Costa Rica Fishing Calendar

by | May 14, 2024 | Costa Rica Fishing Reports | 0 comments

It’s no secret that Costa Rica is home to some of the best sport fishing in the entire world. Countless TV shows and magazines have documented the incredible inshore and offshore action, it hosts several international fishing tournaments every year, and there are world famous Costa Rica fishing lodges on both coasts. The fishing is so good, Costa Rica has earned the nickname ‘the billfish capital of the world’ for its incredible year-round billfish bite and has hosted the huge Offshore World Championship every year since 2013. Using our twenty years of experience living and fishing here in Costa Rica, we can help explain the weather patterns and fishing seasons so that your Costa Rica fishing vacation is as successful as possible. Our Costa Rica Fishing Calendar below will give you an overview of which species will be at its peak depending on which part of the country you visit and what month of the year you are here.

Costa Rica Fishing Calendar

Our Costa Rica Fishing Calendar is a general guideline based on traditional weather seasons and historical fishing patterns, but the truth is every year is slightly different here based on ocean currents, ocean temps, La Niña vs. El Niño years, and the presence of baitfish. The good news is no matter what time of year you want to fish in Costa Rica, there will be something to catch!

What to Expect During Costa Rica’s Dry Season

The dry season, or summer as the Ticos call it, runs from December through April. During this time of year, you can expect 90 F and sunshine on the Pacific Coast nearly every single day. In two decades here we’ve been around long enough to have seen a few days of rain in January, February, and March, but it is, extremely rare. The hottest and driest months of the year are March & April, when temperatures on the Pacific Coast can reach the upper 90s F.  Due to the dry season weather perfectly coinciding with the North American winter, the months of December through April are also considered the high season for tourism in Costa Rica. This is when hotels will have their highest rates and you’ll find the greatest number of visitors in the country.

The months of December through April are what we consider to be the peak billfish season in Costa Rica. It’s this time of year when we see the greatest number of marlin and sailfish, which is why all the major billfish tournaments in Costa Rica are held between January and April.  During this time of year, the water is clear, blue and full of baitfish. Topside, the conditions are anglers are perfect as a typical day features sunshine, 90 F weather, and 1-2 ft seas.

CAF angler catches and releases a sailfish in Quepos, Costa Rica

Potential anglers should take note however that the peak billfish season and the best conditions from December through April are not country-wide, rather they pertain to the Central and Southern Pacific Coast. Even though it’s the dry season up in the Northern Pacific region as well, they experience extremely strong winds from December through April on nearly a daily basis. These seasonal winds are referred to as the ‘Christman Winds’ or ‘Papagayo Winds’ because they start around Christmas and they blow hard through the Gulf of Papagayo. So, while it’ll still be 90 F and sunny in Guanacaste during the summer months, it’s not great for fishing because anglers will face 20-30 mph winds almost every day. Not only does this make the seas rough and uncomfortable to fish in, it blows the nutrient-rich water offshore so the billfish tend to congregate along the more hospital zones in front of the Central and Southern Pacific Coasts. Many visitors make the mistake of being lured in by the all-inclusive resorts and big chain properties in Guanacaste for a winter getaway, but we make sure that our anglers head south for the best fishing during the Costa Rican dry season.

A wind map of Costa Rica during mid-March show the strong winds up in Guanacaste.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the Costa Rica tarpon fishing is done on our Caribbean Coast and that has an entirely different season than our Pacific Coast. While December through April is the dry season on the Pacific, December is one of the stormiest months on the Caribbean. The dry seasons starts in January, but the weather can be 50/50 as cold fronts from the north can make things windy and rainy for days at a time. The weather improves as you move deeper into the spring months, so we try to plan all of our tarpon trips for the months of February through April. Similar to the Pacific Coast, March and April tend to be the hottest & driest months of the year on the Caribbean. With that said, Costa Rica’s Caribbean is nowhere near as predictable as the Pacific Coast, so wind and big seas can happen any week.

What to Expect During Costa Rica’s Green Season

Costa Rica’s green season, or rainy season, runs from May through November. For those of us who live here, we refer to it as the ‘green season’ because we know it doesn’t rain all day, or even every day, but the afternoon rain showers do turn the country back into a vibrant green. After five months of no rain, at the end of the dry season parts of Costa Rica can turn yellow and brown and appear more like Africa than the tropics, but during the green season the entire country pops back to life.

A typical day in the green season starts off hot and sunny, and then around 2-4 PM it will become cloudy and rain for a few hours before clearing up again around dinner time. It rarely rains all day and will only do so if there is a storm system or tropical depression off our coastline. The greatest chance of this happening is in September and October, which happen to be the wettest months of the year on the Pacific Coast. When the green season starts in May, the fishing destinations in the Southern Zone like Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, and Golfito receive the most amount of rain. On the flip side, the northern zone of Guanacaste is the hottest and driest region of the country, so they receive very little rain even during the green season. The afternoon showers and warmer weather in North American means that the strong winds of the dry season dissipate, so the good water and baitfish return to the popular fishing spots like Tamarindo, Flamingo, and the Gulf of Papagayo.

As the Southern Zone starts to get a lot of rain and the Northern Zone becomes more hospitable to gamefish, the best fishing action moves up the Guanacaste region from May to November. During these months, it’s common to see the same amount of billfish that the Central & Southern Zones do during their peak season. In fact, some years the fishing in June & July is every bit as good, if not better, than the traditional peak season months. We also refer to the green season as our “peak variety season” as that’s when we see a ton of tuna, dorado, and it’s the best time of year for wahoo. The bottom fishing for snappers, groupers, amberjacks, and congrio is also very good in the summer month. Sea conditions are normally quite calm, the only thing to disturb that would be an offshore tropical depression or storm that grazes Costa Rica’s national territory.

Yellowfin tuna fishing in Costa Rica is a year-round event.

On the Caribbean Coast, the first half of May tends to offer very good tarpon fishing conditions. Once we get to mid-May, the conditions worsen as June, July, and August tend to be very stormy and rainy on the Caribbean. While September and October are the wettest months of the year on the Caribbean, that is actually the dry season along the Caribbean Coast. The dry season weather means idyllic sea conditions, so most days getting out of the river mouth and into the ocean to look for rolling tarpon is easy to do. Combine that with the hatching of the green sea turtles in September and October and you have a recipe for calm seas and an abundance of bait, so we consider September and October to be our peak tarpon season.


Fishing in Costa Rica During El Niño

After one of the longest La Niña periods in recent memory, the 2024 high season was finally a return to El Niño conditions. For Costa Rica, this typically means hotter, drier weather and warmer water temps. That held true as most days during the 2024 season we were fishing in 85 F – 87 F water. With that, we noticed an immediate drop in the marlin numbers from the previous years as the prefer cooler water than sailfish, but the tradeoff was a drastic increase in the sailfish numbers. The yellowfin tuna and mahi bite wasn’t affected from one year to the next, but the water temps did definitely affect the billfish numbers.

Fishing in Costa Rica During La Niña

We experienced one of the longest La Niña cycles from 2021 to 2023. During this stretch, we noticed heavier rains during our green season and slightly cooler water temps. By no coincidence, those three years were some of the slowest sailfish years that we’ve seen in our 20 years as outfitters. The tradeoff was that the marlin bite was absolutely fantastic, so while our anglers were disappointed not catching more sailfish, many of them returned home having caught their bucket list marlin. Cooler water temps may have been brought in by cooler ocean currents, which can change the pattern of the baitfish. Likewise, more rain during the green season can create more green water along the coast, which can also negatively affect the inshore fishing.

Costa Rica Fishing Seasons by Species

Anglers have been traveling to fish Costa Rica’s coastlines for over three decades, but the question we still hear most frequently is “When is the best time to fish in Costa Rica?“. The answer to this question depends on what you want to fish for, so we’ve created a list of the most popular species in Costa Rica, the best times to fish for them, as well as where to go. Too many websites give blanket answers like “Winter” or “Spring”, or they list fishing seasons that span half the year like ‘December through April,’ but that doesn’t take into account local weather seasons and historical fishing patterns that we’ve come to learn over the past two decades. Too much of this advice is also given by people who don’t live in Costa Rica or even fish, but we’ve been living and fishing here since 2003, we fish in the local tournaments, and the fact that 40% of our customers are repeat and referral guests means we put our anglers on the fish.

The Peak Marlin Season in Costa Rica

The peak marlin season in Costa Rica is November through February.  Even though we catch marlin twelve months a year here, historically the months of November through February tend to offer the best marlin action in Costa Rica. November and December may offer slightly lower numbers, but you have a higher chance at a Grand Slam (any three billfish in one day) as those two months traditionally offer the best stripe marlin bite.  Every year, the peak of the rainy season is the month of October and then November is the month where we transition back into the dry season (Dec-Apr). After many boats do repairs and paint jobs in October, they are itching to go in November so that in combination with the return of better weather traditionally kicks off the next year’s peak season. Once we move into January and February the marlin action tends to focus on the blues and blacks, so Grand Slams are still possible but the black marlin are often the elusive missing piece to the puzzle.

We also have a second peak marlin season that is often overlooked, though it seems to be gaining more popularity every year. Once the rains start in May, the ‘Green Season’ is settled in and established by June. The months of June, July and August offer incredible blue and black marlin action all up and down the Pacific Coast. Too many anglers get scared away by false images of 24/7 monsoons and rough seas, where in reality the majority of days offer nothing more than an afternoon rain shower.

In addition to great marlin action for the traditional charter fleet fishing from our marinas, the months of May through September are also the best time of year to do our overnight trips out to the FADs, or seamounts.  These overnight trips have a length of two to four nights and typically have you fishing 100-140 miles offshore on one of our larger 42′-55′ luxury yachts with staterooms, full kitchens, and plenty of space for anglers and crew.  While never a guarantee, the marlin fishing at the FADs may very well be the best marlin fishing in the entire world.

The Best Time to Catch Sailfish in Costa Rica

The best time to catch sailfish in Costa Rica is December through April. These five months are when you’ll find all the major billfish tournaments being hosted in Costa Rica and days with double digit sailfish bites are quite common.  While the peak season is typically listed as five months long, usually the sailfish numbers start out lower in November and December and then increase from January through April once the water is warmer and there is more blue water closer to shore. This of course refers to fishing on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

During the months of May through November we still catch sailfish every day, but some weeks they may not be as concentrated and therefore the numbers won’t be as high as peak season. Similar to the marlin bite, June through August tend to offer a great “second season”, which you can see in our past Costa Rica fishing reports.

The Best Time to Catch Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) in Costa Rica

One of the most popular sport fish across the globe, mahi-mahi is called ‘dorado‘ in Costa Rica. We catch dorado every month of the year in Costa Rica, but the best months are October through December. Every year there is a big dorado run that starts in late October or early November and runs through mid to late December. These fish all seem to be mature adults ranging from 30-50 lbs, with a few 60 lb+ trophies out there.  The dorado fishing is so good that the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos hosts their annual Dorado Derby tournament every November.

After that intense peak dorado season, the bite is sporadic yet steady throughout the rest of the dry season (Dec-Apr).  Once the rains start in May, the rivers blow out trash lines form off the coast with dead trees, palm branches, and (unfortunately) garbage. These form the perfect habitat for dorado, so from May to August we see incredible dorado numbers, though they are often smaller 10-20 lb fish.

When the Best Time to Catch Roosterfish in Costa Rica?

We catch roosterfish twelve months a year in Costa Rica, although the months of December through March tend to be exceptional. The truth is, the roosterfishing along the Pacific Coast is always quite good and nowhere near as seasonal as the offshore fishing.  The main reason why is that roosterfish, along with most of our inshore species, are not migratory like the offshore pelagic species. Rather, they tend to have a “home” reef or islands that they stick to, which is why it’s so important to practice catch and release with this prized species. As long as the water is clear and there are baitfish around, you stand a good chance at catching our beloved “pez gallo”.  Roosterfish don’t generally like freshwater however, so October and early November tend to be the slowest months for roosterfish as many rivers can get completely blown out with the rains.

Costa Rica Inshore Fishing packages

When is the Peak Tarpon Season in Costa Rica?

There are two main tarpon seasons in Costa Rica: Spring (Jan-May) and Fall (September & October). The fishing seasons on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is essentially a mirror of the weather seasons – when the weather is good the fishing is good.  Unlike much of the rest of the Caribbean, the tarpon in Costa Rica are not migratory and the resident population is robust so the fish are here year-round, the question is whether or not you can get to them.  All the tarpon lodges and hotels in the Caribbean Coast are located inside on freshwater canals, so to get out to the ocean where the best tarpon fishing is you need to run out of the river mouth – which can be harrowing on the wrong day.  The best months to fish the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica are therefore when the seas are calm, which happens to be mid-January to mid-May and then again in September and October.

Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Packages



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