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Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica

Well informed anglers know that tarpon fishing in Costa Rica ranks as some of the best in Central America. For those interested in trying tarpon fishing, Costa Rica is a fantastic place to discover this famed game fish. The Megalops atlanticus, aka the "Silver King", can grow to a maximum size of eight feet in length, weigh up to 350lbs (159kgs), and put on one hell of an aerial show when hooked. It's a sport fishing dream fish. (Visit Wikipedia for more info on the Atlantic Tarpon)

The two main areas for tarpon fishing in Costa Rica are the northern Caribbean coast and the tropical everglades of Caño Negro. Both locations have yielded fish over 200lbs.


Caribbean Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica

Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica The canals and river mouths along the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offer excellent tarpon fishing opportunities. Oceanic fishing for tarpon is done less than a mile off shore in 50-70ft of water with a jig and is equally amazing. In the ocean, tarpon have a tendency to congregate in large schools that run up and down the coast looking for bait fish.

River fishing is done in holes behind the sand bars that develop at bends in the river. The sandbars form due to the changing currents. Fishing guides usually recommend using flies or Rapala-like lures for fishing these drop-offs.

Fishing river mouths involves drifting from behind the breakers out to a depth of about 35ft to 50ft, and then heading back in to make the drift again.

While you can catch fish year round, the best time of year for tarpon fishing in Costa Rica's Caribbean zone is from May to October/November (depending on weather). From December to May, tarpon begin to run up into the rivers systems at which time they're either solo or in small groups as opposed to the large oceanic schools they form just off shore.

Barra del Colorado is the northernmost destination and arguably offers the best tarpon fishing in Costa Rica, with the waters of the Refugio Nacional Barra del Colorado being especially productive. Here you will find a labryinth of of creeks, canals and lagoons along with three river mouths all reachable in less than half an hour by boat. For these reasons there are numerous fishing lodges and resorts here.

The rivers here act are the main route for tarpon heading inland to the rich rivers and everglades along the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, so there is plenty of fish traffic. On the other hand, Barra del Colorado's remote location - reachable only by plane or boat - means it has less tourist traffic, which makes for better fishing.

Parismina is south of both Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero. When the sea is flat the fishing outside the river mouth here is just as good as Barra del Colorado. On rough days though, when breaking surf prevents boats from getting outside the river, the fishing can be poor. Additionally, in Parismina you'll have to contend with boats ferrying tourists to Tortuguero which affects the quality of the fishing around the river mouth. On the positive side, you can drive to Parismina from the town of Siquierres.

Tortuguero, a famed spot for ecotourism, also has it's fair share of fishing lodges. The tarpon fishing here is decent, but most operators bring their guests north to Barra del Colorado for tarpon fishing. The rocky bottom off the shore of Tortoguero does make for some great snook and cubera snapper fishing though.

Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica's Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Caño Negro is a seasonal lake/wetlands/everglade system that is fed by the Rio Frio. Tarpon can be found here year round, but as I mentioned earlier there is an increase in tarpon in the river systems from December until May, at which time many return to the ocean.

There are monsters to be had in Cano Negro and on the Rio Frio. In fact, I read an account of a 7 ft 1 inch giant weighing 205lbs that was caught in 2003. However, there is a greater concentration of juveniles in Cano Negro than on the coast: average fish are in the 30-40lb range versus the 80lb average for tarpon on the Caribbean. Also, the big tarpon here tend to be a coppery color instead of bright silver due to the high concentration of tannins in the water.


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