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They enter through Panama at the canal and head in both directions.
Some go south, settling in Colombia and as far south as Ecuador. Others head north to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and as far as Guatemala. They pass in small groups or alone, but when they reach their Pacific-coast destinations, they group up with others that have made the passage. The coastline of southern Costa Rica is exactly what they need to thrive.
We are not talking about people; we are talking about tarpon, an Atlantic species and popular sport fish in the southern United States, the Caribbean, and the west coast of Africa. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is world famous for its tarpon fishery.
The first tarpon was spotted in the locks of the Panama Canal in the late 1930’s, 25 years after the canal opened. Soon they were spotted in Panama Bay. Over the years, more and more sightings and captures have been recorded in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
In recent years, the sightings have increased tremendously, but that could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe tarpon are now breeding in the Pacific. Although tarpon in the larvae stage have never been found in the Pacific, the capture of small juveniles suggest that they are breeding there. The chances that these little tarpon passed through the canal and migrated several hundred miles is slim.
The expansion of the canal in recent years has allowed for much bigger ships to pass as well as producing an easier passage for species that can survive the 65 km trek through freshwater lakes Gatun and Miraflores. In fact, more than 90 species of fauna and flora have been documented to have passed from one ocean to the other — either transported by ship or freely swimming across.
Social media and internet may also play a role in the increase of reported sighting of these silver bullets. Many sightings have been in rural or sparsely populated areas where before the communication to the outside word was limited.
In Costa Rica, tarpon captures have been documented in Tamarindo, Golfo Nicoya, Quepos, Sierpe and Golfo Dulce. The majority of these have been in Sierpe and Golfo Dulce, which have an estuary type of environment juvenile tarpon and adults alike use.
I saw my first tarpon in Golfo Dulce in 1995 when I was casting the Rio Esquinas side of the Gulf for small snapper. A fish of nearly 100 lbs rolled and took a gulp of air right next to my boat, and I thought I had lost my mind. This is a fish I knew well from fishing for them in Florida to running Archie Field’s Rio Colorado Tarpon Lodge here in Costa Rica. But this fish was not supposed to be here.
Around 2010, we started hooking eight to 10 a season while fishing for roosterfish when I managed the fishing at Crocodile Bay in Puerto Jimenez. The first one was 37 lbs and was brought to the dock because the captain had no idea what it was. Today, almost all are released. I have seen one as large as 123 lbs. Most captures occur in our Costa Rican summer months with March and April seeming to be peak times for an accidental encounter.
One angler who seems to encounter tarpon more than most is a local fisherman named Saul Porras. By trade, he is a mate on a sportfishing boat. When he is not fishing for work, he goes fishing for fun. He has caught more than a half dozen tarpon in the Pacific, and all of them were casting off the beach while fishing for snook. The little juvenile fish he caught off the beach at Carate adds weight to the theory that tarpon are breeding in the Pacific.
Porras watches for small sardines that school up near the shoreline. When they arrive, pelicans begin to dive on them. A short time later, the predators move in. He has learned by watching how the baitfish reacts to determine what type of fish is feeding on them. Jacks and roosterfish come in full-blown attack mode white water froths in the frenzy. Snook are more polite feeders and sneak in from underneath, causing smaller explosions of water.
A few weeks ago, Porras had set up near Tamales in the Golfo Dulce. The sardines started to go crazy and he saw big silver flashes breaking the water as they chased the baitfish. In short order, he was hooked up and a tarpon went immediately airborne. Catching a tarpon on light gear in a boat is an accomplishment, but off the beach even more so. To catch one in the Pacific Ocean is like winning the lottery. That day he hooked five and landed three of them. (He released them all.) He has caught them in at least two other locations also.
A study has just been released on 80 years of tarpon migration through the Panama Canal. Bernald Pacheco from INCOPESCA, the entity in charge of Costa Rica fisheries and CIMAR at the University of Costa Rica, contributed to the study, which was led by Gustavo Castellanos with the Leibiz Center for Tropical Marine Research in Germany. The study is available online here.
I truly believe there a lot more tarpon in the Pacific than most people and scientists believe. Every year, the number of sightings increases, and anytime you catch three of anything that is not native to an area in one day, they have set up camp.
Todd Staley has run fishing sport operations on both coasts of Costa Rica for over 25 years. He worked for Crocodile Bay Resort for around 17 of those 25 years.
He recently decided to take some time off to devote full-time to marine conservation and is the communications director at FECOP. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crocodile Bay Fishing Report March 2018 by Captain Allan Smith – It has been another good month of fishing at Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Fishing Report – January 2018 by Captain Allan Smith – December is a fun time of the year at Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica. The kids are on vacation and we get a lot of families down for a fishing holiday in the tropics.
Update 11/22/2017 – 450 lb Blue Marlin Released! Happy Thanksgiving
Update 11/14/2017 – This past Friday three of our boats went 21, 18, and 17 on doardo and one boat released 15 roosterfish!
Thanks to Dave Rimington, Rich Hahn, and Gary and Susan Ellis who hosted another Boomer Esiason Redbone@Large Celebrity fishing tournament at Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica.
The competition among the group of former pro athletes was intense but friendly. Mike Knox was the eventual winner and partner Kelly the runner-up. Their combined score edged out Todd Calfee and Dr. Misko who boated 3 marlin in one day.
Dr. Misko was down with his 13 year old son celebrating his birthday and not only did they get to fish with some of their football idols – but they were able to experience catching their first sailfish and marlin.
Knox and Kai banged up the roosterfish inshore with a 1500 point day to edge out the others. Wade Boggs and Mark Cooper fished together and as always it was fun to hear their “in jest” comments back and forth – it was a good thing they didn’t play the same sport. Wade managed a few post-tournament snook the satisfy his fishing bug.
Offshore continues to be unpredictable and inshore reliable for the most part. Plenty of roosters, grouper, and if you are inclined sharks. Jacks and roosters have been hitting poppers.
Randy and Brandi Shapiro doubled up on marlin of 250 and 500 pounds. Lifetime fish and a trip to the spa afterward. They also became the first owners of our new Costa Rica real estate offering – Botánika Osa Peninsula Curio Collectin by Hilton.
Ocean’s been flat and more sun than you can stand.
Crocodile Bay Resort
Crocodile Bay Resort Fishing Report by Fishing Director Todd Staley – July 2016 – Father’s Day has just past and it has been over two decades since I lost my own, But for repeat guest Rob Sekely the wound was much fresher, losing his father last Christmas. The decision to leave a good sailfish bite offshore was based on a lesson taken from dad. His own words…“I was actually down fishing in memory of my father who I lost this past Christmas. It was very apparent that he was gracing me with his presence and fishing philosophy. Prior to moving to the spot off the famous Matapalo rock, we were very blessed to have raised seven sails and land three. So, it was decided that we should tip our hats to the fish gods and go inshore to see what would transpire.The last fish of the day was a 70lb roosterfish. What a tremendous bucket-list day of fishing!!”
“Life is full of moments – good and bad…and things seem to get balanced out along the way. The philosophy my dad shared on many occasions with us and I shared it with Todd, is that if you want too many, you won’t get any. So,when Anna had mentioned to go inshore after our sailfish success, that philosophy kept ringing louder in my head. Fate is a fickle part of life that can shine on you at any moment.”
Thank you for the powerful words Rob, and sorry for your loss.
Offshore has been a let’s see what’s on the menu for today kind of fishing. Catches lately included marlin, sails, lots of tuna, and a wahoo here and there. The tuna law moving purse seine boats offshore sponsored by FECOP, the Costa Rica sport fishing lobby down here has paid big dividends all along the coast and lots of double and triple digit fish are being boated.
Inshore the roosterfish and snapper continue to please anglers and the annual run of big roosterfish this time of year has seem to have started as several fish over 50 lbs have been caught this week.
Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica
Did you know our inshore fishery is home to 12 kinds of snapper? Pictured below is Braden Born and his brother with a beautiful Colorado snapper. One of the many species one may encounter on an inshore fishing trip at Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica.
Here is what Pete had to say about his visit to Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica this past week:
It would be bad manners of the type that disappointed my mother if we did not tell you and all the Crocodile Bay Resort team how much we enjoyed our adventure. It is hard but pleasing work to have that much fun. We will not mention any team member for fear of omission of any one name.
But we will say:
The experience began with your tireless attention to detail, coordination, and follow up and we stumbled along in cobbling a suitable game plan. You attempted to educate and serve while not being disappointed if the student failed to understand.
Our primary purpose was the fishing experience and we were quite pleased.
The boats and fishing staff were world class. Well maintained equipment and highly skilled personnel. All very professional and personable.
The fishing experience was the ‘main course’ of a grand experience.
All services of the lodge were 5 star. That may sound like hyperbole, But remember this is an isolated spot, which we found quite pleasant. The food was exquisite and service as well as attention to detail surprising to include even artistic carving of a breakfast fruit plate.
There was great effort to pay attention to the guest wants and needs ‘as to offer’ rather than be ‘asked for’, even the mosquitoes seemed to be trained to not bite the guests.
So many good things do not just happen! Dedication to mission fulfillment shines through.
Some may suggest parts of the resort to be dated, but everything works and all team members work at ensuring guest satisfaction.
Furthermore evidence of commitment as demonstrated in newer construction and surveyor flags is all around. Old or new —everything works and is well maintained.
We left the lodge with long list of new friends composed of both staff and guests.
Hope to have another experience with you during the black marlin season.
Thanks Pete! Black marlin are historically most plentiful between July and September. We hope to see you back down at Crocodile Bay soon!
We would like to thank Brianna from California for these photos of her recent vacation:
ICAST 2016 – If you are affiliated with the fishing industry and registered for this years’ ICAST, you may visit Crocodile Bay Resort at booth 2863 July 13th through the 15th for your chance to win the Costa Rica fishing trip of a lifetime! We will also be offering fishing trips at special “industry rates”. You will of course also have a chance to see all the coolest new fishing, gear, gadgets and apparel for the upcoming year before the rest of the world. For more information visit the Offical ICAST website.
June 2016 – Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica – by Fishing Director Todd Staley Offshore of late has been a hunting game. Most everyone who has a Pacific sailfish on their bucket list is fulfilling the wish with some patience but they are not popping up like popcorn as they were in March and April. Todd Vannatta who has been coming down for years missed his trip earlier this year because of an accident but finally made it with 15 year old son and future NBA star 15 year old 6 foot 7 inch Gunnar. Gunnar took his first sailfish and they added a 25 lb dorado which they enjoyed several times in the restaurant.
Inshore fishing has been wide open and couples John and Lorraine Sixsmith from England and Robert and Francine Schreiber of Fort Lauderdale came just for that. Roosterfish, African pompano, jacks, trevally, grouper, and tilefish are just a few of the species that stretched their string.
Schreiber hooked a big cubera snapper estimated at 60 plus pounds but it won the fight as the big ones often do. The plate size Pacific yellowtail snapper they also caught hit the deep fryer and were a delight.
The Sixsmiths from England spent 14 days with us and caught just about everything. They also had a chance to go on a variety of our 30 Eco-adventure tours. See photos below:
Tara Harrell – who many of you may have spoken with prior to booking your trip to Costa Rica- visited last week with her youngest son and had a great time fishing and exploring the rainforest. She released this roosterfish and caputured a lot of amazing wildlife photos which will soon be featured on crocodilebay.com.
As the month winds down we should see more marlin and tuna moving in. Tuna making short appearances now have been running 20 to 70 lbs. July through September are historically some of the best months to target blue marlin (with blacks and stripes in the mix) You can click here to check availability for July through September.
Father’s Day is quickly approaching and we have a great way for you and your family to celebrate this special day. When you book a Costa Rica fishing trip of three days or more, we’ll give dad a VIP boat upgrade from a Boston Whaler Outrage to a 33′ Strike Yacht (for a full day), so he can fish inshore or offshore like a pro!
Trips must be booked by Father’s Day 2016 and taken before October, 2016 (to receive the special one day upgrade valued at $700). Call 1-855-945-4171 for special offer details and restrictions or fill out the form below to check availability.
Crocodile Bay Resort is an ideal destination for family or group vacations as we offer over 30 eco, adventure, and cultural tours as well as a luxury Spa for non-anglers.
We also offer unlimited complimentary paddle boarding from our private pier and waterfront area. Check availability below.
By Todd Staley, Fishing Director – They say that El Niño is finally starting to go away and the temperature of Equatorial waters is finally beginning to drop. I don’t think I will recover any of the hair I’ve lost but the fishing just might get a little more predictable. The light seasonal rains have finally started after a long drought and everything that had turned brown miraculously turned back to green in 3 days. Schools of yellowfin tuna have started passing by with the dolphins. The last one was aggravating as the fish didn’t chew that well but we did manage an 80 lb block of steak and sashimi for the guests.
Sails are still around and still having days of double digits but they are also doing their pre-spawn ritual up on the surface. When there is that kind of flirting going on sometime they get finicky about running down a bait offered to them. The dropping water temperature should bring more marlin our way as well.
We have even seen a few dorado which were scarce in the height of the Niño season. Inshore has been decent fishing with good days and slow days but thank you fish gods, mostly good days. Roosterfish have been active and checked off a lot of bucket lists. Snapper are biting and looking good on dinner plates. Deeper, the grouper have been biting with some tilefish.
I am going to put up a couple of photos of some of the stranger fish we have seen this season inshore. Don’t quite know why, but interesting none the less.
This just in – The Kessler group went 24/7 on sailfish yesterday – congrats guys!
November is one of my favorite months at Crocodile Bay Resort. Historically the dorado are running around like rats and of course marlin are behind them looking to munch down a few. Schools of football size tuna appear and are also a favorite snack of marlin. If the spinners or spotted dolphins pass by bigger yellowfin and bigeye tuna will be traveling below them. In short, November is a good month to knock a marlin off the bucket list. Sailfish will start moving into the area in larger numbers but it is still a month to six weeks before the big numbers are cruising the local waters.
Roosters run rampant in November at Crocodile Bay Resort.
Pictured above father and son team Henry and Sean Trimblett from NJ had a great day of kayak fishing releasing two large roosterfish.
Inshore will remain consistent with roosterfish and snapper coming from the reefs in the Golfo Dulce and off the beach outside the gulf as well. Deep water drops will produce grouper, tilefish, congria and an occasional barrelfish (pictured below). In Atlantic waters barrelfish are found in 900 feet of water or deeper. The last few years we have been taking them in 300 feet of water off the Osa Peninsula.
Crocodile Bay Captain Anthony Santos shows off a barrelfish which can be found in 300+ feet of water in the Osa.
I have downloaded “I’ve Got You Babe,” on my alarm clock because it seems like I am stuck in Ground Hog Day and that song that woke Bill Murray up every day.
Offshore is a game of patience with those putting in the time getting a shot at a marlin or a sail with a dorado here and there. Inshore continues to be red hot with lots of roosterfish, snapper, jacks, African pompano and the rest of the inshore critters readily available.
Thank you to Joe Hemphill for the following photos from his November fishing trip at Crocodile Bay Resort.
Joe Hemphill with a nice Bluefin Trevally pictured above (released)
Thinking of taking a trip to Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica? This is a true bucket list destination for sport fishing and outdoor enthusiasts looking to experience “the most biologically intense place on Earth” (as quoted by National Geographic) Come find out why every major sport fishing magazine and TV show has already been here and can’t wait to come back. The following video features testimonials from editors from Sport Fishing Magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Coastal Angler and other media members talking about their experiences at Crocodile Bay Resort.
Note: On any given day it is possible to catch a Costa Rica Sailfish, they are here year-round, but tend to concentrate in greater numbers mid January, February and March. The inshore species such as Roosterfish, Snappers, Jacks and Grouper are also here year-round.
Marlin: The majority of marlin taken here are Pacific blue marlin, though occasionally a black or a striped marlin are taken as well. Blues peak from November to January when the big Dorado run is on. There is also a small peak in April as sailfish numbers drop. July through September there is a better chance at a black or striped marlin mixed in with the blues.
Costa Rica Sailfish: Again there is a year round opportunity for sailfish with the bigger numbers coming from late December/January through April. Read more about catching and releasing Costa Rica sailfish here.
Dorado: Dolphinfish, Dorado, Mahi Mahi (Mahi translates to “Strong” in Hawaiian) – whatever you prefer to call them run really thick from November through January and occasionally in February – averaging 20 to 40 lbs. We take Dorado year round but not in the same numbers as the months listed above.
Tuna: Yellowfin and Big Eye tuna can pass through any day of the year especially if the spinner or spotted dolphins are present. Football size tuna schools seem to appear every December. A new decree in Costa Rica has protected 44% of territorial waters from tuna purse seine activity.
Wahoo: They can surprise you any day of the year and are even sometimes taken inshore when the water is clear. Wahoo is not a prevalent species, but anglers are very happy when they are caught as they are a great fighting fish and make excellent table fare.
There is no real peak time for inshore species as all are year round the residents are in this area.
Roosterfish: Our “bucket list” fish, famous for their unique looks and incredible fighting ability. Everyone should schedule at least one day of inshore fishing to challenge these and other inshore species. They are taken regularly on live bait, poppers, and jigs. Roosterfish are known as one of the most challenging fish on a fly and difficult to fool with fly tackle.
Cubera Snapper: Top dog of our list of nearly a dozen different snapper. Since the Golfo Dulce became the largest Marine Area of Responsible Fishing several years ago – and shrimp boats and gill nets were banned from the gulf, snappers and other inshore species have made a great comeback. A big Pumpkin size Cubera will rush from the depths and smash a fast moving popper.
African pompano, bluefin trevally, a variety of jacks, grouper, mackerel, barracuda, bonitos, and an endless list of surprises including snook, wahoo and sharks make up the list of other fish caught while targeting roosters and snapper.
Our fleet is comprised of 33 and 35 foot Strike Tower boats as well as several 27 foot Rambo inboard diesels. We also have 24 and 25 foot Boston Whaler Outrages. All of boats have the ability to fish either offshore or inshore because of our generally calm sea conditions. In 17 years of operation we have only had two days when the ocean was too rough to go fishing. You will be pleasantly surprised to find an English speaking crew member on your boat as that is not always the case in other fishing operations. Do to an increased demand, we haven also added a fleet of fully outfitted OldTown fishing kayaks to increase the variety of fishing options offered at Crocodile Bay Resort. Book Your Costa Rica Fishing Trip
Our boats are outfitted with Penn International 50’s and 30’s as well as both Penn spinning and conventional gear in 20 and 30 pound outfits. We always try to have live bait on-board before you leave the dock. We use Temple Fork Fly Fishing gear on-site but we welcome anglers to bring their own gear if they prefer.
Most of our crew members grew up in the area and know the waters well. Our crews will give you as much or as little help as you want. We want this to be a great experience and communication with your crew enhances your visit here.
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