Costa Rica is considered a world class sport fishing destination. With 95 world records from Costa Rica’s inland and coastal waters, Costa Rica is an angler’s dream. The north Pacific coast is a huge repository of billfish, a term that refers to a group of fish characterized by prominent bills or swords—like Marlins and Sailfish. The waters off Playa Hermosa are perfect for fishing and in fact all the Papagayo Gulf, are just swimming with them.
When is a good time to fish the area? That depends what you want to catch. If you are after the big billfish, June through October the seas are calm and the big fish are swarming. You will have to go out about fifteen miles from shore but that’s not that far. Yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi, or dorado, are easy catches that time of year also. The northwest Pacific coast is one of the best areas to target all the pelagic (bill fish) species at once.
The time NOT to fish offshore is from December to March when the area is plagued by the Papagayo winds—trade winds blowing off Lake Nicaragua—that blow 15-25 miles per hour. The wind makes for very poor fishing conditions. Trust me I know I made the mistake. The seas are choppy and needless to say you get very wet!
However, this is a great time for inshore fishing, and the Gulf of Papagayo is home to some of Costa Rica’s biggest Roosterfish. These striped-headed fish with the crazy spines on their back can weigh up to 50 lbs. or even larger. One fishing experts says that–pound for pound–the roosterfish is one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea. He considers inshore fishing a great hands-on family activity in which everyone can participate, as opposed to the more intense offshore hunt for trophy fish.
Costa Rica strongly protects its fishing resources and requires that all sailfish, roosterfish and marlin be released as well as any other non-edible fish. So once you get it out of the water, take a quick photo, as that’s the only proof that you caught one as well have heard fish tales, and set it free.
Do you need a fishing license to fish Costa Rican waters? Yes, you do. If you are going out on a sport fishing charter, the boat captain will have obtained licenses for all on board. If you are using a reputable operator. But if you are making your own arrangements with a local guide or throwing your line out from shore, a fishing license is required. This can be accomplished on the INCOPESCA (Costa Rican Fisheries Institute) website. There is an office right in Playas Del Coco, in the Colonial shopping center. Check the web site for hours of operation.
Most fishing charters and tour companies provide full or half-day fishing trips. Plan your fishing trip with a local professional guide or tour operator once you arrive. Don’t be wooed by the slick website of an online company or fishing wholesaler. Consult local experts or people you may have meet or know. And by that I don’t mean to ask any Tico who has a panga (an open hull center console boat about 25 ft’long) to take you out. They will always tell you the fishing is great because that is what you want to hear, whether or not it is entirely true. But there are local fisherman that have grown up on the water that are really good at what they do. You just have to ask around.
Generally speaking, what you pay for is what you get in sport fishing. Don’t make a decision about your guide based solely on price. Sport fishing is expensive anywhere in the world. Not all things are equal and the top boats and captains will never be the cheap.
You might ask? Do I have to have my own bait and tackle? I mean, I don’t have to dig my own worms, do I? Heck no! Fishing supplies are provided for you, depending on the charter company or local captain you decide on. Certain items like lunch, beverages and snacks will be included as well, but always aske beforehand so you are prepared. However, sunscreen and a hat that will stay on your head or one you do not care about loosing as you are speeding across the waves are highly recommended. If you sunburn easy, after a half day you will be fried to a crispy red if you don’t bring these items with you.
Trip advisor lists several fishing charters in the Playa Hermosa / Playas del Coco and Playa Ocotal areas that receive five stars from their reviewers.
So when thinking of catching that giant black marlin of lifetime, do a little homework first and enjoy the day. Just remember it is called FISHING not CATCHING!!