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August 16, 2013

Adrenaline Rush!

Yellowfin tuna pandemonium among the porpoise pods off Costa Rica

Fast Cast with a Jig

Southern Costa Rica offers — as we saw — good hunting grounds for tuna on top. In fact, the eastern Pacific from Mexico south into at least Ecuador can mean prime run‑and‑gun tuna activity when the timing is right.

For Crocodile Bay boats, that tends to be a crapshoot. “You can catch tuna any day of the year, just not very predictably,” Staley says. “We may find yellowfin out there for weeks at a time but then not see any for just as long.”

While he says there really is no tuna season, run-and-gun fans might have their best shot at finding tuna feeding late spring and late fall, with the fish more numerous then, but also smaller, as school fish dominate.

An effective alternative to poppers, metal speed jigs also have the advantage of tremendous long-distance castability, and when breezing fish are moving very fast or happen to be particularly spooky, only out-of-the-ballpark casts will make it to ground zero.

I was reminded of this the next day while fishing with Patrick Sebile. The yellowfin were on top but not feeding with quite as much abandon as they had been the day before. Sebile opted to forgo the Splasher and instead tied on one of his Fast Cast metal jigs. He cranked it hard and fast so it skipped along the top, looking indeed like a baitfish trying frantically to escape.

His jig was slammed repeatedly, and I became an instant believer in small metal jigs for schooling tuna at the surface.

Diagram: How to intercept moving tuna while fishing
Dave Underwood

Sails and Roosters

While fishing offshore of the Osa Peninsula can be a good bet for yellowfin, billfish are always a big blue-water draw. During our June visit, sails were few and far between — not such a surprise, since that’s usually a slow time for sails — but seasonally (January into May), sailfish can be swarming. Anglers after marlin have their best shots at black marlin and striped marlin in July, August and September, and blue marlin November through mid-January.

Plus, of course, this peninsula has earned a reputation for producing roosterfish. We tried our hand and weren’t disappointed. The beaches along the open southwestern Osa coast proved slow, but closer to the resort, around the southern tip of the peninsula, the default live bait — blue runners — found some willing takers. Roosters have a tough time passing up slow-trolled runners near shorelines, though they’re not shy about snatching up other live-bait offerings, such as a moonfish that the mate quickly bridled up and put over the side.

We spent some time jigging, but other than a Pacific red snapper, a bright-red scorpionfish and a small fortune jack, we couldn’t find a lot to show for our efforts. But I have seen photos of excellent jig catches.

As outstanding as the waters of southern Costa Rica can be for many species, I’ll take tuna on top any day for sheer adrenalin-pumping action.