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September 12, 2005

Crocodile Bay Offers Hot Fishing, Even in the Rainy Season

Sport Fishing Television's Dean Travis Clarke poses with a 48-pound roosterfish taken on a recent shoot at Crocodile Bay, Costa Rica.

It didn't take long.

In fact, I know exactly how long it took for us to hook a Pacific blue marlin. Exactly one hour and 45 minutes. But the amazing thing is, that's not how long we'd been fishing. That's how long we'd been at Crocodile Bay Lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.

I was thinking to myself about how well things were going as I watched Sport Fishing Television's host Dean Travis Clarke battle the estimated 300-pound blue.

Less than two hours earlier, we'd boarded a Nature Air DeHavilland Twin Otter for the 45-minute hop over the mountains and into the airport at Puerto Jimenez. From there, it was a short ride to the lodge, check-in and off to the boats.

Our mate put out the spread, and within a few minutes, Dean was on.

Although not a giant blue, it was one of the most spirited fights I've seen on 50-pound tackle. After nearly two hours, I finally leadered and billed the fish and Dean got the release - all on my first episode of the show since I started as managing editor of the magazine last year.

The next several days held some good fishing, and some slow fishing. But that's the way it is in the tropics during the rainy season. Another highlight of the show was Dean catching his first-ever roosterfish, bottoming the Bogagrip out at 48 pounds. He could go the rest of his life and never catch another one that big.

Crocodile Bay is one of the most modern, beautiful lodges I've fished at in Central America. Managed by Californian Robin Williams (no, not the actor), the lodge features modern amenities that would make even the most tender footed of travelers feel right at home. Built on 44 acres of lush, tropical gardens lying on the shores of the Golfo Duce (Sweet Gulf) on Costa Rica's southwest coast, the lodge features 34 air-conditioned rooms and bungalows (many with private Jacuzzi baths), a swimming pool, onsite spa and a conference center for up to 80 people.

American Todd Staley - an old hand at matters in Costa Rica - manages angling operations at the lodge. In addition to having worked in San Jose's Hotel Del Rey - home of the Blue Marlin Bar - Staley has done stints as the manager of several well-known fishing lodges, including Golfito Sailfish Rancho (just across the bay) and the Rio Colorado Lodge (on Costa Rica's east coast.) He now oversees what is likely the newest, most modern charter fleet of light-tackle and offshore boats in Costa Rica. The backbone of the offshore fleet consists of Strike 33s with twin diesel engines, but those that enjoy fishing from center consoles will find a fleet of 24- and 27-foot Boston Whalers and even several flats skiffs for exploring the back bays and estuary. All are equipped with modern marine electronics from manufacturers including Lowrance, Humminbird and Furuno.

Visiting anglers may bring their own tackle, but space is limited on commuter flights, and travelers are limited to just 25 pounds of baggage. Not to worry, though, as each boat is equipped with top-notch tackle from some of the industry's best - including Shimano, Okuma and Penn.

That being said, packing light is a necessity. Several pairs of shorts, lightweight fishing shirts, T-shirts and flip-flops are all that's needed. Daily laundry service is available so that visitors can get by on a minimalist wardrobe. A lightweight raincoat is also recommended. After all, this is the tropical rainforest.

Although marlin (black, blue and striped), sailfish and roosterfish are the primary targets for anglers, visitors will find a host of other species, including more than a dozen different snappers, groupers and jacks, as well as yellowfin tuna, black skipjack, dorado and wahoo.

Admittedly, we fished during the slow time of year - better known throughout the tropics as "the rainy season". Peak season, according to Staley, runs from about November to May, with moderate, cooler weather and near shore currents bringing baitfish and predators within a short run of the lodge.

Although the lodge caters primarily to fisherman, it offers several other interesting opportunities to visitors, including a butterfly aviary and hatchery and daily ecotours into the rainforest. On our last day at the camp, Sport Fishing editor Chris Woodward and I took a day off and decided to try one of the ecotours. Our guide, Ernesto took us on an adventure through the coastal rainforest that neither of us will soon forget.

Leaving the lodge in a small, rugged diesel truck equipped with benches and a canopy, we took off down the bumpy roads in search of flora and fauna. We spotted several species of monkeys, toucans, macaws and even a three-toed sloth, tucked away sleeping in the bough of a tree. Chris and I also had the opportunity to taste several different wild fruits and plants along the way. I have to say, it was one of the most interesting non-fishing related things I've ever done, and I highly recommend it to anybody recommending the country.

Whether you are looking to experience some of the best of what Costa Rica has to offer or for a unique team building adventure for your company, Crocodile Bay is a good choice. For more information, visit www.crocodilebay.com for more information on the lodge and facilities, as well as booking information and monthly fishing reports to help you plan your trip.