Catching red snapper in the Sierpe River near Casa Roja

While Costa Rica is renowned for its ocean fishing, freshwater fishing is quickly gaining in popularity in this region. Although smaller in size than their flashy ocean counterparts, snook, snapper, corvina, guapote (rainbow bass) and machaca are just a few of the diverse and satisfying catches that await anglers who prefer the more intimate setting of jungle-lined rivers over the vast expanse (and, often expense) of open-ocean fishing.

Wildlife sightings are commonplace while wetting a line in Costa Rica’s rivers, and can even indicate a promising spot to cast a lure! Troops of capuchin or howler monkeys foraging in streamside trees often drop a steady supply of fruit, blossoms, and insects into the water below, and fish like the machaca – a relative of the piranha with a formidable set of teeth – are keen to take advantage. A well-placed cast into areas where monkeys are feasting is often rewarded with an immediate strike from a waiting machaca. Other species, such as snook and snapper, are ambush predators, and lurk in the usual spots: backwaters, current breaks, or any type of structure that allows them to conceal themselves from unsuspecting prey. Rivers, especially the larger ones, are full of promising locations, and covering water quickly until cooperative fish are found is often the most effective strategy.

Often, particularly during the rainy season, rivers are stained from runoff after heavy downpours. Fish still need to eat, but when visibility is near zero, it is best to rely on the fishes’ other senses to elicit strikes. Natural bait, including worms, mussels, shrimp, and pieces of fish nearly always work, but catching fish that way is a waiting game. Those preferring a more active style of fishing do best using lures that make lots of noise; surface poppers, spinners, and rattling crankbaits are all good choices. Regardless of the preferred fishing style or target species, spending time on Costa Rica’s rivers is a great way to discover the natural beauty this region has to offer, and will certainly leave a lasting impression.