May 24, 2024

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What to do when you go Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica? An Angler’s guide

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Do you enjoy traveling – including to other countries? If the answer is yes, you probably don’t mind a crazy outdoor adventure… And if you also love fishing – especially if it involves the ocean – you’ll definitely want to read this article. I’m here to introduce the perfect experience to you: Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica.

Photo courtesy of Sábalo Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with many sightseeing opportunities. From the intriguing rainforests via unique cities, out to the stunning beaches… Many families and individuals come from all around to indulge in the beauty this country has to offer. But some escape to this retreat in the hope of one thing – hooking up to a Costa Rican Tarpon. 

In this article, I’ll introduce you to what makes Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica so impressive. I’ll go through the fish’s characteristics, the best techniques, spots, and much more. So come and let me take you away!

How to Know a “Silver King”

Tarpon are very popular in many areas of the world and are amongst the top saltwater game fish wherever they’re found. It’s no different in Costa Rica. For new fishermen and those who don’t know much about Tarpon, it’s beneficial to know how to identify one.

A view across the water towards a center console fishing charter in Costa Rica, with two men in the middle of the boat struggling to hold a large Tarpon as a woman crouches to the left of them taking a picture of them on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Tortuguero Sport Fishing

These fish have large, thick bodies that are covered in shiny, silver scales, hence the nickname “Silver King.” They have slick fins and a thick tail to powerfully thrust through the water at quick speeds. The tailfin acts as a powerhouse, allowing the fish to kick hard in order to catch up to prey or swim away from threats.

They’re also known for their hardy, sharp mouths, that make it difficult to get a good hookset in. These tough mouths are also keen to fray down fishing lines – often causing them to break. This is another reason why anglers are obsessed with catching these silver beasts. They’re a challenge to get to the boat. Your hard work will be rewarded once you realize you’ve beaten the obstacles and risks involved with Tarpon fishing.

Tarpon have been around for quite a long time, actually dating back to prehistoric times. Anglers have been chasing them for years and years, and you can see that they are still so popular today. But Tarpon aren’t popular for their filets but because of their strength! These fish fight incredibly hard, they thrash, jump into the air, and do whatever it takes to get off the line. If you successfully catch one, especially the larger ones, you should pat yourself on the back!

Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Rules and Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Costa Rica along with text that says "Costa Rica Tarpon Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background with a vector of a boat and the FishingBooker logo

Before we get into the good stuff, there’s just a little housekeeping to take care of. I’m talking about regulations!

The Tarpon population in Costa Rica is very strong with plenty of “poon” to go around. Because of this, they’re not as protected as they are in other countries. There are no rules when it comes to lifting Tarpon out of the water – unlike in Florida, for example. However, they are not allowed to be harvested, so they must be released.

It’s also important to note that Costa Rica requires individuals to have a fishing license when Tarpon fishing. Be sure to secure one via the INCOPESCA website or, if using a charter captain, discuss further with them.

The Best Gear for Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica

A view across the water towards a small panga fishing boat, with anglers on board fishing for Tarpon, with a Tarpon flying out of the water in the foreground, trying to get off the line
Photo courtesy of Sábalo Costa Rica

To catch a Tarpon, the first you’ll need is reliable gear. Let’s start with the first needed object – your fishing rod. These creatures will have your rod bent all sorts of ways, so you want to have a pole that can put up against tough circumstances. Some Costa Rican Tarpon weigh over 200 pounds, so a medium-heavy or heavy-action rod will be a good choice.

A spinning reel of at least 5000 or 6000 will be your starting point for reels. If you use a conventional setup or you’re a fly fisherman, anything along the same strength is good.

Now let’s talk about your line. Having a braid of at least 50 pounds is a good idea for targeting larger Tarpon. You can always downsize if you’re not getting much action but if you hook up to a 200 lb fish, you’re going to want that heavier braid. Using a leader of 60 pounds is a good match. Once again, this can also be changed but it’s a good medium, knowing that you can face some very large Tarpon.

Finish it off with a circle hook of 6/0 or higher, and you’ve got yourself a common spinning setup for Tarpon!

A closeup of the mouth of a Tarpon being pulled in by a fishing line having been caught in Costa Rica's inshore waters
Photo courtesy of Sábalo Costa Rica

Tarpon are carnivores, so they like anything with some meat to it. Small fish like mullet and sardines, as well as shrimp and crab are commonly used in Costa Rica. For these, you let the bait drift out a bit and wait for the Tarpon to come up to eat. You can either have them float toward the surface or add a sinker to keep them at a deeper depth.

Artificial lures are another option for Tarpon bait when fishing in Costa Rica. Jig heads with attached soft plastics and topwater lures are great choices. Jigging is a common practice for Tarpon here, where you jerk your bait up and down to gain their attention.

A good tip is to have your bait sit near any water movement or currents, as Tarpon tend to hang around areas with these.

When is the best time to go Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica?

A view from behind of an angler in yellow and wearing a hat casting their line into choppy waters, with a Tarpon leaping out of the water on the end of the line in the distance on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Sábalo Costa Rica

Tarpon call Costa Rica home year-round, thus you have chances at hooking one any day of the year. The tropical climate and diverse marine life provide the perfect environment for them. But if you’re looking for the best time, then the months between February through May, as well as September through October will be your best bet.

When it comes to the time of day, you have opportunities to hook up to Tarpon day or night. If they’re hungry, they’ll bite. That being said, the greatest chances of getting them to bite are at dawn or dusk. Other species, especially bait, come out to play at these times, which fires the Tarpon up! The temperatures are also a little cooler, making for a more pleasant feeding experience.

Another beneficial factor when it comes to the best time for Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is the tide. Tarpon is a species that focuses on the tide for its feeding habits. They enjoy the excess of bait that makes its way out towards them when the outgoing tide pushes them from inshore regions. We can think of it as fast food for them!

How to Go Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica

As long as you plan your fishing trip around the productive season, a good time of day, a flowing tide, and you have the right bait and know how to work it, your chances of success at Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica are already very high. To seal the deal, you just need to know how to find them.

There are two main differences when it comes to Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica. Those two things are whether you’re fishing on land or on a boat, so I’ll break it down for each.

On Land

A view from a beach towards the ocean, with a lone angler standing in the surf and casting towards the water at sunset on a cloudy day

Fishing on land in Costa Rica doesn’t mean you can’t have success at hooking up to Tarpon. Tarpon travel close to shore and spend a lot of their lives inshore. You can catch them off the beach, off any bridges, piers, and jetties, as well as in bays or rivers.

On a Boat

A view across the water towards a small fishing charter in Costa Rica with a n angler fishing over the side of the boat as two look on on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Tortuguero Sport Fishing

With fishing on a boat, you have access to all the above and more. You can head out to further depths and distances from shore to find traveling Tarpon. Spending time fishing offshore structures or reefs that aren’t too far from shore can produce good results for Tarpon.

When it comes to fishing on a boat, you can either use your own vessel or fish from a smaller craft, such as a jetski or kayak. Keep in mind that Costa Rica’s waters can get a little rough at times, and the conditions may be too dangerous for small crafts.

But if you want someone to do all the dirty work for you, a fishing charter is the way to go. Finding the bait? Knowing the hotspots? Providing the gear? They’ve got you covered. If this sounds more like your speed, then take a look at all the Costa Rica fishing guides listed on FishingBooker and find the perfect one to take you Tarpon fishing!

Top Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Spots

An aerial view of the Tortuguero National Park in Cosa Rica, with two rivers split by a strip of green land dominating the image and the ocean on the right

So, you know how to spot and land your fish and where to find them – in a broad sense. Now let’s get a little more specific. Here are some popular hotspots that locals recommend and charter boats continually bring their guests to:

  • Rio Colorado. This large river flowing into the Caribbean holds tons of Tarpon. There are plenty of lodges for direct access to the river, including Tarpon Land Lodge and Silver King Lodge. That right there gives insight into how popular Tarpon are in this area.
  • Tortuguero. Again on the Caribbean side, the rocky bottoms of this location bring in many species on the search for food or shelter. Tarpon follow along looking for any smaller fish to eat. This is another location that has lodges nearby, so you can be close to the action.
  • Los Sueños. This popular resort is a haven for anglers, with offshore sportfishing boats ready to take you to the Pacific. But inshore fishing is popular with plenty of Tarpon in the bay.
  • Quepos. Further south along the Pacific coast, Quepos offers bay waters and a river in the heart of town, meaning only one thing – plenty of Tarpon action!
  • San Juan River. Looking for a spot off the beaten track? The San Jose River carries loads of Tarpon, both small and big. Anglers can easily hook up to plenty of Tarpon in this area, mainly close to the tidal ponds.

Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing: Passion and Thrills

Three anglers wearing white on a fishing boat in Costa Rica with two holding a large Tarpon and another holding a fishing rod on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Sábalo Costa Rica

I hope that by reading this, you’ve either sparked a new interest in Tarpon or have further fueled your passion for them. Maybe you’re even planning your search on how to get to Costa Rica! One thing’s for certain – Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is an amazing fishing experience and is something you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

So, what are you waiting for? Get booking your epic angling trip of a lifetime and come Tarpon fishing in Costa Rica!

Have you ever landed a Tarpon in Costa Rica? Where did you fish from? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The post How to Go Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: How to Go Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica: An Angler’s Guide 
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Published Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2023 11:32:18 +0000

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