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 below of the best times to fish in Costa Rica by species as well as destination. Too many websites give blanket answers like “Winter” or “Spring”, or they list months 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 even live in Costa Rica, so be sure you are getting your info from trusted, local experts who have a history of putting together productive fishing vacations. This 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!
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 starts 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. October tends to be the slowest month for inshore fishing as many rivers can get completely blown out with the rains, but those same blowouts can also bring a lot of bait with them so there is almost always some action when fishing inshore.
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-May and then again in September and October.
The Best Time to Fish the Central Pacific (Los Sueños & Quepos)
During the months of December through April the fishing is best along our Central and Southern Pacific Coast and when we see the biggest numbers of billfish. For that reason, the fishing hot spots like Los Sueños and Quepos host all their major billfish tournaments between January and April every year. While it’s hot and sunny in northern Costa Rica as well, they get very strong seasonal winds this time of year known as the ‘Papagayo Winds‘ or ‘Christmas Winds‘ which makes the ocean pretty rough most afternoons and the fishing much slower than in the south. To better understand the science behind this, you can read our blog about Costa Rica’s peak fishing season. Without any doubt, for anglers targeting billfish the best time of year is December through April and the place to be is either the famous Los Sueños Resort & Marina or the popular fishing town of Quepos an hour farther south.
The Best Time to Fish in Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Flamingo, Papagayo)
The green season arrives once the afternoon rains start in May. When this happens the fishing shifts from southern Costa Rica to northern Costa Rica as the strong winds up north die down, the fish have more room to spread out, and the southern part of the country receives the most rainfall. Many people incorrectly assume that if it’s not ‘peak billfish season’ the fishing must be slow, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The months of May-Nov still offer plenty of sailfish, a second season for marlin, and it’s the peak time of year for anglers who like variety as we see more dorado, tuna, and wahoo offshore. It’s also the peak season for meatfish like snapper and grouper along with the aforementioned pelagics, so for all those anglers who want to cook what they catch or freeze fillets and bring them home, that is the most productive time of year. While the fishing remains productive around Los Sueños and Quepos through July most years, historically the weather and the fishing tends to be better this time of year up north in the Guanacaste region. This is the hottest and driest part of Costa Rica so even in the green season they receive very little rainfall. It’s also the further west point of Costa Rica, so the run times to the fishing grounds are usually much shorter here and the inshore fishing is fantastic with several islands and reefs. Referencing the Costa Rica Fishing Calendar above, you can see the best months to fish the Guanacaste region are May through September.
The Best Time to Fish the Caribbean Coast
Over on the Caribbean Coast there is an entirely different weather pattern. The Caribbean basically has two dry seasons and two wet seasons, so knowing when to go tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is of the utmost importance. The first season is mid-Jan to mid-May as more often than not the weather is hot and sunny. Because it’s winter in North America, the Caribbean Coast can be affected by cold fronts which blow down through the Gulf of Mexico and make things windy and rainy for 2-3 days at a time. That is most common in January and early February, while March and April tend to be the hottest and driest months. During the months of June through August the Caribbean Coast receives a lot of rain and big storms, so even though the fish are there it simply isn’t very inviting fishing conditions. On the Pacific Coast and in the Central Valley, the months of September and October are the peak of the rainy season and historically the wettest months of the year. However on the Caribbean it’s a cause for celebration because that is their dry season so more often than not the weather is hot and sunny and the seas are glass calm – which is why we call it our peak tarpon season.