Fishing Capital of Costa Rica. There are more trophy fish caught here year round than any other destination in Central America. Whether you choose to fish off-shore for trophy Billfish (Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Sailfish) or near-shore for giant Rooster fish, Snapper and Grouper. Los Sueños Resort and Marina should be one of your target destinations on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific.
Quepos is 5 miles north of the famous National Park of Manuel Antonio. The Quepos region offers the fantastic inshore and offshore fishing throughout the year. Sailfish, Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Marlin, Tuna, Snapper, Wahoo, Jacks, and Rooster fish are just some of the many different sportfish found of Quepos shores. Quepos is certainly one of the premier sportfishing locations in Costa.
The southern pacific region of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula, Golfito and Puerto Jimenez on the peninsula provides one of the most active inshore sport fishing operations on earth. Blue, Black, and Striped Marlin, Pacific Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado and Wahoo are all abundant. The Gulf of Dulce, the largest southern inlet provides has access to some of the finest big game fishing spots in the nation.
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is well known as a top destination for tarpon fishing. Great tarpon fishing can be found just a few miles offshore or in the rivers at certain times of the year. Tarpon are big in Costa Rica reaching up to 200 pounds.
Abundant mangroves in the northern Caribbean provide good fishing for guapote and snook. Reef fishing off the Caribbean coast is very good as well. Directly off the coast you will find Macarela and Barracuda and offshore there are large quantities of Marlin, Sailfish and Tuna. The rivers in this region like Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero you can also find Crushed Bass and Rainbow Bass, always fun to catch.
Costa Rica also offers some of the best freshwater fishing in the world. Rivers, lakes, lagoons and canals provide access to many hidden fishing gems within the region.
Inside these freshwaters are tarpon (up to 200 pounds), snook, machaca, mojara, guapote, alligator gar, drum and other species. Anglers can sight-cast monster Tarpon in these shallow lagoons which like to surface feed. Also, because the lagoons are relatively shallow (20 feet) floating lines are used with a variety of streamers yield spectacular action.
The Rio Colorado is must do for all river fishermen. Schools of tarpon, weighing as much as 200 pounds, flock to the mouth of the Rio Colorado on the Caribbean Sea.
Lake Arenal is the largest freshwater body in Costa Rica. Arenal Lake is a dammed man-made, lake created for the generation of electricity and over the years the lake has evolved into an outstanding fishery.
Lake Arenal provides anglers with several species of cichlids and machaca. The most common cichlid anglers go after is the guapote. Guapote can grow in excess of 10 pounds, although average around 3 pounds. These fish feed on insects and baitfish so they will hit top water lures such as buzz baits or stick baits especially near edge and weed lines. Diving crank-baits work well especially off drops.
Machaca can grow up to 8 pounds or more, but average 2 pounds. Like Guapote, Machaca will on top-water lures and crank baits.
Also, referred to as Lake Cote, Lake Coter is excellent for guapote fishing. The only problem is the entire shoreline is private property. That said, there are a couple of local guides that have access. Casting crankbaits or trolling them is the best method for fishing Lake Coter.
There is pretty good fly fishing for machaca on a little river that feeds Lake Arenal near Castillo. Lake Cote, Lake Coter is excellent for guapote fishing with crank baits or trolling.
Decent trout fishing can be found in the upper Rio Savegre. Introduced years ago these rainbow trout are still caught on this river. There are several rivers in Costa Rica where armature anglers stocked trout; this practice of species introduction by non-conservationists and environmentalist is NOT a good idea as these introduced predators disrupt natural eco-systems as has been the case on some of Costa Rica’s rivers.
Fly fishing opportunities are unlimited weather you want to fly fish in fresh water for trout and Wapote or go after the big stuff out in the Saltwater. I have been teaching catching Billfish with a fly now for more then 20 years and will never in my life time get enough of the thrill of a Marlin chasing and devouring your Fly.
I have been living and fishing this country now for 15 plus years and these waters are so filled with life. All of the lagoons and river mouth’s are just loaded with bait fish for the larger species to feed on. I came here from Alaska where we all now there is plenty of Salmon and I personally compare Costa Rica equally as a fishery. Except that Costa Rica Fishing has so many more different species of fish. When you are researching your 1st or one-hundredth trip here be sure and look at both coasts as well as inshore and offshore fishing.
See ya soon Dan Ross