Fishing Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce brings sweet success

Playa Nicuesa guest with a Jack fish catch

NeedlefishI remember the first time I caught a needlefish. Its electric blue teeth and skeleton (seen upon filleting) were a shocking surprise. The needlefish is tricky to catch given its long, narrow jaws filled with needle-sharp teeth (hence, its name) that usually cut fishing line like dental floss. Once you have one, though, they are really tasty – especially fried in olive oil and garlic for a finger snack!

I caught my first needlefish, my first blackfin tuna, and my first red snapper all in the placid blue waters of Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) while staying at the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. I must confess, I am not a fishing expert, but in these waters I think anyone can catch a fish.

Playa Nicuesa guest catches a large Mahi Mahi (Dorado)The Pacific Ocean in Southern Costa Rica is one of the best fishing spots in the world. Offshore in the deep water, people come from all over the world to catch Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi (Dorado in Spanish), Marlin and Sailfish. Inside the calm, pristine Golfo Dulce, inshore fishing is spectacular with snapper, snook, jack, roosterfish, bonito, barracuda, needlefish, blackfin tuna and mackerel ready for the catch.

The Golfo Dulce is one of only three tropical fjords in the world; with depths exceeding 200 meters in the inner basin, it is one of the deepest. It lies between the Osa Peninsula to the west and the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica to the east. The Gulf’s waters are sheltered from the open ocean by a shallow 60-meter shelf at its southern end. It is an area of tremendous biodiversity, and home to the virgin rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park.

Resident and migratory communities of Bottlenose Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins and Spinner Dolphins live here. Sea turtles swim in these blue-green waters, and migrating humpback whales visit from the Southern Hemisphere in August and September.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is perfectly positioned on the inner Gulf, backing right up to the National Park’s dense forests and coastal mountains. Fresh fish is caught daily and served at lunch and dinner. Catch a fish as a guest and you’ll probably be snacking on the tasty morsels during happy hour or feasting at dinner. The award-winning ecolodge offers a variety of fishing opportunities – ranging from dropping a line right off Playa Nicuesa’s pier to kayak fishing to deep sea sportfishing.

Catching a big snook in the Esquinas RiverPlaya Nicuesa’s skilled boat captains and fishing guides know all of the Gulf’s secret spots. If you go out trolling along the Gulf’s shores, or in the brackish mangrove-filled waters of the Esquinas River, it will be by 24-foot “panga” boat with a 115-horsepower four-stroke engine. You also can paddle along the Gulf’s rocky shoreline in kayaks equipped with fishing rod holders and see if you can snag a snapper or barracuda. Or stay right on the beach or pier at the lodge and learn from the local experts how to fish with a hand line. Best times to fish are early morning (6:00-8:00 a.m.) and just before sunset (4:00-6:00 p.m.), giving you calm waters, beautiful scenery and prime catching opportunities when fish are active and feeding.

Offshore sportfishing tours usually last a full day. It takes about 50 minutes to get to the mouth of the Pacific, and then you will go from five to 20 miles offshore.

Sunset on Golfo Dulce, Costa RicaPlaya Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge provides customized offshore and inshore fishing vacation packages. The lodge holds the highest “5-Leaf level” of Costa Rica’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism program, and is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner. They feature nature and adventure tours, yoga classes and retreats, family vacations, and honeymoon trips.

By Shannon Farley

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