Inshore Fishing in Central America
For anglers who prefer light tackle fishing for a variety of species, few places on Earth can compete with Central America’s dual coastlines, quantity and quality of game fish, and the consistent year-round action. Between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, we can catch nearly one hundred different species of game fish while fishing the warm coastal waters of Central America. Home to incredible variety, inshore fishing in Central America also produces trophy fish like the exotic roosterfish, bone-crushing cubera snapper, and world record sized tarpon and snook. Read below to learn more about where to enjoy Central America’s best inshore fishing, then trust our decades of local expertise to plan your trip and see why nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests!
Where is the Best Inshore Fishing in Central America?
Central America features a Pacific Coast that measures roughly 1,200 miles long and a Caribbean Coast over 1,300 miles long. With over 2,500 miles of warm tropical coastline to fish, not to mention the world’s second longest barrier reef, few places on Earth can offer the diversity and quality of inshore fishing like Central America. Whether your goal is to rack up as many different species as possible or focus on landing a bruising monster like a 50+ lb cubera snapper or roosterfish, the ability to fish two oceans makes Central America a dream destination for light tackle enthusiasts.
When anglers contact us looking to go inshore fishing in Central America we tend to focus on Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. As part of the Ring of Fire, the Pacific coastline of Central America is volcanic and features rocky outcroppings, reefs, pinnacles and hundreds of islands which is the perfect habitat for inshore game fish like jacks, snappers, mackerel and roosterfish. While Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador technically all offer the same species, the quality and quantity of habitat, conservation efforts, and fish populations are far superior in Costa Rica and Panama. Numerous major rivers empty into the Pacific as well creating opportunities to fish in mangroves and brackish water for species like covina, snappers, and world-record sized Pacific snook (59 lbs 8 oz. caught in Quepos, Costa Rica in March 2014).
The Caribbean Coast of Central America seems to differ in all six countries that share it (El Salvador is the only one that doesn’t). In Belize, the thin sliver of Guatemala, and northern Honduras the Caribbean Coast is protected by the 700 mile long Mesoamerican Reef. This creates a paradisiacal coastline of white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and hundreds of pristine cayes. Most of the inshore fishing here is done on light tackle around the cayes or along either side of the reef for various species of snapper, grouper, mackerel, jacks and barracuda. To contrast that, much of the Caribbean Coast in Nicaragua and Costa Rica is open ocean which means bigger seas and bigger fish – like monster tarpon and snook. Finally in Panama, along the Caribbean Coast you’ll find the beautiful Bocas del Toro archipelago in the far west and the 365 cayes that make up the autonomous region of the San Blas Islands in the east.
The inshore fishing along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is every bit as exciting as the much heralded billfishing. Today it seems that we receive just as many requests by anglers targeting roosterfish and cubera snapper as we do sailfish and marlin. Inshore fishing in Costa Rica isn’t just about a couple of highly prized trophy fish, this is where we see the most variety in our catch with several species of jacks, snappers, groupers, sierra mackerel, corvina, sharks, and huge Pacific snook. Inshore fishing on the Pacific Coast typically consists of slow trolling live bait over rocky reefs and around various islands. While some of the bigger offshore boats are also skilled at inshore fishing, for the best experience we fish with specialized inshore guides that run smaller 26′-33′ pangas and center consoles as these are more maneuverable and can put you right on top of the fish. If you prefer actively casting for your fish as opposed to trolling these boats are also ideal to have one angler in the bow and one or two in the stern casting popper, stick baits, or vertical jigging.
Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast offers some of the world’s best and most consistent fishing for tarpon and snook. The majority of the fish here are mature adults so we find them patrolling the river mouths and along the coast. Tarpon here average 80-100 lbs and can be targeted using bucktail jigs, live or dead bait, trolling lures, or even fly fishing. Snook are most often caught in the surf near the river mouths on black or white bucktail jigs. All of our fishing lodges are located on the calm intercoastals so they are mere minutes away from the major river mouths that attract the fish and serve as outlets to the open ocean. The ideal boat for tarpon & snook fishing is a 23′-26′ center console so you can easily and quickly punch through the river mouths and get into the Caribbean where the biggest fish are found.
The Best of Costa Rica
Quepos Fishing Adventure
Fish The Osa Peninsula
Coast 2 Coast
It may have been the giant black and blue marlin and jaw-dropping numbers of yellow-fin tuna that made Panama a household name decades ago, but today the inshore fishing in Panama is every bit as popular as the big game offshore fishing. Few places on Earth can offer realistic chances of catching a 50+ lb roosterfish or cubera snapper every week of the year. It’s not just trophy fishing either, Panama’s Pacific Coast offers incredible variety as we can catch up to 30 different species in a week. The inshore fishing is so productive, we even have one fishing lodge that is proud to be 100% lures-only operation for popping and jigging enthusiasts. The vast majority of the fishing lodges in Panama fish on 26′-33′ center consoles. These are the ideal boats for inshore fishing in Panama because they can place you much closer to to rocky islands and river mouths where the fish are hiding, they can easily pick up and run to different fishing spots throughout the day, and most importantly they allow multiple anglers to be casting and jigging at the same time.
Panama’s Caribbean Coast is picturesque with it’s archipelagos, sandy cayes, and mangroves. The target species here include snappers, jacks, kingfish, mackerel, and of course more tarpon and snook. While the reefs are not as prolific as in Belize and the tarpon not as numerous as Costa, Panama is one of the few countries on Earth where you can easily fish two oceans in the same week. Here we fish 26′ center consoles to be able to run to various islands, get into the river mouths, and even cruise offshore on calm days in search of tuna or dorado.
The Best of Panama
Inshore Fishing at Jurassic Park
Panama Coast to Coast
The inshore fishing in Belize is entirely different than what we offer and experience in Costa Rica and Panama because it’s only coastline is located in the warm, tropical Caribbean and protected by the magnificent Mesoamerican Reef. Because of this reef we actually offer two distinct types of light tackle fishing in Belize, reef fishing and flats fishing. The Mesoamerican Reef is over 600 miles long and is the second longest barrier reef in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s home to 60 different types of coral, 350 mollusks and over 500 species of fish ranging from tiny blennies to the giant whale shark. Fishing along the reef on light tackle provides anglers the opportunity to catch various types of snappers, groupers, jacks, mackerel, hog fish, and big barracuda. Most inshore fishing boats in Belize will be 23′-26′ pangas that can fish two to three anglers comfortably. These are the ideal boats in Belize because they are affordable to own and maintain for local guides, they can quickly run out to the reef and between the various cayes, and they can be fished in shallow water on the flats with your guide poling from his platform.
The fishing that Belize is most popular for is it’s incredible flats fishing. The calm, shallow waters inside of the reef offer miles of pristine saltwater flats which are home to the Inshore Grand Slam – bonefish, permit, and tarpon. While they may be the holy trinity for fly anglers, all three as just as fun and just as challenging on light tackle spinning gear. Few types of fishing are more interactive than slowly poling the flats with your guide as you try to spot and sight cast to fish you’ve been stalking for what seems like an eternity. Bonefish and permit are found year round on these flats, but the tarpon numbers increase during the summer months when the migratory population rolls through. Sometimes artificial plastics and lures work, but if you have small chunks of conch meat you are almost certain to get bit.
Best of Belize
Ruins to Reefs
Grand Slam Placencia
Fish & Dive Ambergris Caye
Available Species Inshore Fishing in Central America
With two oceans, the world’s second longest barrier reef, and over 2,500 miles of tropical coastline the inshore fishing in Central America is arguably the best in the world. There are literally hundreds of species of fish here, and even though we only target a small percentage of them when sport fishing the diversity is mind-boggling. Below is a list of some, but not all, of our most popular inshore species.