Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 13: Fishing for Rainbow Bass on Lake Arenal

Destination: Arenal

Guapote rainbow bassNo need for an alarm clock this morning. I had gulped down my second coffee by 5:30 a.m., and was buzzing with energy as I drove to the dam for a big day of sport fishing with Captain Ron's Lake Arenal Fishing Tours.

Growing up, I tagged along with my uncle and fished the freshwater lagoons and intra-coastal waters of our small barrier island. I quickly discovered that I was an angler at heart -- I loved casting, baiting the hook and the thrill of a hard-fighting fish.

Captain RonCreated in 1979, Lake Arenal is home to the beautiful guapote (rainbow bass), some of the best-fighting freshwater fish in Costa Rica. Meaning "the most handsome" in Spanish, guapote are called rainbow bass due to their iridescent colors and similarities to the largemouth bass. I was hoping to land a big one, and guapote can weigh upwards of 13 pounds.

Today I was fishing with Captain Ron Saunders, a seasoned angler from the States who is currently based in Nuevo Arenal. Captain Ron fishes the entire 33 square mile lake, from the base of the volcano to small coves along the northwesternshores and has pulled some of the biggest bass on record from the lake.

First rainbow bassRon mentioned that we might also land some machaca, flashy fish with wicked little teeth that look like piranhas on steroids. We cruised along in his Boston whaler and found some nice coves with vegetation and old tree stumps, perfect hiding spots for rainbow bass. I used light tackle, cast with a small popper, and just as the lure touched the water, a nice half-pound pinto guapote hit the line. A perfect start to the day!

The sky was gray and misty, ideal casting weather for the light-sensitive rainbow bass that dwell in deeper waters on sunny days. We cast our lines along quiet coves and alternated our lures (poppers and rapalas) and soon landed several more guapote, ranging up to two and three pounds. It was touch-and-go reeling them in, as they fought hard to snag the line or cut it with their razor-sharp teeth.

Tabacon hot springs at nightWe trolled for a bit and I snacked on a sandwich and some homemade guacamole that Ron's wife had packed for us. We pulled in a small machaca and an eating-size guapote within minutes of putting out the lines. A proponent of catch and release, I only kept a couple of two-pounders, which would go to Godfried at La Mansion Inn since I'd promised I'd catch him some fish.

It had been an excellent morning of fishing Lake Arenal. With Captain Ron's expertise, I had landed nine good-sized rainbow bass, and you couldn't beat the scenery of Arenal Volcano looming on the horizon.

In a mad dash, I delivered my fish (still alive and flip-flopping) to their certain fate, so I could return for another delicious evening of hedonism at Tabacon.

Tabacon hot springs waterfallThere is something inherently funny about watching grown men and women wander hotel grounds in fluffy bathrobes. Such is life at the thermal resort, and I couldn't wait to join them. I put on my bikini and pink Tabacon robe and called for the resort's shuttle to the hot springs.

At night, Tabacon's thermal resort transforms into a happening party spot, where new friendships are formed. It is also the ultimate romantic retreat for couples.

My first stop was a steaming waterfall where I tucked behind the wall of piping hot water into a sauna-like cave carved from volcanic rock. The crashing waters massaged my shoulders, easing away every bit of tension. I managed to get lost twice while exploring the warren of trails, lush with heliconia and bird of paradise.

I could think of worse places to find myself lost, as I climbed into a deserted pool for another long soak.

Day 13: Fishing for Rainbow Bass on Lake Arenal in Pictures

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