When planning a tarpon fishing vacation to Costa Rica, knowing when to go is as important as selecting the right tackle, leaders, and baits. Get it wrong and you might just be going for a boat ride – or the weather could be so bad you won’t even set foot on a boat! Much like other parts of the Caribbean, the weather along the eastern coast of Costa Rica can change quicker than than an octopus changes color. This is in part due to various ocean currents that swirl in and out, warm tropical air meeting cold fronts from North America, the trade winds, and the incredible depth (up to 22,700 ft at it’s deepest!). The tarpon in Costa Rica are here are year round, they aren’t migratory, it’s just a question of whether or not you can get out to fish for them.
It would be a mistake to assume the peak fishing and dry season months along the Pacific Coast are the same along the Caribbean Coast. Peak season for marlin fishing in Costa Rica does not always equal peak tarpon fishing season, in fact often times it is the opposite. Despite only being the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica if famous for having 7 different climate zones and it’s an entirely different ocean so hitting the tarpon on during the prime months that are so generously offered to us should be the first question asked. There are two main seasons to fish for tarpon in Costa Rica: January through May and then again from late August to early November.
January is the month where the Caribbean Coast transitions out of it’s winter season back into it’s dry season. While there can be some very nice days in January, it is often stormy with rough seas and even for the Caribbean it is a wildly unpredictable time. In February the weather and seas are much calmer, then from March through May you have a 90%+ chance of having clear skies and favorable fishing conditions. The months of June through August are traditionally the rainy season along Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast where they can see upwards of 11-17 inches of rain per month! Once again, the tarpon are still around, it’s just a very soggy time to be visiting the Caribbean Coast and often times the river mouths can be too dangerous to pass to get out to the open ocean.
But like they say, after every dark night comes a brighter day. Once the rainy season ends around late August we enter the ‘peak tarpon season.’ The months of September and October along Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast are the prime time to focus on tarpon due to clear skies, dry weather patterns, and glass-flat water. It also happens to coincide with the hatching of the baby green sea turtles, which were nested in the months of June-August by their mothers, so there is literally a 24-7 buffet being offered to the tarpon in the area. Seeing tarpon cruising along the surf is a common sight, and on some days there can be so many of them they’ll roll right into the side of your boat! This is when double digit hook ups are possible and many of the local tarpon fishing tournament are held, so planning in advance is advised.
If you want to fly fish for tarpon, we’d highly recommend the months of March, April, September, and October for the best conditions. During these months you’ll typically get the flattest seas and will have better luck spotting and sight casting to the silver king, which of course doesn’t make it any easier to hook, but at least you can find them! During the turtle hatch crab flies and turtle flies work well, but any time of year white, pink, and black streamers work great. A minimum 10 wt fly rod is recommended as the tarpon in Costa Rica are usually tip the scales at 80+ pounds, with 150-200 pounders landed every year!