Continuing the next part of my recent adventure to Costa Rica with Abby was my favorite part of it—fishing. Driving four hours from La Fortuna, we reached our next area of the country, the Pacific coast. Specifically, the drive took us to Quepos and the Manuel Antonio region. As we drove in, the climate changed dramatically from the milder and wet rainforest to the hotter and drier coast. The ocean had a breeze but I didn’t see a single drop of rain my six-day stretch there. Luckily, I fished three of those days.
Our first morning, the sun peeked behind the horizon to greet us at 6 in the morning. With a cup of Costa Rican coffee and a protein bar in hand, Abby and I headed down from the Manuel Antonio mountain area to the Marina Pez Vela. The marina looked newer than the other structures around the Quepos area. With a variety shops and restaurants, it looked like a shopping mall. As we made our way down to the dock, we were greeted by our charter’s contact that took us to get our one week $15 dollar fishing license and then to the boat. Captain Burly and Mate Johnny greet us from their slip, and we then hastily took off in their 28 foot center console to catch the bait.
The water was flat as we headed upshore from the marina. Spinning rods were being rigged with Sabiki rigs on our ride out.
Johnny asked, “Want to try?”
I nodded in enthusiasm. We stopped the boat and dropped our rigs down with a slight jig. I landed a couple of sardines on my first drop. Eager to try again, I hooked something bigger. My light spinning rod bowed like a flimsy hickory. “Barra,” mumbled Johnny. I had a barracuda hooked and the next thing all three rods in the water had one hooked. Eventually, the toothy fish cut our lines and we decided to head south.
Passing epic rock cliffs and islands like imagery from a national geographic, we made our way closer to the Manuel Antonio area. We stopped and dropped our sabiki lines in the water. All of us had synchronized bites, and we reeled in 3 to 5 sardines a piece in this new area. After a few drops, we had enough bait to go after our goal of the day and my bucket list fish, the Roosterfish. We positioned ourselves 100 yards from shore and began to troll.
As we trolled, I thought to myself that this was heaven. Fishing, beautiful weather and amazing scenery of dark sand beach. My thoughts were interrupted as the black dorsal fin of a rooster broke the surface of the surf and began to chase our sardines. The fish danced in the water swaying back and forth waiting to strike. And it did.
Abby’s pole began to bend and line was going out. After a countdown of 10 seconds, she closed her bell and began to reel. The fish was hooked. “Way to go Abby,” I shouted. She reeled with all her might but did not see the line losing tension, and the circle hook was thrown. “Circle hooks have a learning curve to newer anglers”, I thought. After the first hook up, we trolled again. And we had another hookup in no time. This time, Abby’s line stayed tight, and she reeled in short time a large needle fish.
After trolling, we tried bottom fishing next near the rocky isles with hopes of landing a larger Roosterfish or even a snook. The catch was a mix bag of snapper, needlefish and spanish mackerel. The elusive Roosterfish had not been seen. We stopped for lunch and chatted about our experience in Costa Rica with the guides. Burly disclosed his trip to the states and Atlanta. He remembered the bad traffic of the city. I laughed.
After lunch, we moved to the other side of the islands. The waves swayed the boat more as we dropped down to 30 feet. After a few drops and moves, my rod began to bend. The captain exclaimed, “You got your big rooster!” As I reeled, the fight felt very familiar to me. The fish dug deeper into sea. My hands began to ache as I saw color. The pattern of skin did not look striped. I knew the pull of the fish after I saw color. It was a reef donkey or AJ. I felt deflated. The fight was fun but my goal of a Roosterfish was not happening.
We dropped one more time, and the bite was on once again. I fought hard this time and after battle of wills, the Jack Carvelle was caught and our time on the water was up. Frustration went through my mind as we headed back. I flew all the way down here and did not meet my goal of catching a Roosterfish. But, I paused and looked around. The waves crashing in the rocks, the exotic flora, and the smell of salt in the air, all, refocused me. Failing here to catch one of my bucket list fish was not all bad after all. The hunt or the chase could continue in my future and it would be great excuse to come back to paradise. Because in the end, it would be called catching not fishing if it was easy. Check out the highlight video of our Quepos Inshore adventure below.