In a dozen years of working in Costa Rica’s sport fishing industry one of the questions I field the most is “when is the best time of year to catch sailfish and marlin?” While we catch billfish twelve months a year here, anyone with brain bigger than a dorado’s will tell you that Costa Rica’s peak billfish season is December through April. Those five months also happen to coincide perfectly with the North American winter and Costa Rica’s dry season weather, or summer, so for many anglers it is that simple: peak billfish season + dry season weather – a week of the North American winter = your next fishing vacation.
The topic becomes exponentially more complex when you begin to factor into the equation not one but two major ocean currents, North American weather patterns, water temps and oxygen count, and yes even simple geography. There is a reason why marinas were built where they were built, why major billfish tournaments are held in the same spot the same month year after year, and why few places on Earth can hold a candle to the phenomenal billfish numbers Costa Rica reports every year.
Many people incorrectly assume that Costa Rica’s peak billfish season has everything to do with the dry season (Dec-Apr) and rainy season weather (May-Nov) and that the billfish bite slows down when the afternoon rains start in May.
Central America in general is the benefactor being at the confluence of two major ocean currents: the California Current in the north and the famous Humboldt Current, or Peru Current, in the south. These two surface currents bring in much needed cooler water to the Pacific Coastline of Central America and create a nutrient rich upwelling which in turn creates and sustains an incredible amount of marine life. The other thing that happens are strong winds from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean that blow from east to west during the months of Dec through April.
With nearly a 780 mile long Pacific Coast and over 300 beaches, with just about as many hotels to match, it can be very hard to know where to stay for your next fishing vacation.
Now is a good time to repeat the fishing adage that ‘the fish don’t care if it rains, they are wet anyway.’