The tide just turned and was pushing toward the open ocean as we made our way up the rugged Pacific coastline. I was told that the reef we were headed to rose to 50-feet below the surface. The pinnacle was one in a series of volcanic peaks that climb out of the depths remarkably close to shore. Most of the submerged terrain is fairly generic, but one thing’s for sure; unlike most fishing charters on the open seas where you just have water to look at with the occasional flying fish, the inshore volcanic terrain off Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province exhibits incredible surface activity and offers prime habitat for a variety of forage and the countless predators that viciously feed on them.
We made our morning jaunt from Flamingo Beach—a popular tourist destination 47-miles southwest of the city of Liberia—aboard the 42-foot Plautus, a newly renovated Gamefisherman. The trip from Flamingo to the fishing grounds was about an hour and a half towards the Nicaraguan border. Plautus sliced through the small waves like a hot knife through butter as we were humored by the booby birds occasionally picking off small baitfish from the white water we left in our wake. We could have stopped many times to fish, though I was told that truly big fish, the denizens we were after, were much more prevalent to the north.
…I gazed upon the soaring green mountains and admired where the jungle brush met the sea, wondering what crevice T-Rex might have crashed through.
A World Beyond our Time
As we traveled by the never-ending clusters of lush tropical islands and mainland shorelines, I could see why they filmed portions of Jurassic Park in this part of the world. The atmosphere gave off a mysteriously haunting aura, so untouched, so solitary that it seemed as if I was suddenly thrust back millions of years when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Completely mesmerized by the surrounding perfection, I gazed upon the soaring green mountains and admired where the jungle brush met the sea, wondering what crevice T-Rex might have crashed through.
Arriving at our destination, we heard the roar of the diesels calm to a reassuring purr. The mates quickly set the spread like they’ve done a thousand times before. Baits were big, just as I like them, and spunky, too. Bonito, lookdowns, mullet—all were deployed as we started our slow troll. Target species were roosterfish, giant amberjack and the highly coveted cubera snapper.
As I was inquiring about this and that, one of the baits erupted out of the water with a massive boil behind it. Like a severe train wreck, a silver and black flash exploded on the helpless offering, throwing spray in every direction. “Rooster!” the captain shouted. Suddenly, line screamed off the reel. It seemed as though for the moment the circle-hook had done its job. I’ve taken plenty of powerful fish on stand-up gear in the past, but this fish was a serious slob. Just as I thought I was gaining, I felt massive headshakes that would literally shake the rod tip a foot or more, and we’re talking a stout rod. The determined fish took quite some time to reign in, but I endured and after about 15-minutes, the exquisitely bared rooster came to the surface with his dorsal fin proudly spread in the crystal clear water.
For those who don’t know, mature roosterfish are tough fighters on even the stoutest of tackle. Fortunately, Billfish Safaris, our outfitter, makes sure they have top-quality equipment onboard for potential records. All of the reels we fished that day were loaded with fresh IGFA rated 30lb. ANDE. The fight this rooster gave was admirable to say the least and with a few more cranks, the mate finally grabbed the leader, reached over the gunnel, and hauled in the trophy pez gallo. After a few quick photos, we carefully released the magnificent fish back into the beautiful deep blue.
Hours later, I was introduced to the man who practically put Flamingo Beach on the map, James Harless II, owner of Billfish Safaris, along with his wife, Sjon, who is fairly new to the hunt for big fish but clearly has a passion for angling. She already has numerous world-records and a few tournament championships under her belt. James, however, is not only an accomplished angler, but somewhat of a local celebrity. Ask anyone in Flamingo about him and they’ll crack a smile and say he’s nothing less than a pillar in the community. From his development of local businesses, including restaurants and hotels, James has had a lot to do with making this area the pristine piece of paradise it is today.
This world-class fishing destination is situated on the country’s Gold Coast, about 45-minutes from Liberia International Airport. Everything in Flamingo is picture perfect. The town is filled with friendly people, quaint restaurants with great cuisine and, of course, phenomenal angling opportunities. Billfish Safaris has the boats to make your trip a memorable one. Known for many record catches and various fishing vacation packages, Billfish Safari’s manager, Darryl Furton, has assembled top-notch fishing teams that know how to get you on the bite. An owner of one of Costa Rica’s registered weigh stations; he’s seen many records broken in the past 15-years and will tell you that this stretch of coastline alone has claimed more than 40.
Anglers trolling the surrounding blue waters off Flamingo are often treated to exciting marine life including humpback, pilot and pods of killer whales migrating south, sea turtles and even manta rays. My weakness, however, is inshore where I can connect with hard-fighting fish one drop after another. Fishing this prolific terrain, I can only imagine what a sight it must have been millions of years ago when the volcanoes blasted out of the ocean floor piling rocks and lava for hundreds of miles creating what is now known as Central America. This phenomenon also created an underwater maze of formations that many species of game fish call home and frequently visit during their migratory routes. The entire Pacific coastline of Costa Rica is made up of these spectacular works of nature. They are home to an untold number of varieties, which is what fishing in Costa Rica is all about.
The continental shelf starts 18-miles west of Flamingo where the depths drop from 360-feet to 3,600-feet. A few more miles west and the Pacific floor plummets to more than 10,000-feet. Game fish populations in this region move up and down the coast, and although the main season is considered to be from April through December, off Nicoya in particular, January and February produce some of the best marlin bites found anywhere on the globe. Most of the offshore fishing takes place out of Playa Carillo where you can escape the Papagayo winds that often blow during that time of year. If you want roosters, giant snapper and jacks, with a mix of billfish, the summer months are best.
For serious anglers looking for a rewarding destination with ceaseless catches of an infinite variety, Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province stands at the top. The fishing experience and panoramic vistas set against the volcanic mountain crests are enough to produce jaw-dropping reactions from the most jaded of travelers. It’s hard to put into words the kind of place this really is, mainly because it is so breathtaking that words alone don’t do it justice. It’s simply one of those destinations you have to experience to truly appreciate.
Where To Toss The Bags
Flamingo Beach, also known as Playa Blanca, is home to some of the greatest accommodations within Costa Rica, including the Flamingo Marina Resort. The two stone-embedded markers and hand-carved wooden signs that mark the entrance to the resort characterize its relaxed, unassuming atmosphere. In all, there are 35 rooms and suites spread out over two levels, all with ocean views. In addition, the resort offers 20 low-rise beach and luxury apartments nestled behind the main building. The lobby has several quaint “hacienda” storefronts that house a boutique, dive shop, activities/tour center, real estate office and more.
Flamingo Marina Resort
The Flamingo Beach Resort is a beautiful, first-class deluxe oceanfront hotel. There are no hills to climb or long distances to walk to reach the crystal clear, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean here. The rooms are tastefully furnished and spacious with private baths, air-conditioning and satellite television. Each room has its own private balcony, most with spectacular ocean views.
Flamingo Beach Resort
Paradisus Playa Conchal offers the highest level of distinguished service. From the moment you check in, it’s evident you’ve entered a world of privilege. The lavish resort is designed with a rich, elegant village look with first-class rooms and facilities focused on an impressive five-star fishing vacation. If you stay here, Billfish Safaris will pick you up right on the beach every morning.
Other Notes of Interest About Costa Rica
- Capital: San Jose
- Population: 4,133,884
- Official Language: Spanish
- Government: Constitutional Democracy
- Area: 19,730 sq mi
- Currency: Costa Rican Colon (517.93 Colons = $1.00 US)
- In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area.
- The United States and Costa Rica have a history of close and friendly relations. The country generally supports the U.S. in international fora, especially in the areas of democracy and human rights.
Fishing Costa Rica’s Northwest Pacific Coast.