Bucket List: Central Costa Rica and Pacific Sailfish

Photos by Francisco Mejias

By Pro Staff Costa Rica:

The Pacific sailfish is one of the most sought-after offshore game fish in Costa Rica. Growing larger than their Atlantic counterpart, sailfish in Costa Rica average 60 to 80 pounds, but big ones can surpass 200 pounds!

They are migratory, with the main concentration of fish arriving in our area of the Central Pacific as the dry season sets in the end of December. They move away as the wet season kicks in during early May. Even though this is the main migration, there are always sailfish present in our waters year round.

We fish from smaller boats, so we use the traditional five-rod setup. A combination of natural baits and lures are used, and our main baits are ballyhoo. Our lures of choice are the Magna series from Santos. Variations of pink, lumo and blue combined with a Trokar hook are deadly combinations. If the bite is slow, we often sew a belly flap or strip bait into the lures for a more enticing bait.

On the outriggers, we use teasers. A squid chain in pink on one side and a bigger lure like a Santos Carolina Seastalker on the other is a good start. The shotgun gets a Santos lure as well as the long rigger. The short rigger and the two corners are set up with naked swimming ballyhoos on Trokar 7/0 circle hooks. It is also handy to have a mullet, horse ballyhoo or tuna rigged and ready to go as a pitch bait in case a marlin decides to crash the party.

Once the fish is caught it is time for a few photos. This is a critical part of the process, as it involves fish handling. Even though some boats still bring up a sailfish for a photo, it is highly recommended to not do so, as it can be extremely harmful to the fish. It is the process of pulling the fish over the rail of the boat that causes problems. The protective mucous covering is scraped off, leaving an area of skin exposed to bacterial and fungal attack. This can result in the death of the fish at a later time.

Leave the fish in the water, and with a good pair of AFTCO gloves, grab the outer part of the bill and push the fish as far out from the boat as possible. Keep the head of the fish in the water as much as possible, and lift it briefly for a good photo. Take the shot from the tail end of the fish looking forward or from above if possible. Alternatively, grab the front part of the sail, pull it up and hold its bill with your other hand. Make sure the bill is always pointing away from you and not at you. Take the photo from the front of the fish.

If you have never been to Costa Rica fishing, it is definitely worth it and you will be hooked!

Pro Staff Costa Rica provides monthly reports for Coastal Angler Magazine’s Costa Rica edition. Search out Pro Staff Costa Rica on Facebook for more great photography, videos and fishing content.

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