Costa Rica Part 2: Saltwater Fishing (and More Freshwater)

This is part 2 of our Costa Rica adventure. We spent a lot more time at the beach during the second half of our trip, which meant a lot more saltwater fishing. Of course, I still found time to fish some of the local streams :)

We spent our nights at Alex's sister's AirBnB in Playa Matapalo, but made time for some day trips to some of the areas within 3hrs of her place. Her place was beautiful, and was a short 5 minute walk to a beautiful secluded beach. More importantly, there were plenty of critters lurking around to keep me occupied.

The first order of affairs was to head into Quepos, to stock up on groceries and hopefully do a bit of fishing where her sister's husband had seen some White-eye, a cool topminnow I was interested in. Unfortunately, they were uncooperative, but I did see an awesome variety of saltwater species in the estuary. I didn't have any good bait but still cast a jig out and managed to hook this new Jack species on my ultralight: a Green Jack! As you probably know, most Jacks rip drag, and this guy did the same to my 4lb test and size 1000 reel. To add to the commotion, I drew the attention of some locals who began shouting advice... in Spanish. A guy named Luis shouted "Hey bro!" and came down to the rock to offer his aid. After some attempted conversation in Spanish, he took my knife and helped dispatch the fish for bait. That was my plan, but seeing him go for the knife caught me off guard lol.



Before leaving the city, we had time to stop at another part of the estuary just behind our parking lot where I noticed a lot of gobies darting between the rocks. It didn't take long to get one on the tanago hook and soon enough I was holding another lifer: the Estuarine Frillfin. There was also a cool abandoned car in the lot.



After catching the goby, it was time to head home so we jumped in the car and drove back down the coastal highway. We unpacked our groceries and I was soon impatient and ready to get back to some fishable water. This time, I brought Alex's nephew with me and we headed to the Matapalo estuary to see what my swimming in its tidal waters. There didn't seem to be many fish around other than the typical uncatchable livebearers, but I did manage to catch this snapper by jigging near a fallen log. It turned out to be a Pacific Dog Snapper, another new species!



I eventually got tired of holding her nephew so I brought him home before heading to a small stream in town. I climbed down under a bridge, crossed over the ever-present Leaf-cutter Ants, and began fishing. The Tetras came instantly, but I also noticed some Cichlids and Livebearers in the mix. The Livebearers never took (of course), but I did catch this beautiful T-bar Cichlid after a few failed attempts :)



By the time I caught the cichlid, it was nearly dusk and I had to get back for early dinner so we would have time for our planned evening activities. We wanted to see the sun set over the Pacific and enjoy a campfire on the beach. We barely made it in time for sunset, but the fire and "cervezas" were fun. We ended the night with a quick round of coconut soccer on the wet sand.



The next day, we went on a day trip down the coast to Uvita. The first stop in town was at a great waterfall/swimming hole just a short ways inland. I knew from a friend that there were Pacific Machaca and Mountain Mullet in these waters, and it didn't take long to find them! I tied on my trusty spinner and, soon enough, I caught my first Pacific Machaca! Unfortunately, despite many attempts, the Mountain Mullet were unwilling to bite. I even tried some canned hot dogs I brought along specifically for these fish :p There were many swimmers in the water which may have put them on edge.



That next destination was the Marino Ballena national park, in the nearby town of Dominical. The plan was to drop Alex off there with her sister's family and I would go explore some fishing spots further north. Unfortunately, it was high tide, and the main attraction of the park, the whale tail-shaped sandbar jutting into the ocean, would be submerged by the incoming water. Instead, Alex and I made the best of the situation and both headed to my fishing spots ;) The point I wanted to fish was difficult to access, so we instead went to a small beach called Playa Dominicalito. It had a super cool surfer vibe and we enjoyed exploring our "secret" beach.



I also had time to cast a line out into the surf, but had low expectations as surf fishing has never been successful for me. Fortunately, I was actually able to get bites here! The first fish that came up appeared to be some sort of Drum species, and the second was another Snapper. The Snapper turned out to be a Yellow Snapper, and the Drum turned out to be nearly impossible to ID, but I settled on it being a Squint-eyed Croaker. Who knew there were so many sciaenids swimming in the eastern central Pacific!?



We spent a couple hours at the beach before heading back to the AirBnB to end the day. I don't quite remember, but I imagine I spent the afternoon at the local creek watching the "Jesus" lizards run across the riffles in addition to more time failing at catching livebearers.


The next day, Alex and I planned to head up into the mountains to explore a cloud forest in Los Quetzales national park. The park entry turned out to be free, possibly because most of the trails were closed, but also rather disappointing for the same reason. We hiked around for about an hour until we had exhausted the small amount of open trail, and didn't really see much.


With our newfound free time, we decided to try hiking up to one of the peaks we had passed on our drive up. This turned out to be a great decision. Alex almost died from the thin air, but we thoroughly enjoyed our view from above the clouds! We also spotted a Spiny Lizard on the way back down which was pretty neat :)



We hiked back down to the car and began our descent down through the switchbacks and back to sea level. On the way down, we stopped at a local bakery (panaderia) for some fresh bread, which was delicious. I also had fun coasting down the steep curves of the highway and pushing the limits of our car's ability to stay on the road. We made a quick stop back at the local creek where I caught the T-bar Cichlid for Alex to catch her lifer Tetra before going back to the AirBnB for supper and bed.


The next day would be our final day in Matapalo, and the before-last day of our trip. I decided to spend the morning in Quepos trying to catch some of those saltwater fish that evaded me a few days prior. This turned out to be a great decision and I caught an additional 6 lifers with my sabiki rig! The fishing was essentially like sabiki fishing for saltwater fish always is: a lot of rebaiting and dropping the rig around whatever structure I could find. I'll only include a couple pictures, but the new ones were: Pacific Flagfin Mojarra, White-spotted Puffer, Panamic Frillfin, Elongate Grunt, Starry Grouper, and Oval Puffer. The Mojarra quickly became annoying and I also had repeat catches of Yellow Snapper and Estuarine Frillfin, almost incessantly.



Our final day was spent driving back to San Jose, exploring yet another waterfall, some more driving, and then eating some Costa Rican McDonald's before flying home on a red-eye. When we arrived at the waterfall, the signs indicated the park was closed, but a nice man and his family allowed us to park on his farm and showed us the way down to the water. There turned out to be two falls, both of which were picturesque but rather hard to get to. The water was cold and something smelled a bit off so we took our pictures and headed back to the car soon after.



That about ends our Costa Rican adventure, the rest of it was spent in McDonalds and airports. It was a beautiful country, with tons of fish, and so much land to explore. We almost always felt safe and I would totally return someday! Thanks to Alex's sister and her husband for hosting us and thanks to all the locals who were so friendly to us!


Species List:


andy's picture

Man, that looks like a fantastic time!  Great catches, writeup and photos - that starry grouper is my favorite.

BradleyR's picture

Thanks Andy :) The Starry Grouper seems to get the popular vote online haha.

Goldenfishberg's picture

Man I sure wouldn't mind some of that sweet sweet beach fishing right about now. Cool stuff dude, and that picture of the sunset is something Bob Ross would paint in his best wet dream.

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

BradleyR's picture

Thanks man! Yeah those sunsets were pretty special :)

Eric Kol's picture

Thanks for sharing this. It looked like a fruitful trip.  have heard nothing but good things about Costa Rica. Congrats on finishing University too.

Carpy Diem!

BradleyR's picture

Thanks man! It really is a great place for some exploring, felt safe enough and there's so many streams and coast to cast a line.