The tide had just turned and was slowly pushing toward the open ocean. The peak of the reef reaches up 83 feet below the surface. The volcanic terrain sits in the middle of the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific region, and the underwater structure is 120 feet below.
Bright orange cubera snapper hover just below the slick surface like a field strewn with huge Halloween pumpkins. An angler tosses a lively blue runner over the side and the nervous bait races back to the boat.
Like a huge fireball, a cubera explodes on the surface and throws water in every direction. Line screams off the reel. Even the blister raised on the thumb, as extra pressure is applied to the drag, is not enough. The snapper’s power is too much and it escapes into a rocky cavern below. The fisherman is left with the lasting memory of having a runaway freight train on the end of his line.
Scenes like this are among the reasons businessman Robin Williams (not the actor) chose Puerto Jimenez Costa Rica, located on the Golfo Dulce, to build his dream project, Crocodile Bay Resort.
Not only is billfishing (Sailfish and Marlin)sensational, in Costa Rica’s cobalt offshore waters, but the 30-mile long, 15 mile wide Golfo Dulce also offers some of the best inshore fishing action in Costa Rica. More than 40 IGFA world records have been established in the area.
Crocodile Bay’s 40+ vessel fleet includes 33-foot and 35-foot Strike Yachts. The rest of the fleet is composed of 27′ Boston Whaler Outrage and flats boats. Several major rivers wind through the mangroves and dump rich nutrients into the gulf.
The Crocodile Bay Resort project began with the purchase of a 44-acre farm adjacent to the airport in Puerto Jimenez, including 600 feet of frontage on the Gulf. Construction of the 6 quadroplexes and main resort began in June of 1999. Crocodile Bay Resort (as Crocodile Bay Lodge) opened it’s doors in September of that year, and the 750 foot private pier was completed in April of 2000. A new 5000 square foot luxury SPA was completed in January of 2006.
Other facilities include a conference and meeting center that seats up to 80 people, a crocodile lagoon, pool with raised jacuzzi, game and television room, restaurant and bar with outdoor grill and buffet, and countless walking and hiking trails.
The 34 rooms are spacious with queen sized beds and private jacuzzis (available in deluxe rooms) and air conditioning. Williams had a vision of the project more than a decade ago. He began assembling his team by bringing Hardy Corea aboard as company president and manager of the resort. I joined the team as director of Fishing and am in charge of the fleet. Corea and I both trained under the wing of the late Archie Fields, founder of the Rio Colorado tarpon and snook resort on the Caribbean coast and pioneer of early Costa Rica tourism. In all, Crocodile Bay Lodge created more than 80 new jobs in Puerto Jimenez.
Fantastic Costa Rica Fishing!
It is the dance of the sailfish and the lightning speed of the marlin that that attract most anglers to the Osa Peninsula. It is not uncommon to raise more than 20 billfish in a days fishing. Most dorado coming to the dock have been over 30 lbs with Tuna always plentiful. You can likely catch a billfish any day of the year,with January through April the top months for marlin and sailfish along this region of the southern coast. there is also a good showing of marlin in August and November, while months during and just after the rains produce more dorado, as the debris washed out of the rivers forms the inshore trash lines they feed under. Football-size tuna are almost always present and sometimes those that top out at 300 pounds.
Anglers trolling in the bluewater are often treated to pleasant surprises. Humpback and pilot whales blow geysers high in the air. Sea turtles sun on the surface. Manta rays free-jump and belly-flop with a loud slap on the water. The most awesome sight, though, is the sighed sight of a pod of killer whales migrating s along the coast.
Inshore Costa Rica fishing is consistent all year. Roosterfish and cubera snapper are the main attraction, but the waters along the beaches and the Golfo Dulce add to the menu. Snook roam the beaches as well as the rivers. A dozen other types of snapper,grouper,amberjack,bluefin trevally, sharks and barracuda cruise the reefs.
Giant schools of bonito bust bait in the gulf, great game for a fly rodder. What makes the fishing unique in this area is the Golfo Dulce itself. On the mainland side of the gulf, the mountains seem to melt into the emerald water. The volcanic structure continues underwater creating habitat and feeding grounds for the finned residents.
The Rio Esquinas enters the northwest corner of the gulf in a massive estuary system of creeks and mangroves. The dropoff at the revermouth quickly falls to more than 200 feet in depth, creating an ambush point for roosterfish, jack crevalle, snook and snapper. A local fisherman took a 63 pound black snook on a handline several years back that would have crushed the current world record for conventional tackle.
Rio Coto at Zancudo is also famous for its snook. Large schools of herring congregate on the flats in front of the river and with it schools of sierra mackerel, jacks and other game fish. The Zancudo beach has an inshore corbina population and gets rocky again as it turns the corner to Pavones, where roosterfish and surfers share the famous left break.
The puerto Jimenez side of the gulf is made up mostly of mangrove shoreline.
Two volcanic reefs lay in the shallows offshore. One is nearly a mile long. Small cubera snappers in the 5 to 10 pound range jump all over a topwater plug worked over the rocks. Roosterfish to fifty pounds patrol these same mirrored waters, though they prefer a frisky live bait.
Matapalo Rock at the mouth of the gulf acts as a reference point for the blue water angler. “So many degrees” and “so many miles” off the rock is the common terminology used when talking about locating fish. The rock also has been described as and “underwater Jurassic Park.” It produces snapper so big you could never turn them on conventional tackle. Large schools of amberjack, massive goliath grouper, and sharks call it home. On rare occasions, anglers trying for roosterfish are surprised when a mako shark takes to the air after swallowing a bait.
The fishing tourism business in southern Costa Rica has gone through a change in the past decade, attracting more couples and families in addition to groups of hardcore fishermen. Crocodile Bay brought in Beau Williams to coordinate activities for anglers taking a da off the water and for non fishing guests. Corcovado National Park, spanning the largest in Costa Rica’s world famous National Park system, and contains the hightest number of endangered species in all of Central America The area contains an estimated four percent of the planet’s bio diversity.
Parrots, macaws, toucans and other exotic birds abound. Three species of monkeys, sloth, crocodiles and may other animals call the park home. Occasional sightings of the rare jaguar and other members of the cat family have been reported inside the park.
Tours include relaxing jaunts, ocean and mangrove kayaking, mountain biking, bird watching, jungle and rainforest hikes, a relaxing walk through our butterfly farms, snorkeling, waterfall rappelling, botanical garden hikes and more. The world class fishing Costa Rica has to offer combined with a vision that began 13 years ago, has made Robin Williams and many a traveling angler’s fishing dreams come true.