Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing
We offer the best customized Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Packages so you can see why it is some of the most exciting sport fishing in the world. Costa Rica is home to a large resident population of tarpon that provides a year-round bite from large, mature fish. Tarpon in Costa Rica are typically in the 80-100 lb range, and every year we catch a few in the 150-200 lb range. Found along the Caribbean Coast, in river mouths, and up fresh water rivers the “silver king” can be found in a variety of places and can be fished for on light tackle or fly gear. Trust our local expertise to set you up with one of Costa Rica’s top tarpon guides and see why 40% of our anglers are repeat or referral guests!
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Tarpon Fishing in Tortuguero
Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Info
The tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is done in and around the large river mouths found along the Northeast Caribbean Coast. The main target zone is from the Rio Parismina just south of the Tortuguero National Park to the Rio Colorado, which is an offshoot of the Rio San Juan that forms the northern border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Depending on which river mouth has the best conditions and where the fish are, run times can be anywhere from ten minutes to one hour if you run all the way north to Rio Colorado.
The boats used for tarpon fishing vary slightly from lodge to lodge and among our local guides, but in general they are all a version of a 25′-26′ center console with a deep vee hull. These are the ideal boats for tarpon fishing in Costa Rica as they can handle waves in the river mouths, can get you from spot to spot quickly, and they allow for multiple anglers to be fishing and fighting tarpon at the same time. Two anglers per boat is ideal, but they can fit three per boat max. All our tarpon fishing charters are private so the boat is 100% yours, we do not set up shared charters with strangers. All Costa Rica tarpon fishing trips include bait, tackle, gas, lunch, snacks, and drinks (beer/water/soda). A quality tip for your crew is generally 15%-20% of the cost of the charter.
Tarpon have large underslung lower jaws and inhale their food in a large slurping or sucking motion. Despite the fact you might have a 100 lb fish eating your bait, it can be easy to miss the subtle tug on your line when they fit. Tarpon don’t have teeth but rather extremely tough, bony jaws that are rock hard and feel like sand paper. This is just one of the many reasons so many tarpon are hooked and lost, if the hook isn’t set hard there’s a good chance it’ll pop out on the first leap. One of the best parts of tarpon fishing is seeing them launch themselves into the air – sometimes over six feet out of the water! They also feature sharp gill plates so as they thrash their heads from side to side trying to throw the hook they have been known to cut through leaders up to 100 lbs. It’s here where “bowing to the king” comes into play – lowering your rod to the water when the tarpon jumps to provide a bit of slack in the line so the hook isn’t ripped out and the line stays out of reach of those gill plates.
All tarpon in Costa Rica are catch and release.
Where is the Best Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica?
The best tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is done along the northeast corner of our Caribbean Coast. For all Costa Rica tarpon fishing packages you will want to fly in and out of the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose (SJO). Most tarpon fishing vacations have you spend your first night in the capital of San Jose, but it is possible to come directly from the Arenal Volcano or Pacific Coast as well. We will help you coordinate all logistics, in-country travel, and hotels.
There are no roads in this section of Costa Rica so it is one of the most remote and protected regions of the country. It is comprised almost entirely by the Tortuguero Conservation Area, in which you’ll find the Barra de Colorado National Wildlife Refuge (200,600 acres) and Tortuguero National Park (190,100 acres). The fastest way to get here is a short 25-minute flight which allows you to fish the same day, or the scenic route which is a combination of a van ride out of the Central Valley to the Caribbean lowlands and then a 1.5 hr boat ride through the canals of the Tortuguero National Park.
When is the Best Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica?
Certainly the most important question anglers ask us is “when is the best tarpon fishing in Costa Rica?” Here in Costa Rica the tarpon population is mostly resident, mature fish. We don’t catch a lot of juvenile tarpon and the tarpon fishing in Costa Rica is not based on migratory seasons like it throughout much of the rest of the Caribbean. The large river mouths and the abundance of bait keeps the tarpon here year round, so our tarpon seasons are based more on weather and sea conditions rather than the fish. Our Caribbean Coast can receive 250 inches of rain per year, so knowing when to visit is of the utmost importance for an enjoyable and successful trip.
There are two main seasons for tarpon fishing in Costa Rica: mid-Jan through mid-May and then again in September & October. The first season mirrors what is traditionally Costa Rica’s high season for travel. During these months it will typically be hot and sunny, though since it’s the Caribbean it can rain at any time. January and February can also see cold fronts blow through the Caribbean that makes things gray and rainy for 3-4 days at a time, though that is rare and becomes less common in March and April. On the Pacific Coast the months of September & October are the wettest and slowest time of year, but that is actually the dry season on the Caribbean Coast. During these two months the seas are often glass calm and the weather hot and sunny, which makes spotting rolling tarpon that much easier.
Techniques for Tarpon Fishing in Costa Rica
Costa Rican tarpon fishing can be done in various different ways based on sea conditions, what they are feeding on, and the angler’s preference. Natural prey for tarpon in this part of the country includes shrimp, langostinos (prawns), sardines, mullet fish, and even baby turtles as this is one of the world’s most importante sea turtle nesting sites. Outside of the river mouths and along the coast where the tarpon are found the water is usually 40 ft – 100 ft deep, so much of the tarpon fishing is done in deeper, dirty water as opposed to stalking fish in shallow water.
Jigging for Tarpon
One of the most popular and effective methods fishing for tarpon in Costa Rica is jigging. Bucktail jigs with big eyes, often rigged with soft plastics for added movement, are as simple and effective as it gets. Jigs with a 1/0 or 2/0 hook that feature bright colors like red, yellow, and pink seem to work well when mixed in with blacks and purples. These jigs not only mimic their normal shrimp and prawn diets, as you slowly jig you can cover the entire water column guaranteeing that sooner or later you’ll be in the face of a large silver king.
Bait for Tarpon
When available, Costa Rica tarpon guides love to fish sardines – dead or alive. A 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook put through the back of a sardines and floated along with the current is often a question of “when” not “if” most days. Mullet fish are also a favorite, though they are harder to find.
Hardbaits for Tarpon
If you are lucky enough to have a day when the Caribbean looks like glass, you can often see tarpon rolling at the surface. One days like this you can sight cast to them with poppers, stick baits, or even try artificial baits like crabs or even sea turtles. On the flip side, you may have bad luck and have days where you simply aren’t able to safely cross the river mouth into the ocean. Even when this happens all hope is not lost as another classic Costa Rica tarpon fishing method is to anchor in the river mouth away from the breakers and cast out big rapalas or Yo-Zuris. You’ll simply let the strong tidal currents take your lure back to the desired distance and provide all the movement your swimbait needs. As tarpon pass in and out of the river mouth they will eventually come across your lure and inhale it.
Fly Fishing for Tarpon
Fly fishing for tarpon in Costa Rica is also extremely popular. These are mature, adult fish so a 12 wt – 14 wt rod with appropriate large arbor reel is recommended. Since this is deep water fishing as opposed to flats fishing in Belize, much of your day will spent blind casting towards spots where you think tarpon are lurking. If you get a beautiful Caribbean day and can see the tarpon rolling yours odds increase and you can sight cast. For these conditions we recommend a sinking or intermediate sinking fly line so that you can position your fly deeper in the water column where the tarpon can see it. Big streamers and classic tarpon flies like the famous ‘Black Death’ and ‘Cockroach’ are all good choices when tied to a 1/0 or 2/0 hook. Crab and even baby turtle patterns can be used as well.
Available Species Fishing on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast
Without any doubt, the main attraction for fishing on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast are huge tarpon and world-record sized snook. While they will garner anglers’ attention 95% of the time, there are other species available in the vibrant coastal waters like jacks, snapper, mackerel, and occasionally big grouper. You also have the option to fish with light tackle in the freshwater canals and lagoons for exotic local species like rainbow bass (guapote), machaca, mojarra, and the rare tropical gar.
Costa Rica Tarpon Lodges & Accommodations
The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is the least developed region of the country, yet there is still a range of different accommodations to choose from. You won’t find large all inclusive resorts or luxury beach hotels here, unlike the rest of the country Costa Rica’s Northeast Caribbean Coast is not considered a beach destination. Some of the first pioneers in the area where the all inclusive tarpon lodges, which have now been around for over 30 years. Several are found on the Rio Colorado in the northern part of the region and then there is the Rio Parismina Lodge on the southern end.
Besides the tarpon and snook fishing, the main tourism this area attracts is eco tourism for the incredible wildlife, untouched rainforest, and being one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting sites. If an all inclusive fishing lodge isn’t your style other options include eco-luxury lodges where you’d fish with our legendary local tarpon guides in the area. Many of these hotels offer basic accommodations of rooms with ceiling fans and private bathrooms but no air conditioning or TVs. There is one luxury 4-star hotel in the area that does offer air conditioning, TV, mini-fridge and luxury bedding. Due to this area being so isolated all the hotels here include three meals a day as part of your package.
Day Tours & Non-Fishing Activities
Our Costa Rica tarpon fishing packages don’t need to be all fishing, all the time. Whether it’s an off day from fishing or for the non-anglers in your group, there are several great eco and adventure tours available along our lush Caribbean Coast. The list includes:
- Canopy zip-line tour
- Guided Tour through the canals of the Tortuguero National Park with trianed naturalist guide
- Sea Turtle Nesting Tour (seasonal)
All Costa Rica Tarpon Fishing Packages booked with Central America Fishing include the following:
- Free Vacation Planning (no fees + direct rates)
- VIP Airport Meet & Greet upon arrival into SJO
- Private, air-conditioned transfers with English speaking driver.
- First night accommodations in San Jose
- Domestic flights or van+boat transfers between San Jose and Caribbean Coast
- Accommodations on Caribbean Coast with all meals included (we’ll hand pick the best fit for you)
- Private fishing charters with experienced, English-speaking tarpon guides.
- All Costa Rican taxes
- Free quotes on travel insurance
- Pre-arrival assistance with dinner reservations, tee times, pre-stocking your condo or villa, hiring a private chef, and special requests.
- 24/7 support once you are here in country