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3-Day Arenal Getaway: Fishing Lake Arenal

Destination: Arenal

For all you serious anglers, May is the best month to fish Lake Arenal. The water level is low, rainy season hasn't quite set in, and the lake is positively roiling with large, hungry guapote -- also known as rainbow bass. Our fishing captain, Marc Belgas of Mapache-Ecoterra tours, teased me with this enticing tidbit of August information. With more than 20 years experience fishing the lake, this man knew what he was talking about. If May doesn't fit into your vacation plans, he advised any month between March-July, though I had landed a monster guapote in late September just two years prior. (Perhaps a little lady luck?)

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In all honesty, it didn't really matter if we caught one fish or ten; I loved being out on the boat with my sister, casting a line along the lake's marshy shores. We fished in the shadow of Arenal Volcano -- listening to the hisses and rumbles of large boulders tumbling down its slopes. It was nearing 6 a.m. and we fished with rapalas under a heavy sky. Snowy egrets and herons waded in the shallows as we cast along the banks and woody structures where bass usually hide out.

An hour passed with nothing more than a few nibbles when Marc prophesied "today is a five fish day, and we'll boat them by trolling." We pulled in our lures and motored off for a small island where Marc set the lines. I was pondering the magic number five when a fat fish hit my line. This wasn't a misleading grass-snag; this was a bonified beauty, a rainbow bass of at least four or five pounds.

I kept my cool while furiously reeling, the weight of my prize heavy on the line. Anticipating a prime photo op, I called Marc to get the net, while I peered into the water. And there, dangling from the hook was a big, heavy branch. My expression must have been priceless, but Marc reassured me that I had jumped an old, wise bass that knew the drill. Slightly comforted in the knowledge, I joined my sister for a morning Imperial (Costa Rica's national beer) and smiled.

In the intra-coastal waters of our Lowcountry hometown, I had always been the angler in the family. But today was Maya's day to shine and sure enough, not ten minutes later, she landed a beautiful five-pound guapote. Though they are known as "rainbow bass," guapote are actually cichlids, with razor-sharp teeth and aggressive natures. The males grow much larger than the females (up to 15 pounds), but both give an impressive fight.

We celebrated with another round of Imperials and some sandwiches as we continued trolling the lake. Within the next hour, both Genee and Maya pulled in respectable 2-pounders, and Martin landed a third. Another hit, and I grabbed the rod -- in the distance, a silver rocket flashed in the sky. An acrobatic machaca had thrown the hook just as fast as it had taken it.

Guapote are good-eating fish, and if we weren't hitting the road later that afternoon, I would have cooked them myself. Including the one that got away, it had indeed been a five fish day. We gave our spoils to Marc and made plans to return next spring for a 15 or even 20-fish day.

3-Day Arenal Getaway: Fishing Lake Arenal in Pictures

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