Quepos in Costa Rica is a rooster fishing Mecca, it is one of just a handful of places in the world that contain such species.
In its wonderful, rich, blue waters, it also boasts a plethora of other exotic fish species; red snappers, sailfish, marlin, dorado to name but a few.
What’s more, it is a stones throw away from some of the most incredible scenery and wildlife that you will ever see.
My Costa Rican trip in details
Why did I choose Costa Rica?
I have longed, dreamed to land a Rooster Fish.
I had admired this truly incredible species for several years after watching the likes of Matt Hayes, John Wilson, to name but a few of the celebs who had been lucky enough to hold one up for a picture. Costa Rica is one of just a few places to contain them, Panama and Mexico two of the others.
However, Costa Rica not only held these majestic creatures, it is also home to a plethora of wildlife; various monkeys, sloths, reptiles, all sorts of colourful birds, another love of mine, plus the fact it was almost guaranteed to be 30 plus degrees in February!
Although my fishing trip to Costa Rica was a tiny part of my holiday (I was on my honeymoon), it was most definitely one of the highlights and I am already planning a return trip.
I spent countless hours planning and researching the fishing trip – which coastline was best for roosters, was it suitable for sightseeing, wildlife and our honeymoon, was it safe? After much scanning on the web, phone calls, Trip Advisors searches, we soon settled on the little surf town of Manuel Antonio which is located on the Western Side of Costa Rica about 3 hours drive from San Jose airport. Quepos is the fishing harbour nearby.
Once we had agreed that this was the place to go, it meant that I could really get my teeth stuck into finding a trusted boat and a skipper. I am lucky that my lovely wife Faye looked after much of the other stuff haha, allowing me to concentrate on the fishing.
She was a diamond; she booked the magical Makanda By The Sea hotel, just a few miles from Manuel Antonio, and all the other activities; zip lining through the rainforest, horse riding to the waterfalls, surfing, national park trails etc.
They all really did culminate into making the trip of a lifetime.
Although we opted for probably the most luxurious hotel in the area, it was our honeymoon, there is an array of hotels and villas in the area for a fraction of the cost. Just do your research, use Trip Advisor and you won’t go too wrong.
The area is absolutely incredible – it is very mountainous, green, rich in wildlife and also very quiet in terms of population – there just aren’t many people there, which is so satisfying.
The best time to visit Costa Rica is in our winter, which is a kind of nice really.
We were hearing the stories of Storm Dennis hitting the UK whilst smiling to our Pina Coladas by the pool, plastered in Factor 30. The flight itself is a bit of a trek.
On average it is between 11-12 direct. We chose to fly from London Gatwick with British Airways to San Jose.
The flight was pleasant, we watched a few films, had a bit of a sleep and before we knew it, we were there. No flight is too taxing if you have ten days of holiday to look forward to, especially one that contained a day of fishing.
We arrived late afternoon and were greeting with very muggy, sticky conditions. It wasn’t overly sunny, but it was humid and sweaty. Unfortunately, the customs were an absolute nightmare (something we told happens on a Saturday).
It took around two hours to get through, which was pretty frustrating. I am told this is different on a weekday and we did experience a much more pleasant return home at the airport.
Once through security etc, we were met by a private transfer that the Makanda hotel had arranged by us. He held up a sign for us and once through the hustle and bustle were soon on our way.
Although it was a long way to the hotel, the scenery was a sight to behold. It was so volcanic and mountainous, the countryside was a vibrant green and it felt like we were on another planet. The driver kindly stopped halfway for a a toilet break and then pointed us to this huge bridge that passes over a very turbulent, powerful river.
Looking below we noticed these monstrous Crocodiles bigger than cars. There were loads of them just sitting happily in the murky waters. It was really a sight to behold and I took a load of pictures on my phone. You really wouldn’t have wanted to fall in haha!
Another 1.5 hours and we arrived in the dark at our hotel.
No light pollution, no hustle and bustle city life noise, just us at a 20 room hotel on the middle of the rainforest. We got to our room, walked out onto the balcony and the rainforest had its own atmosphere, its own chorus going on.
Howler monkeys ‘howling’ in unison in the trees, crickets stridulating, birds squawking, and of course the relaxing waves crashing into the sand, to name just a few of the members in the ensemble. We were shot to bits and so had room service, and hit the sack ready for our first day in paradise.
Costa Rican Facts
- Costa Rican currency is as colourful as its terrain.
2. Nicoya is one of the top five blue zones in the world meaning that inhabitants often live actively to over 100 years old.
3. Costa Rica contains 5% of the worlds bio-diversity meaning you’ll never run out of wildlife to see.
4. Costa Rican generates more than 99% of its electric using renewable energy.
5. It has five active volcanoes!
What can you catch in Costa Rica?
As I mentioned, my dream has always been to catch a Rooster Fish, but there are plenty of other rewarding species to go for in Costa Rica. Not just in Manuel Antonio, either, another place worth looking at is Tamarindo.
Manuel does provide a little bit of everything if you are looking for an exotic, adventurous holiday too, though. So species wise there is a plethora of fish to go at – from huge sailfish, to marlin, dorado, tuna, wahoo, roosters, snappers, jacks, snook, plus more!!
It really is a box of chocolates on the fishing front.
You have the options of fishing in shore or off shore. In shore fishing provides you with chances of roosters, snook, jacks etc and then travelling off shore you will be looking at targeting more big-game species – sailfish, marlin, dorado etc.
How did I choose my captain, what was provided, and how much was it for a day?
So choosing the right boat and captain is absolutely key.
You need to look for experience, knowledge of the water and of course someone who is motivated to help. I explored this for several weeks before settling on my skipper on boat. I did a lot of research on the internet (although there’s not a lot of info), I read Trip Advisors and I got recommendations.
My initial plan was to go with the renowned Jackpot Sport Fishing. Their reviews are second to none on Trip Advisor and they are known to boast experienced captains and guides.
However, they were booked for my trip and so after speaking to Benn Gilmour at Jackpot he recommended his friend Scott Kozak who owns the Chloe Frijole boat. I must say it is always daunting looking for a boat because you never know quite what to expect. I was very very happy though, but more of that later.
The whole experience for a full days fishing was to cost $1000. This may sound expensive but I truly believe that you get what you pay for out in Costa Rica. I could’ve saved a few quid, but I wanted experience on a high quality boat, with quality fishing tackle and that’s exactly what I got.
The full day package included the boat of course, a captain and a ghillie, all food and drink, plus of course the fishing rods, reels, tackle etc, of which were a mixture of quality Shimano and Daiwa (which I would be more than happy with in the UK).
The only extra thing I had to pay for was a rod licence which you collect at the harbour prior to fishing – I think this cost the equivalent to about £15 and you need this to be able to fish.
The fishing day itself!
I set the alarm for 6am, keen as mustard. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well that night due to being so excited for the trip. Both my wife Faye and I woke up early, had breakfast and were soon in the taxi, en route to the Quepos harbour to meet Scott Kozak for 7am at the fishing shop.
We met Scott, grabbed our licenses and he recommended that I change my t-shirt to something a little more appropriate. By that he meant that I should purchase a UV protection top to prevent me from burning to a crisp.
I was wearing a carp fishing, cotton t-shirt that really wasn’t fit for purpose. The temperatures get up to 35 degrees plus!
Scott walked us to the boat and introduced us to captain Rudy and compadre Christian.
We hopped aboard the boat Chloe and Scott waved us goodbye before we set sail out the harbour to our first destination.
The boat had recently been refurbished and so was sparkling clean and full of power.
We were crashing through beautiful blue waves and after around 20 minutes we were soon alongside the shores of the incredible National Park in search of sardines – the bait for the day!
The stunning pearly white sands could be seen just a few hundred metres from where we were moored up and pelicans were diving on all the little fish that resided in the bay (a sure sign that sardines were present).
Just like any sort of angling, Rudy we were looking for coloured water, revealing little prey fish disturbing the sandy seabed. Rudy appeared with a huge throw net and launched in the direction of the coloured water. As he pulled it back, his face lit up and we soon had a boat full of live baits ready for the day ahead.
Due to the amount of prey fish in the area, the guys recommended we try there first.
Now, when being ghillied, the guys naturally want to do everything for you; hook up the livies, cast them out, pretty much do everything for you, then hand you the rod.
However, that’s not my style, and so before the trip I made sure to let them know that I am an angler and would be wanting to do everything – other than drive the boat haha!
Immediately I got hold of the Shimano rod, which was coupled with a big-pit reel and spooled up with strong braid. To this, I was pretty much freelining with a live bait that was hooked up to a large circle hook.
I opened the bail arm and underarmed the sardine that was around 10oz in size towards the coloured water. I would say ten minutes or so past before line was being shredded from the open bail arm. Now you don’t strike these fish, you simple let them take some line, then shut the bail arm.
If you strike, quite often you will pull the hook out, especially on a circle style pattern. Luckily, I did it perfectly and was soon in battle with a very hard-fighting Jack Crevalle of about 18-20lb. Their sickle like tails are shaped for speed and it certainly proved it.
After a quick snap, I was eager to get the rod back out. Crazily, it went within minutes but this time I hooked something that was charging towards the surf at a rate of knots.
It kept using the waves to shred more and more line from the spool before the captain started shouting: “Rooster!” That was all I needed, now I was really anxious, I was hooked to my dream.
I had never quite experienced a fight like it. The Rooster charged all around the bay we were fishing and after a fight that lasted the best part of 35 minutes, I soon netted my first ever Rooster, which was guesstimated to be around 40lb – absolute magic.
Their huge, ribbon-like dorsal and beautiful vivid colours makes them a truly majestic looking creature and one that I was truly in awe of. Pictures that I will cherish forever.
We caught a few more fish in that bay, including several strange, aggressive characters known as needlefish, before the tide began to change and so Rudy recommended a move up the shot to the river mouths.
The fishing was a little slower in the river mouth, although my wife Faye did manage a catfish of around 10lb at a guess, which was a pretty cool character. The river mouths are particular good for snook apparently. Whilst fishing in the river mouth, I noticed some other guys fishing from the shore.
They were wading out and casting their baits into the waves. Next time I go, I shall be definitely taking some travel rods, because the snook and roosters can be caught off the beach and in the river mouths on the right day. Imagine hooking one of them from the beach, would be crazy!
We were soon a little further from the shore, targeting a rocky island where the waves constantly crash into the huge boulders. It looked prime for fish and before long I was hooked into yet another different species.
This time it was a bright ruby-red coloured snapper.
It was a beautiful specimen and according to Rudy one of the best tasting fish in the sea. I couldn’t kill it for the table ‘fish are friends not food!’ and so I released it back to its watery home. I think the captain was a little surprised but it was good karma.
The day past all too quickly and I was lucky enough to catch another big red snapper and several more jacks. It was a truly incredible days angling aboard a very cool boat, with experienced guys.
They put in 100% effort all day long and I can’t thank them enough for putting me onto my first ever Roosterfish – it was a dream come true!
It kept using the waves to shred more and more line from the spool before the captain started shouting: “Rooster!”
What Else Is there To Do in Costa Rica?
There is a lot more to Costa Rica than just angling.
The wildlife is fantastic and the scenery is a sight to behold. During our trip, Faye and I went horse riding to the waterfalls, whilst enjoying all sorts of beautiful sights en route; wildlife, plantation, we saw all sorts. We had a morning zip-lining across the rainforest which was an adrenaline pumping adventure that’s for sure.
We visited the National Park, which is a protected forest containing all sorts of amazing wildlife – monkeys, slots, parrots, macaws, iguanas, crocs and more.
We also went for a surfing lesson in Manuel Antonio which is a huge sport in Costa Rica. The waves were awesome! There really is so much to do that you could spend weeks on end without getting bored.
Where did we eat?
There were so many restaurants to choose from in Manuel Antonio and we didn’t go to a quarter of them. There is so much choice; from traditional Costa Rican food, to Thai, Italian or your American Diner. It can be expensive in places but it is of the highest quality!
Jimmy began his angling on the river Ouse with his father fishing for roach. His passion grew quickly and soon developed a love for big-fish across the globe!
James | 27th February 2020