Costa RicaCosta Rica

Sport Fishing

Costa Rica is home to more than 100 world-record catches. The oceans are rife with Pacific sailfish, blue marlin and mahi mahi, while fat snook and tarpon populate the river mouths. Fishing varies in each region according to season, but something is always biting in Costa Rica every month of the year. Local tour operators throughout the country offer half or full-day fishing excursions that include free hotel pick up, food, beverages, bilingual captains and tackle. Most sport fishing outfits release major game fish including marlin, sailfish and tarpon.

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North Caribbean

Located on the extreme northeastern Caribbean coast, Barra del Colorado has been voted one of the top ten places to fish in the world. Anglers come from far and wide to fish the Rio Colorado. The area’s freshwater river system forms a unique habitat that attracts monster tarpon and two species of snook. It is the only place in Costa Rica where 100-plus pound tarpon can be taken all year.

Just an hour south, Tortuguero’s winding canals and river mouths lend themselves perfectly to both ocean and inshore fishing. The ocean teems with tarpon, barracuda, grouper, king fish, mackerel, snapper and snook, while the freshwater canals are known for machaca (a relative of the piranha), mojarra, rainbow bass, snook and the occasional tarpon. Atlantic sailfish and blue marlin are common February through September.

Parismina, south of Tortuguero, is a remote village that features high-end fishing retreats with luxury lodges and all-inclusive trips. Parismina has two fishing seasons: late January through June marks the summer season when the tarpon bite and weather are ideal. The fall season is excellent for boating fat snook and runs from late August through November. 

Southern Caribbean

The southern Caribbean towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita offer fishing trips on small boats or dugout canoes with artisan fishermen. Fishing is usually practiced in the traditional way using a hand-line and hooks. While tour operators will happily arrange fishing trips, visitors can organize them directly with local fishermen by asking around town.

North Pacific

Year-round action makes the beach towns of Tamarindo and Playa del Coco hotspots among anglers. Flamingo is another favorite and boasts a wide range of charters. Sailfish are plentiful from May through October and marlin can be boated throughout the year though peak months are January and February. Other catches include yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi.  Tuna is landed every month, peaking between August and October.

Central Pacific

Sport fishing charters are extremely popular in Quepos and Jaco, both famous for their warm waters and abundance of black snook, cubera snapper, mahi mahi and tuna, as well as Pacific sailfish and marlin. The peak season for billfish in Quepos is from December through April. Marlin is typically caught from September to November, and tuna are fished throughout the year. Charters in Quepos can be arranged from $450 for a half-day to $1200 for a full day of fishing. The waters off Dominical abound with hard-fighting sailfish, wahoo, mahi mahi and marlin. Inshore, anglers can cast for mackerel, jacks, roosterfish and large snapper. Wahoo, mahi mahi, tuna and marlin are fished from mid-December through April.

Southern Pacific

Drake Bay holds several fishing records, and trolling in this area often lands giant wahoo, yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel. Drake Bay is usually accessed through the Sierpe River, which is bordered by a mangrove estuary home to snapper, sea bass and snook. The reef is famous for giant cubera snapper. Sierpe is another great launching point for in and offshore fishing.

The Golfo Dulce is one of the best spots on the Pacific for deep sea fishing, and charters can be arranged out of Golfito, Puerto Jimenez and Zancudo. Roosterfish, jacks, black tuna and mackerel are popular inshore catches while sailfish, marlin, mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna and snapper are caught offshore.  The famous Matapalo Rock formation, located just beyond the mouth of the Golfo Dulce, attracts snapper, roosterfish and amberjack. 

Freshwater Fishing:

Tapanti National Park

For the freshwater fisherman, inland fishing in Costa Rica is just as exciting as the deep sea variety. Tapanti National Park is located in the Orosi Valley, a 90-minute drive from San Jose. The Rio Grande de Orosi runs through the park, and trout fishing is allowed from April to October. A permit is required and can be purchased at the ranger station.

Mountain Peaks of Costa Rica 

Rainbow trout averaging 11 inches can be caught in the high-altitude Rio Savegre, near the charming valley of San Gerardo de Dota. Fly fishing is best in May and June, and trout can be fished with lures from December through March. There are a couple of lodges in the area that offer guided fishing excursions on the river.  

Lake Arenal

A three and a half hour drive from San Jose, Lake Arenal is chock full of guapote, the local term for rainbow bass, one of the best fighting freshwater fish in Costa Rica. Created by the National Electrical Institute in 1979 for hydroelectric power, the lake spans 33 square miles and is the largest in the country. March - July are the best months for fishing the lake. Lake Arenal is the premiere fishing spot for freshwater anglers, and other common catches include machaca, mojarra and tilapia. Several tour operators and fishing captains around Arenal offer half and full-day fishing trips.