Costa Rica Inshore Fishing


Fishing Info



Available Species


Costa Rica inshore fishing offers fantastic light tackle action every month of the year. The tropical Pacific Coastline features rocky islands, reefs, and river mouths that create the perfect habitat for snapper, grouper, snook, mackerel, jacks, and the famous roosterfish. On the Caribbean Coast we offer world-record sized tarpon & snook, jacks, mackerel and more. Whether you prefer to cast poppers & crankbaits, trolling with live bait, or bottom fishing the action while inshore fishing in Costa Rica will keep your lines tight. Trust our expertise to set you up with a dedicated and experienced inshore fishing guide and see why 40% of our anglers are repeat or referral guests!

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Costa Rica Inshore Fishing Info

Costa Rica became a popular international fishing destination decades ago thanks to the incredible billfishing on the Pacific Coast and the world class tarpon fishing on the Caribbean Coast. For many anglers, inshore fishing was something you could do on a half day or with wives and kids that didn’t want to spend a full day trolling offshore, but it wasn’t a priority. That has since changed and today we get just as many anglers asking specifically for light tackle inshore trips as we do big game offshore fishing. Marlin and sailfish are still considered bucket-list catches by most saltwater anglers, but roosterfish and cubera snapper aren’t far behind. Over on the Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica offers world record sized tarpon and snook fishing that is hard to match anywhere in teh world. Inshore fishing in Costa Rica isn’t just about targeting the rare trophy fish either, it offers incredible variety (over 20 species) and many fish you can bring back home for a tasty dinner like snook, snapper, and corvina.

Inshore fishing in Costa Rica can be done on nearly any kind of boat, from pangas to our big 50′ tournament yachts. Most inshore days on the Pacific will have you slow trolling live bait along the rocky coastline or over reefs and high points. While the big offshore boats can fish inshore, for a better experience we set our anglers up with dedicated inshore guides that tend to have smaller 26′-28′ pangas and center consoles. These smaller boats can maneuver in much closer to the islands where the fish are hiding as well as get you into the river mouths where we find our big snook and corvina most days. The smaller center console design also allows for multiple anglers to be casting and fighting fish at the same time as opposed to having everyone in the cockpit on a bigger offshore-type sport fisher. Every captain has a different personality and every operation has different pros and cons, so trust our local knowledge to hand pick the perfect fishing charter for your group. All Costa Rica inshore fishing charters are private so the boat is 100% yours, we do not set up shared charters with strangers. All Costa Rica fishing charters 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.

Costa Rica Inshore Fishing Techniques

There are so many different inshore species to catch in Costa Rica and so many different ways to fish for them, Costa Rica is a dream destination for light tackle anglers. Different species need to be targeted in different locations with different baits and techniques, so if trolling offshore all day doesn’t excite you then inshore fishing should be exactly what you are looking for. Whether it’s trolling live bait, fishing with poppers and stick baits, or jigging we can do any and all of that throughout the course of your day.

Live Bait

Nearly all Costa Rica inshore captains agree, the best way to get into the action is with live bait. We hand pick all our local fishing charters so they will be equipped with livewells and/or tuna tubes to keep bait fresh for you. In our more popular beach towns the inshore guides can buy live bait from the night guards, but some days you do need to fish for it on your own. The preferred live bait on the Pacific are blue runners, but we’ll also use lookdowns, sardines, and even bonito. On the Caribbean we usually fish sardines for tarpon and snook because they can be floated in the currensts even after they expire. Live bait will be fished with a circle hook, so you’ll need to let the fish run for 5-6 seconds before you close the bail to set the hook.

Popper Fishing

Everyone dreams of seeing a rooster’s dorsal comb or the giant orange ball of furious cuber snapper come up behind their popper. Popper fishing in Costa Rica is most effective over reefs and high points, but they should certainly be cast towards islands when possible. It varies by day, but generally poppers in the 4″ to 8″ range do the trick and blues, purples, blacks, greens and the red/white combo always get the job done.

Stick Baits & Crank Baits

Another favorite among light tackle enthusiasts are stick baits and crank baits. Some days these are more effective than poppers, especially if conditions are a little choppy, as they get a bit deeper in the water column. Typically 1′-3′ divers work best, but having a few deep divers is always good in case you fish deeper water or can’t get that stubborn snapper to leave his cave.


Jigging is not as popular in Costa Rica as it is in Panama, but it can be extremely productive. We can fish jigging irons down deep for snapper & grouper, working a butterfly jig through the water column for any and everything that might be passing by, or even using soft baits in hopes of landing a snook or sea bass near a river mouth. Jigging is much more popular on our Caribbean Coast as it’s a tried and true technique for landing big tarpon, often a bucktail jig with a soft plastic to give it some movement. Tossing bucktail jigs into the surf is the favorite way to catch monster snook on our Caribbean Coast.


Last but not least, if it’s been a slow day without bites, if the sea conditions aren’t ideal, or if you are simply tired from casting or jigging all day you can always set a spread and go trolling. You can slow troll live bait around islands and reefs or you can speed troll swimbaits to cover more ground and go at a faster pace.

When is the Best Costa Rica Inshore Fishing?

With two coastlines on two different oceans and five different mountain ranges, the weather and fishing seasons vary as much as they do from Northern Costa Rica to Southern Costa Rica as much as they do from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Fortunately the inshore fishing is so good on both coasts that we can honestly say that no matter when you visit Costa Rica you can enjoy the peak season for at least one species somewhere in the country. The Central and Southern Pacific tend to have the best conditions from December through April, then the Northern Pacific enjoys it’s best fishing from May to November. The Caribbean Coast is entirely different in that it’s dry season (Sept & Oct) are the wettest months on the Pacific. In the end, some months can be better than others based on sea conditions, the presence of baitfish, and seasonal patterns so you can review our Costa Rica fishing calendar below. Once you contact us and we have a better idea of what you want to fish for and when you are visiting, we can customize a package to put you in the right spot, at the right time.

Where is the Best Inshore Fishing in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is only the size of West Virginia, but with two coastlines on two different ocean it offers tons of great habitat for inshore fishing. The Pacific Coastline is roughly 630 miles long, and the fishing seasons, structure and even species vary from north to south. Central and Southern Costa Rica feature major river mouths, as well as smaller islands, so we tend to see more snook and corvina in these locations. The Northern Pacific features larger islands like the Catalina Islands and the Gulf of Papagayo so there is more rocky structure there. Over on the Caribbean Coast the tarpon and snook fishing is world class thanks to several major river mouths, little commercial or local fishing pressure, and plenty of bait. No matter when you want to visit or what species you are targeting we’ll be sure to put you in the right spot at the right time. There are countless beaches and bays where we fish, but the five major inshore fishing destinations are:

1) Quepos/Manuel Antonio
2) Osa Peninsula (Drake Bay & Puerto Jimenez)
3) NE Caribbean Coast (Rio Colorado, Rio Parismina, Tortuguero)
4) Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Flamingo, Gulf of Papagayo)
5) Los Sueños Resort

Costa Rica Inshore Fishing Species List

Horse-eye Jack
Mullet Snapper
Cubera Snapper
Bluefin Trevally
Rainbow Runner
Red Snapper
African Pompano
Black Grouper
Schoolmaster Snapper
Broomtail Grouper
Yellowtail Snapper
Jack Crevalle
Almaco Jack
Lane Snapper

Costa Rica Accommodations

Sport fishing and tourism in general have been popular in Costa Rica for decades so there are plenty of options to fit almost any travel style and budget. Your choices include exclusive boutique hotels, luxury beach resorts, private villas and condos, and all inclusive fishing lodges. As a luxury vacation outfitter, we only work with the nicest 3, 4, and 5-star operations that meet our expectations for quality, reliability, and service. Being local experts, we have personally visited every single property we represent so we’ll use our personal experience to hand pick the perfect fit for your group.

Costa Rica Day Tours & Non-Fishing Activities

Our Costa Rica Inshore Fishing packages don’t need to be all fishing, all the time. Costa Rica has been immensely popular for decades due to its volcanoes, rain forests, pristine beaches and incredible wildlife so we can easily incorporate any or all of that into your vacation package. 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. We can also customize your Costa Rica fishing vacation so you spend a few nights in different locations throughout the country so you can see how diverse it is. The list includes:

  • Canopy zip-line tour
  • White Water Rafting
  • Waterfall rappelling
  • ATVs
  • Horseback Riding (beach or rainforest)
  • Surfing
  • Golf
  • Guided tours of national parks
  • Waterfalls
  • Sunset catamaran cruise
  • Snorkeling
  • SCUBA Diving
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skis
  • Parasailing
  • Coffee plantat

What Our Guests Love About
Costa Rica Inshore Fishing


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What We Love About
Costa Rica Inshore Fishing


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Costa Rica Fishing FAQs

Do I need a fishing license to fish in Costa Rica?

YES. All anglers need a fishing license to fish in Costa Rica. These are sold by the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Aquacultura, or INCOPESCA as they are known here. Unfortunately their website has functionality and language issues so it’s not easy to use, so you can buy the license in the morning right before you fish for the first time. The cost is $15 for one week or $30 for one month and it must be paid in cash.

How many people will be on my fishing boat?

All fishing charters booked by Central America Fishing are private, so the boat is 100% yours. We do not set up any shared charters.

What is the standard tip for a fishing charter in Costa Rica?

A standard tip for a charter fishing crew in Costa Rica is 10%-20% of the cost of the charter. Most captains are paid a low salary with the idea they’ll earn more tips the more they fish, but many mates rely 100% on tips for their income. Tipping in USD or Costa Rican colones is fine. We recommend giving the entire tip to the captain and let him divide it up with the mate.

Can I bring my own fishing gear?

OF COURSE! Even though our private charters provide all the fishing tackle and bait you’ll need, you are always welcome to bring your own lures, reels, and even rods if you want to catch fish using your own tackle. Fly anglers are always encouraged to bring their own fly gear.

Which fish in Costa Rica are catch and release and which ones can I keep to eat?

By law, all billfish in Costa Rica are strictly catch and release. While not a law, we also strongly encourage releasing all roosterfish, tarpon, and cubera snapper as they are such prized inshore species. Other species like tuna, dorado (mahi), wahoo, snappers, groupers, corvina, snook can be kept and enjoyed for a fresh seafood dinner.

Can I bring fish back home with me to my own country?

If you really want to enjoy your catch our best advice is to eat it while it’s fresh here in Costa Rica. We understand many of you love the idea of a Costa Rican seafood dinner in the comforts of your own home, so the good news is there is no law against it and people do it all the time. However – we do not have the final say in this so there are some things you need to keep in mind:

1 – Unlike some other popular fishing destinations, in Costa Rica there is no service that will package and ship fish home for you. If you want to bring fish home with you you’ll have to do it yourself in your own luggage. Our best advice is to bring down a soft sided, leak-proof cooler, have your fish frozen completely solid, wrap them in newspaper, and then check your cooler as part of your luggage since it will stay cooler in the cargo hold of the plane versus in the cabin as a carry-on. If you don’t have a cooler or forget to bring one, you can purchase affordable plastic coolers here in local grocery stores.

2 – While Costa Rica does not prohibit you from bringing fish fillets home with you, your international airline might. We strongly recommend you confirm this with your airline (in writing if possible) or you may have the fish confiscated from you at the airport check-in.

3 – Even if your airline lets you fly the fish home, your local customs may have an issue with you bringing in meat products from a foreign country. In our experience most customs agents don’t seem too interested in you bringing back frozen fish fillets from your fishing vacation to Costa Rica, but it can depend on the agent and depend on the day.

What if there is bad weather on our fishing day?

First of all, it is extremely rare to have a fishing day cancelled due to bad weather. Costa Rica is too far south for hurricanes, and on top of that we custom design every single one of our Costa Rica fishing packages to factor in not only where you’ll have the best fishing but also the best weather & sea conditions for the time of year you visit us.

It does happen every once in a while however, so if the captain, local marina, or government deem the conditions are unsafe the trip will be cancelled.  The first course of action is to try and reschedule you, but if that is not possible you will be refunded in full.

Please note that rain and dark clouds are not considered bad weather. We are in the tropics and rain is a common occurrence here so that is not a cause for cancelling the trip. Many great fishing days happen in the rain – as they say the fish are wet anyway!

Why Fish With CAF?

We have been fishing, living, and traveling around Central America since 2003. Plan your trip with local experts to make sure you are in the right place, at the right time, and on the right boat. We’ll help you fish for what you want, the way you want.

Free vacation planning + the best direct rates. No booking fees!

Personalized service from pre-arrival to 24/7 in-country support.

Hand-picked accommodations, fishing captains, expert guides for the best vacation experience.


Nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests. CAF puts you on the fish!

We are proud to have a global reach and have hosted anglers from 14 different countries here in Central America!

About the Author

I first visited Costa Rica during a semester abroad in 2003 and instantly fell in love with the language, culture, and natural beauty. I caught my first roosterfish on that trip, and ever since then I knew that I wanted to live here. After graduating in 2004, I worked for a year in the corporate world, but I was unhappy and unstimulated, so I returned to live in Costa Rica full time in 2005. Today I can proudly say that I’ve been in Costa Rica for half of my life, I met my wife here, and my two boys were born here so they are “Ticos”.

I’ve been working in the sport fishing industry in Central America for twenty years, I’ve had articles published in fishing magazines, hosted fishing TV shows, fished in several tournaments, and I’m a four-time IGFA trophy club member. I am however most proud to say that 40% of our anglers are repeat and referral guests. I’ve personally visited every destination, hotel, and fishing lodge that we partner with so that your next vacation with us is one of the best you’ve ever had.

Chris Atkins - Angler & Owner of Central America Fishing

All fishing vacations 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.
  • Luxury, private accommodations hand-picked and customized for your group. Choose between private condos & villas, luxury beach resorts, exclusive boutique hotels, and fishing lodges.
  • Private fishing charters
  • All eco / adventure tours you’d like to include
  • 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
Inquire Now
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Please fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours. If you wish to speak to us sooner please call us anytime at 1-855-414-FISH. Your 100% customized vacation starts here!

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