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Lake Arenal, Rio Frio River, Cano Negro Lagoon, Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River are the major fishing spots in the northern part of Costa Rica and the southern part of Nicaragua. Fish on beautiful Lake Arenal and Lake Nicaragua for “Guapote”, the Guapote is basically a Central American Bass although it’s technically a member of the Cichlid family.
The Guapote can grow to over 12 pounds; they have a mouthful of teeth, a big lump on their forehead and fight twice as hard as any Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass. Fish the Rio Frio River, Cano Negro Lagoon and the San Juan River for Tarpon, Snook, Guapote and more. These areas receive very little fishing pressure and there are giant Tarpon and Snook caught here every year.

Fishing Species and Seasons:

Tarpon fishing varies more day to day than from season to season. One day you may hook one Tarpon and the next day you may hook 20 Tarpon.
Tarpon are caught in the Rio Frio River, Cano Negro Lagoon and the San Juan River all year long. Tactics for Tarpon fishing change depending on the rain, heat and time of day. Tarpon are caught mostly by trolling, live bait fishing or Fly fishing. Some Tarpon migrate throughout the river system that connects Cano Negro, Rio Frio, Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River and some Tarpon are permanent residents and never migrate. Catching monster Tarpon in the wide open ocean is a challenge but catching Tarpon in a river 15-40 yards wide is a thrill of a lifetime. This is one of the few areas in the world that may produce a world record Tarpon. more...

There are 2 types of Snook in Cano Negro, Rio Frio, Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. There is the Big Snook ranging from 10-70 plus pounds and there is the Fat Snook ranging from 4 to

10 plus pounds. The Big Snook are present year round and just like the Tarpon some fish migrate and some don’t. The Fat Snook have more of a run and fishing is best from October through January but they also are caught year round. Many people believe the next world record Snook will come from this lightly fished area. Both Snook make for fine dining, similar taste to Walleye and Perch but for me just a little bit better. . more...

Lake Arenal and Lake Nicaragua are the two best spots for these hard fighting Central American Bass but they are also present in Cano Negro, Rio Frio and the San Juan River.

Guapote look like an aquarium fish on steroids, they have a big mouth full of teeth and the males have a large hump on the top of their head. These fish range from 3 to 12 plus pounds and they fight twice as hard as a Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass of similar size. Guapote are caught all day and every day in Lake Nicaragua, on my last trip I caught about 50 a day for 3 days in a row. Guapote are caught year round in Lake Arenal as well but dry season is usually considered the best time.

The Manchaca looks like a miniature Tarpon and range from 1 to 10 plus pounds. These fish are caught year round in Lake Arenal, Cano Negro, Rio Frio, Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. The Manchaca is very aggressive and lots of fun with ultra light tackle. These aerial acrobats will crush lures half their size with their sharp teeth. One a recent trip to Arenal I caught dozens of these on my 4 pound spinning rod…fun and easy fishing.


The Majarra resembles a Bluegill but are much more aggressive and have a mouth full of teeth. They are caught year round in Lake Arenal, Cano Negro, Rio Frio, Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. They can range from 1 to 3 pounds and be caught while fishing for Guapote using plugs, poppers, spinners and jigs.

These remote jungle rivers and lakes (except Arenal) are home to some modern day Dinosaurs. It’s not unusual for local fisherman and the charter services in this area to have the occasional run-in with these prehistoric looking monster fish. Gar are fairly common and can range from 5 to 300 plus pounds. The Freshwater Sharks and Sawfish are not very common and not a targeted species but they are present and a Sawfish can weigh 1000 pounds.

The first question many fishermen ask is “when is the best time to come to Costa Rica?” The truth is, it depends more on the quality of the water and food chain than it does the time of year. I have fished in the middle of “slow season” and caught a 100 plus pound Tarpon and battled a 200 plus pound Tarpon for 15 minutes before he threw my lure. I have fished the middle of "slow season" and caught 50 Guapote a day for three days in a row.

I have also fished in the middle of “high season” and been skunked, but only twice. So…when is the best time to come to Costa Rica and catch fish? My answer is usually… anytime you come to Costa Rica you will catch fish.

One of the best things about the river and lake fishing for Tarpon and Snook is you never know what you will see. I have seen hundreds of exotic birds, dozens of monkeys, Cayman (small crocodiles), lizards that walk on water and giant Iguanas. Fishing on these remote lakes and rivers is like going back in time. This area is so pristine and untouched by man that every time I fish up there I expect to see Dinosaurs walk by.

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