Jungle fishing for large tarpon
Part of one of the largest watersheds in Central America that includes Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua in neighboring Nicaragua, the Jungle Tarpon Reserve includes a vast inland system of freshwater rivers, creeks and flooded lagoons that are prime for tarpon in late summer into fall after Costa Rica’s rainy season. Tarpon migrate into these immense landlocked flooded lagoons during the region’s “wet season”, and although most mornings start sunny and beautiful, passing storm fronts and torrential downpour can come at any time, especially later in the day. While these periods of wet weather can be uncomfortable, they are usually brief and are why the tarpon are present. During the dry months of the year, these same lagoons that support tarpon, are utilized as farmland for grazing cattle.
With only 14 weeks during the fishing season and a maximum of 4 anglers max per week, this fishery offers limited pressure and shots at very large tarpon in the 60 to 150+ pound class. You can be prepared to put your accuracy skills to the test to target rolling fish feeding on bait along eddy lines in the creeks and rivers, or you may have the opportunity to target rolling fish in lagoons. Huge fish are seen rolling in the main channels of the river and in small creeks where utilizing intermediate or sinking lines can produce massive fish. Gar are abundant and snook are possible to catch as well, and any of your fishing days you can expect to hear howler monkeys and see spider monkeys, as well as abundant and diverse bird life, as part of your daily outing.
The Jungle Tarpon Reserve works directly to support a local family to provide accommodations set in a well-landscaped garden that are a few minutes’ walk from the docks and your pangas. The simple and spacious accommodations offer both single or double occupancy rooms and en suite bathrooms with hot showers. A small kitchenette and sink is available and oscillating fans allows for good air movement to help keep things cool.
Guests stay in private cabinas located in a fruit-tree covered lawn that has several barbecue and socializing areas perfect for fly tying and relaxing between fishing sessions. The cabinas are simple but all come with two single beds (single rooms available upon request), private water toilet, and warm water shower.
Food and Beverages
Breakfast is typically brought aboard the boat each morning and are supplied by local families with local delicacies such as meat or fruit empanadas. Copious amounts of hot coffee, juice, water and milk are all available to enjoy while cruising to the targeted fishing areas each morning. Hot lunch is usually enjoyed at one of any number of the local fisherman’s houses to help support the local economy followed by a siesta during the heat of the day. Dinner is enjoyed at local restaurants such as El Fogon located next door to your lodging for the week. El Fogon has slow-smoked wood fired meats and vegetables grown on site in their greenhouses. Beer is not included so it is recommended that you stop en route to purchase any alcohol that you might like to enjoy either on the skiffs for the week or after fishing. Beers are available for purchase at El Fogon.
Typical Length of Stay
The typical package is seven (7) nights / six (6) fishing days, with a possible additional two half days. Most anglers overnight in San Jose upon arrival before the drive to Cano Negro and the Jungle Tarpon Reserve. Additional days in Costa Rica and transfers or extensions to this trip can be arranged. Combination trips with tarpon fishing on the Rio Colorado in northeastern Costa Rica can also be arranged. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details or customized itinerary options.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
The Jungle Tarpon Reserve is in northern Costa Rica approximately 50 Km from the border with Nicaragua. The area is mostly farm land and during the time of year when the fishing is best, is the rainy or green season. You can expect afternoon rain showers, strong at times and if you are interested in non-fishing activities, horseback riding, birding and wildlife excursions can be incorporated into the fishing program or a custom cultural itinerary can be created based on your needs. Non-angling options are limited.
Internet / Communications
Internet service is not available at the Jungle Tarpon Reserve. Cell phones DO work but you should check with your local provider about rates and coverage.
How To Get There
Depending on your time of international arrival and departure into/from Costa Rica, we may be able to eliminate the need for any overnights in San Jose. Most travelers overnight in San Jose after an arrival late in the day and then transfer overland the four to five hours to Jungle Tarpon Reserve the following Saturday morning for either an additional overnight in San Jose before departure flights or late afternoon international departure flights.
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
Guests should plan on arriving to Jungle Tarpon Reserve on a Saturday and departing the following Saturday for the standard week of fishing.
A valid passport is required for all visitors to Costa Rica and must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the duration of your stay.
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or [email protected] for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services, and trip insurance.
Anglers can expect to fish from simple but efficient river pangas, with 2 anglers per boat taking turns on the bow. Since the environment is quite dynamic, fishing situations are also varied, ranging from sight casting at tarpon hunting or waking in shallow lagoons and creeks, waiting for tarpon to roll or break bait on the surface before presenting a fly, and blind casting in likely areas. There are even times when tarpon congregate at the mouth of one of the jungle’s many creeks and line up in feeding lanes like giant trout in an explosive feeding display one has to see to truly believe. As in most tarpon fishing worldwide, knowledge of distance casting and accurate presentation is a major asset, but due to the intimate jungle environment anglers can often get much closer to their quarry than in other global tarpon fisheries, making this a unique place to hone one’s skills.
Overall, anglers can expect shots throughout the week at fish ranging from 20 to the magical 200 pound mark. And since the tarpon here are actively feeding fish with little exposure to fishing pressure, flies are often grabbed without second thought. Should the tarpon fishing slow down other species provide great sport on lighter tackle like common and fat snook, machaca, tropical garfish, tilapia, and jaguar guapote. Or do as the locals do and try your luck at artisanal hand-lining.
Due to the nature of the jungle river, conditions change drastically each week. Anglers are encouraged to practice both distance and accuracy casting before they come. Close range loading and delicate presentations with large 11 and 12 weight outfits are important as well, so working on side-arm and slot casting can also greatly help prepare anglers for whatever mother nature decides to throw their way. While some weeks are extremely productive, this can also be a very moody and challenging fishery at times, so being ready from the start will greatly improve the likelihood of capitalizing on opportunities as they come.
Boats and Equipment
The guides run 20-foot long pangas with large casting decks with plenty of room for anglers and gear.
The tarpon are medium-large (20-200 lbs) and require 12 weights to tire them quickly before release. Floating lines work best in most scenarios, but sink tip lines can also be very useful if tarpon are in some of the river’s deeper pools or as the day heats up. Having 2 rods with both a floating line and a sink tip rigged onboard is preferred so that each fishing scenario can be efficiently handled. If you’d like to bring a 3rd line we also often use intermediates when tarpon are feeding in the river. On some windless hot days, tarpon sun themselves on the surface of the glassy lagoons. In these conditions slightly lighter 10 weight floating rods/lines can be a great tool to have. Leaders are pretty standard tapered with shock tippet to 80-100 lbs. Anglers may also wish to incorporate a piece of 20-40 lb. class tippet into their leader system so that if a tarpon runs through some branches or submerged logs we have the ability to break them off and not damage the fish.
In terms of flies, the tarpon feed mostly on various types of minnows and other small-medium baitfish, so 3-6 inch deceivers and variants of deceivers are highly recommended. The river is stained a reddish orange from tannins in the water, so colors that produce either match this coloration (orange, red, yellow) or stand out against it (black, white), preferably in combination (orange/black/white, red/black/white, yellow/chartreuse, etc). Standard black and black/purple flies are also highly effective in both the river and lagoons. Weighted flies are recommended to break the water surface quickly, and spun deer hair heads helps flies push the maximum amount of water and vibrations to get tarpon excited. An important thing to note is that starting in 2016 only carbon steel hooks will be permitted by local authorities (no stainless). Note: Custom hand-tied collections available for sale on-site.
Not included in the package price, but available on site is rental equipment available with Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods, Hatch fly reels, and Airflo & RIO lines), flies (custom hand-tied collections available for sale on-site), leaders (available for sale on-site)
Remember that Yellow Dog’s services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter.
Maximum capacity per week is four (4) anglers
Two (2) anglers per boat plus two (2) guides/captains
Only 14 weeks total in each season (August to December)
$4,490 per person (based on single occupancy accommodations / double occupancy fishing)
$6,295 per person (based on single occupancy accommodations / single occupancy fishing)
• Lodging at the Jungle Tarpon Reserve (single occupancy)
• Private ground transportation from San Jose
• All meals on location
•Non-alcoholic drinks, fruit and snacks for each day of fishing
• Six (6) full days and two (2) half days of fishing
• Park entrance fee & fishing license
What’s Not Included:
• International flights to San Jose
• Lodging in San Jose on first/last nights
• Meals, drinks or additional costs in San Jose
• Lunches on transfer days
• Fishing tackle or flies (tackle rental and fly purchase available on-site)
• Insurance (travel or medical)
• Beer or alcohol