Angler's Guide to Costa Rican Pink Snapper Fishing
In the interest of keeping fellow hobbyists informed about the unique attractions and sporting opportunities in Costa Rica, following is my recently completed, new "Angler's Guide to Costa Rican Pink Snapper Fishing":
Costa Rica has long been renown as a world-class fishing destination, each year attracting multitudes of seasoned veterans and novices alike who lust after the excitement and adventure of bagging a trophy catch. The most popular species on the Atlantic coast are snook and tarpon, while on the Pacific coast, anglers enjoy catches of sailfish and marlin. Exotic species are sometimes found along the coasts as well, but the search is frequently in vain or necessary arrangements prove to be too expensive for many anglers.
Although great fishing can be found on both coasts, as well as in the numerous lakes and streams throughout country, the most popular fishing destination is right in the heart of Costa Rica's landlocked capital city and many fishermen never leave the comfort and convenience of San Jose. Despite the city's distance from the coast, Costa Rica's most exotic, sought-after species, trophy pink snapper, are consistently bagged right in the heart of the city. So, whatever dreams and plans they may have of sailfish, marlin, tarpon, or snook, (and no matter what they've told their wives and friends), once fishermen arrive in San Jose and discover the joy of San Jose's pink snapper fishing, most anglers find their most enjoyable, successful fishing experiences to be centered around the city rather than on the coast.
Prime pink snapper are easily caught if you know where to fish for them. The best known fishing area referred to as Gringo Gulch, which is home to one of Costa Rica's finest fishing spots. Almost anytime of the day or night this spot is teeming with trophy snapper, just waiting to be caught. Numerous other fishing spots may be found in the area as well.
While the fishing techniques for pink snapper are quite different from those employed for gamefishing in coastal waters, the basics are easy to master and even novice anglers usually find that they get lucky without a great deal of effort. The techniques are simple, but vary for angler to angler. Night fishing is the most popular, but afternoon excursions may prove rewarding as well. Most novices prefer to fish in well-known locations where the catch is always good and they aren't required to explore risky, unknown waters. While some sportsmen prefer to stick to one fishing spot and sight-cast to the snapper which swim around the area, others prefer to troll, exploring a variety of spots, and only drop anchor once they are certain they've found the trophy specimen they are seeking.
The best bait for local snapper comes from the U.S. and is called "green bait". The snapper here can't resist it and can never get enough to satisfy their appetites. Rubber lures are also highly recommended. In the top spots, the fishing is so easy that you don't really even need a line - a simple hand gesture, or even the wink of an eye, can produce excellent results, although experienced anglers sometimes find even better results if they use a good line as well. Since many of these snapper will swallow your lure, some anglers prefer to use flavored rubber lures in the initial stages of their pursuit and switch to lubricated lures for the final conquest.
In addition to the thrill of seeking out the finest of the species and making a careful presentation of your lure, many anglers find local snapper to be delicious eating, although others are concerned about the health risk of eating unfamiliar species. If you are interested in trying the cuisine, a simple test may be sufficient - if a fish smells like fish, it is probably bad. However, if it has a pleasant, delicate aroma, you may be tempted to at least take a nibble and see what kind of reaction you get. If it's pleasant, you may want to enjoy a full meal since many snapper become very excited by this and may put more effort into the rest of the struggle.
A hard lure is necessary, and many anglers like to use a supplement such as Vitamin V to increase the hardness and the duration of their lures. Many of the local snapper will nibble on bare lures and some will even swallow them. Most snapper have gentle, tender mouths and their mouthing won't do permanent harm, although some of them can become overly excited during the process and may leave small marks on your lure, so a word of caution may be in order for those anglers who like to fish with wives and significant others after they return home to be especially careful with their tackle.
Once the teasing phase of the presentation has been completed and the snapper has taken the lure into its mouth, most anglers like to reel in the snapper for deeper exploration. So, although most snapper initially take the lures into their mouths, most anglers prefer a full body presentation for the final stages of the conquest. The suggested technique is to drive your hook as deeply into the snapper's body as possible, pumping your rod and plunging it into the snapper's flesh repeatedly until the angler reaches a point of full exhaustion. For most anglers and snapper, this is the culmination of their encounter, although if the angler is capable, he can sometimes release the snapper for a while and catch it again with a well-prepared, hard lure. Provided the angler has the stamina for prolonged effort, many snapper can be played multiple times.
Once the fishing expedition is complete, most anglers release their fish and try again another day - sometimes seeking the same fish and sometimes preferring different waters or different fish,. Although some anglers try to keep their trophy catches, they are seldom successful because the snapper's appetites are so voracious. If an angler attempts to keep a snapper too long, it usually gets rotten. With the abundance of fresh snapper to be caught, anglers usually have better luck if they fish for new snapper each day.
Snapper fishing can be dangerous if you aren't careful. In particular, anglers are advised that although fishing laws are much more liberal in Costa Rica than in the States, certain regulations are strictly enforced. The laws defining minimum legal age for snapper catches must be observed at all times. The penalty for violation is harsh and prosecution is vigorous. Additionally, disobeying these laws is poor sport and may ruin the fishing for everyone in the future.
Aside from legal concerns, certain other precautions should be observed as well. First, the use of rubber lures is essential except during the teasing phase of your presentation. Secondly, confine your fishing to safe waters and never go fishing alone in unknown territory after dark. However, with a proper attitude and adequate preparation, Costa Rican snapper fishing can provide many pleasant memories which will leave you aching to return again and again. Some anglers, such as myself, find the fishing so enjoyable that they move here so they can catch snapper whenever the mood strikes.