Costa Rica Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Feb 1, 2024 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

With luscious rainforests, golden beaches, and crystal clear waters, it’s easy to understand why millions of people visit Costa Rica every year. One of the main draws, however, is the angling scene, with plenty of world records caught every year. So, come on a Costa Rica fishing journey with us, and see what it’s all about!

Bordering the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica has a mixture of shallow bays, productive reefs, and deep sea waters just a stone’s throw from the shore. Regardless of which coast you’re on – or even if you’re inland – you’re never far from a fish worth catching. 

In the following sections, you’ll find anything from top catches and hotspots to fishing seasons and regulations. Without further ado, let’s see how you can go fish in Costa Rica.

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Best Catches in Costa Rica

When we said that Costa Rica is famous for record-breaking catches, we meant it. From Roosterfish inshore to Sailfish offshore, Costa Rica is brimming with trophy fish. Here’s a quick overview of the fish species you simply must pursue when you go Costa Rica fishing.

Top Catches in Costa Rica

Best Offshore Catches in Costa Rica

Fishing in Costa Rica is synonymous with deep sea chases and bluewater beasts. Anglers here proudly say that they have the best big game sportfishing in the world. With the IGFA hosting many offshore tournaments here, who are we to disagree?

A photo of three anglers, one standing on a Costa Rica fishing charter boat and two kneeling while leaning over the boat to hold a big Sailfish they caught
Photo taken by Good Catch Sportfishing

For this reason, we’re introducing the deep water royals first. These four trophy catches are on everyone’s radar when fishing in Costa Rica.

  • Sailfish. Awe-inspiring, gorgeous-looking, and opponent-worthy, Sailfish are the ultimate big game fish. These stunning creatures are available year-round in the deep and come closer to shore in winter, so landing dozens of Sailfish is a typical day in Costa Rica. For the rest of the world, this is a dream come true. So, if you want to live the dream, you know where to go.
  • Marlin. The sheer number of Striped, Black, and Blue Marlin is enough to attract any angler worth their salt. Add three-digit specimens to that and it becomes clear why you should go fishing in Costa Rica for Marlin. Plus, you can find at least one of these monsters biting within a short ride from the shore year-round. What more could you wish for?
  • Tuna. As with Marlin, Costa Rica boasts several Tuna species. You can test your skills against Yellowfin, Bigeye, or Skipjack Tuna. Yellowfin Tuna, however, are the most abundant of all Tuna varieties here. Fast and furious, they’ll spice up your offshore experience. And when it comes to popularity, they don’t lag far behind Billfish either.
  • Mahi Mahi. Dorado, more commonly known as Mahi Mahi, are almost always on offer in Costa Rica. Picture-perfect and tasty, Mahi Mahi are all the rage when fishing here. Apart from the market and social media value, Mahi Mahi are also renowned for their jumps. Once hooked, they almost immediately go airborne.

Best Inshore and Nearshore Catches in Costa Rica

While the big game hunt is second to none when fishing in Costa Rica, the angling scene here is so much more than the deep sea giants. The nearshore and inshore waters have incredible catches, too.

A photo of a happy angler standing on a fishing charter boat and holding a decent-sized Roosterfish caught nearshore
Photo taken by Sport Fishing El Gato III

Here are some celebrities that swim closer to the coast that you shouldn’t miss out on.

  • Cubera Snapper. Hitting the nearby reefs is all about battling bottom dwellers such as Snappers and Groupers. Cubera Snapper, however, are the pick of the bunch. They dominate the nearshore fisheries throughout the entire year and can grow to impressive sizes. The biggest Cubera Snapper caught in Costa Rica was over 100 pounds!
  • Roosterfish. What Sailfish are to the offshore waters, Roosterfish are to the shallows. Roosterfish are probably the coolest-looking fish around. Although, it’s not just looks that make this creature stand out above the rest. Roosters love to put up a fight and will do whatever they can to get off your line. So, gear up with strong lines and nerves of steel because you’ll need both.
  • Tarpon. Roosterfish aren’t all you can catch inshore. Sure, they’re the VIPs but the inlets and bays along the coast are home to some tough fighters such as Tarpon. And these fish stand out wherever they are. Their acrobatic displays will leave you in awe. Tarpon can be found throughout the first half of the year, so if you want to test your skills against them, visit Costa Rica in spring.
  • Snook. With stars such as Roosterfish and Tarpon, it’s not always easy for Snook to shine. Luckily, they have their own fandom, so if you’re into Snook fishing, you’ll be happy to hear that Costa Rica is a Snook heaven. Just remember that while you can catch them year-round, Snook actually have two peak seasons here – one in early spring and one in fall.

Best Freshwater Catches in Costa Rica

Saltwater fishing in Costa Rica is unsurpassed. But if you’re into land-based casting opportunities, we have good news – Costa Rica doesn’t lack freshwater fisheries either! Lake Arenal is the biggest lake in the country but it’s not the only freshwater paradise. You can also explore numerous rivers.

A photo of an angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while sitting on a boat and posing with a Bass caught on Lake Arenal in Costa Rica
Photo taken by Fishing Lake Arenal

Let’s see what awaits you inland. These are the best freshwater catches in Costa Rica.

  • Rainbow Bass. Locally known as “Guapote,” Rainbow Bass are the most sought-after freshwater species in Costa Rica. You can pursue them year-round but the dry season between January and May is probably the best for Rainbow Bass fishing. Bear in mind that they’re aggressive predators and fierce rivals. You’ll need to gear up with sturdy equipment and plenty of live bait.
  • Tilapia. Tilapia mainly live in freshwater fisheries, but it isn’t uncommon to find them in the brackish waters of slow-moving estuaries. They love underwater structures and sunken trees, so deep-diving crankbaits are a good option when fishing for them. And while they are feisty, Tilapia aren’t as aggressive as Rainbow Bass.
  • Machaca. If you want to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, how about targeting Machaca on the fly? They feed near the surface, so they’re the perfect fly fishing targets. Even though related to Piranha, Machaca are mostly vegetarian. This means they’ll fall for fruit-enriched bait. The biggest specimens are usually found in Lake Arenal.

And More!

That’s right – the list of fish species in Costa Rica doesn’t end with its headliners. It goes on to include Jacks, Groupers, Amberjack, Barracuda, King Mackerel, Sierra Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Rainbow Runner, and many more.

A photo of a female angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while posing on a charter fishing boat with a Jack in her hands
Photo taken by Fragatas Tours

There’s a fish for every type of angler. Be it inland or offshore fishing, a brag-worthy catch will grace the end of your line. So, all you have to do is pack your things, book a charter, and enjoy everything Costa Rica has to offer.

Costa Rica Fishing Seasons

Before you choose Costa Rica as your next fishing destination, you’ll want to know when to come. Well, we’re glad to tell you that’s a no-brainer because Costa Rica doesn’t have an off-season! With warm weather year-round, there’s never a bad time to visit this tropical country. And, there’s always something biting.

However, the quality and quantity of the offer may vary depending on the month you visit. Make sure you align your hunt with the peak season of your target fish. Read our Costa Rica Fishing Seasons article to prepare better or go through the breakdown of the top catches and their availability throughout the year below.

Costa Rica Fishing Calendar

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Blue Marlin Great Great Great Good Good Great Great Great Good Weak Good Great
Black Marlin Great Great Great Good Good Great Great Great Good Weak Good Great
Striped Marlin Great Good Good Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great
Sailfish Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Good Good Good Great Great
Yellowfin Tuna Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Weak Good Great
Mahi Mahi Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Great Good Weak Great Great
Wahoo Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Good Weak Weak Good Great
Snapper Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Great Great
Roosterfish Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Great Great
Snook Good Great Great Great Great Good Weak Weak Great Great Good Weak
Tarpon Good Great Great Great Great Good Weak Weak Great Great Good Weak
Rainbow Bass Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Weak Weak Good Good

Best Fishing Spots in Costa Rica

Where to start? The Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Nicoya, Golfito Bay, Lake Arenal, the Tarcoles River, the Savegre River… There are so many productive fishing grounds that it’s almost worth asking “Where not to fish in Costa Rica?” (To which the answer would be “Nowhere!”)

To get you going, we’ll share the ultimate hotspots with you. Use them as starting points and once you get familiar with them, feel free to explore the region further on your own. That being said, take a look at the four must-fish locations in Costa Rica.

If you crave more ideas on where to wet your line, here’s a list of equally prolific corners in Costa Rica you should check out:

Costa Rica Fishing Techniques

Whether we’re talking about fish species, hotspots, or angling techniques, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. There’s not enough room to cover everything you can attempt here, but we can certainly help you out by mentioning several angling methods you should try.

Here are our suggestions on how to go Costa Rica fishing:

  • Deep sea fishing. Step aboard a huge offshore sportfishing boat and live a life of luxury, while going after the catch of a lifetime. That’s a summary of what deep sea fishing can look like in Costa Rica. To make this happen, however, you’ll need a captain specialized in big game hunts. So, book a Costa Rica deep sea fishing charter and take advantage of the incredible fishing grounds in style!
  • Spearfishing. Adrenaline-seekers can opt for an underwater fishing adventure. While previous experience is an advantage, it’s not a must. Anyone can go spearfishing as long as you team up with a professional guide who’ll show you the ropes.
  • Fly fishing. Depending on your skills and preferences, you can also try fly fishing. Costa Rica is blessed with both inland, inshore, and offshore fly fishing opportunities. This means you can fly fish for both saltwater and freshwater species when visiting Costa Rica and land anything from Marlin to Machaca. How awesome is that?

Besides deep sea fishing, spearfishing, and fly fishing, kayak angling and surf casting rank high on Costa Rica’s top fishing techniques list. All in all, when it comes to conquering these fisheries, you have a variety of approaches at your disposal.

Fishing Trips in Costa Rica

We know we’re at the risk of repeating ourselves but Costa Rica is really all about options. The same goes for fishing trips. You can book anything from a short lake trip to an extended sportfishing quest far offshore. Here’s an overview of what you can expect.

Let’s start with the freshwater offer. Two types of trips are predominant when fishing inland – half and full day fishing experiences. Half day trips are ideal for families and beginners and they usually last around 5 hours. If you want to practice more advanced angling techniques such as fly fishing, then a 9-hour trip is recommended.

Inshore and nearshore adventures are similar to inland ones. You can tap into saltwater fisheries for a couple of hours or you can spend an entire day casting, it’s entirely up to you. Both shorter and longer trips will reward you with brag-worthy catches.

Deep sea fishing, on the other hand, means a longer journey offshore. You’ll need anywhere between 8 and 12 hours to first get the hang of different angling methods and fully understand what it means to go against the giants.

Costa Rica Fishing Regulations

Now that you know all about fish species, seasonality, prolific spots, angling techniques, and fishing trips, you just have to get familiar with the latest rules and regulations surrounding your Costa Rica fishing adventure.

An infographic featuring the flag of Costa Rica along with text that says "Costa Rica Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

First and foremost, make sure you have a valid fishing license when wetting your line in Costa Rica. This is particularly important if you’re planning on heading out to sea aboard a boat, kayak, or any other vessel. The rule doesn’t apply to shore and freshwater fishing.

Additionally, you should pay attention to species such as Billfish, Roosterfish, and Tarpon. These catches aren’t up for grabs. So, when you reel them in, snap a photo, and return them to the water immediately.

If you’re angling on your own, double-check the bag and size limits before you decide to keep the fish. If you’re fishing with a local captain, you don’t have to worry about this as they’ll let you know whether your catch is a keeper or not.

For more information on fishing rules and regulations in Costa Rica, visit the official INCOPESCA website.

Costa Rica Fishing FAQs

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Tanya is a Content Creator at FishingBooker and a secret admirer of all things weird and wonderful beneath the waves. The waves, however, are her archnemeses (#seasickness). But she got hooked on angling in 2016 and there was simply no way back. Fishing became her reel passion, and she hasn't stopped casting lines and spinning tales about it ever since.

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