Fishing in Costa Rica
With its variety of giant marlin, rainbow bass and cubera snapper, Costa Rica is considered one of the best places in the world for sportfishing. The country offers plenty of spots for you to your cast line – from the Caribbean Lowlands and Pacific Coast to Lake Arenal and Nicoya Peninsula. According to local anglers, a “bad” fishing day in Costa Rica is better than a good fishing day anywhere else.
On the Pacific side, sailfish, marlin, dorado and tuna always seem to biting, while the Caribbean and Northern regions tend to bring in tarpon and snook. Incredible trout fishing can be found in the waters of Savegre River, and for rainbow bass, Lake Arenal in Alajuela Province is a great option. The bass here average 4 kilos (9 lbs) and there are currently ten species of fish found in this stunning lake bordering Arenal Volcano.
Although fishing is prohibited at Lake Arenal between October and December, the ocean on both coasts is always open with plenty of fish biting year round. In general, the Caribbean coast is slowest between June and July and the Pacific Coast between September and November.
Fishing licenses are required, but are usually included in sportfishing tours and packages. Hundreds of fish can be hooked in a single day making this ‘catch and release’ method important for conservation. Below is a list of some of Costa Rica’s best fishing spots.
The Caribbean Coast
Located in the Limon Province, the Caribbean Coast offers excellent fishing, especially at Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado. The village of Parismina, just 50 km (31 mi) from Limon, often has 150-pound Atlantic tarpon in season between January and May. Between September and November, snook fish populate the Parismina river mouth. Deep sea fishing for marlin and sailfish are also popular in this area.
The fish here do not migrate, making it possible to head to the waters for fresh catch year round. A downside to fishing in this area is the rain, especially between January and May when ocean fishing becomes somewhat of a challenge.
There are fishing lodges in Tortuguero and Barra Colorado, with plenty of nature tours visiting the nearby National Park. Flat days in October and November bring in droves of tarpon, however, both tarpon and snook can usually be caught year round if weather permits. The best time to visit this area is June and July when various species are abundant including guapote, goliath grouper, small tuna and rare Atlantic sail. Road conditions are horrible, so it is best to get here by commercial airline or charter flight from San Jose.
The North Pacific Coast
Located in the Guanacaste province, Tamarindo and Flamingo are the major sportfishing areas in the North Pacific. This area offers dozens of charter services out of the nearby beaches of Coco, Ocotal, Brasilito and Potrero. Further south along the coast into the Puntarenas Province are popular fishing spots at Nosara, Garza, Guanamar and Carillo. These areas tend to be sheltered from the winds that pass through Guanacaste from December to April. Anglers fishing out of the Four Seasons Papagayo can hire one of the many boats or English-speaking captains heading north from Flamingo.
Central Pacific Coast
The Quepos area and Los Suenos Marina are the most popular fishing spots in the Central Pacific Coast. Located north of Jaco, Los Suenos’s marina is packed with sailfish, marlin, dorado, wahoo, billfish and yellowfin tuna. Peak season is from December to April, although it is possible to fish year round here.
Inshore fishing is known for its tuna, roosters and mackerel while a 15 mile run out to sea will usually bring in the famed billfish. Several boats out of Quepos offer overnight trips to the Drake Bay and Caño Islands, while some tour companies also offer snorkeling and surf excursions to the outer reefs. Located in the Puntarenas Province, this southern part of the region is best known for its big cubera snapper and roosterfish. Chartering a boat for a day of fishing may cost you anywhere between $450 to $1,200.
South Pacific Coast
Sportfishing is extremely popular on the South Pacific Coast, especially at Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez and Golfito Dulce. These three main fishing centers offer year-round fishing, with peak season falling between November and May. Offshore catches include sails and marlin with plenty of roosters, mackerel, amberjack, wahoo and snapper bitting closer inshore. The rocky inlets of Golfo Dulce are home to barracuda, sea bass and even snook. Another popular fishing spot is Cabo Matapalo, with its placid waters drawing in 30-pound roosters and trophy-size Pacific cubera snapper. Other popular fishing areas in the Puntarenas Province include ancudo peninsula, and farther north, at the mouth of the Esquinas river.