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Saturday, May 18, 2024

’Tis the season for marlin mania in Costa Rica

The change bet-ween rainy and summer seasons is prime marlin time in Costa Rica. Marlin are everywhere along the Pacific coast right now, and “marlin mania” has struck big time. 

Someone once ask-ed me to describe the strike of a marlin. I thought for a second and then replied, “Have you ever seen an NFL highlight film where the quarterback drops back in the pocket, sets up comfortably, sees an open receiver downfield, and, as he is ready to loft the ball for an easy six points, a defensive end comes in from the blind side and the quarterback just gets drilled?!” 

There is no bigger adrenalin rush for an offshore angler than to see a big marlin crash a bait or a lure. A sailfish will come up and bat the teasers around before deciding to eat, but a marlin will usually just slam-dunk whatever it is after. 

Last week’s online fishing report mentioned Richard Chellemi’s 900-pound marlin taken on the Gamefisher II out of Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica. That was one of the larger marlins landed in some time. The fish ate a dorado belly presented by Patrick Cooney after being teased with a Mold Craft Soft Head lure. In the south, out of Puerto Jiménez, Jim Nunes landed a 650-pound blue marlin a few days later. Marlin have also been biting off Los Sueños and Quepos on the central Pacific coast. I have been receiving reports of lots of blue, some striped and even a few black marlin from all along the Pacific side.

Objects washed out to sea during the rainy season have now been floating long enough to have created their own ecosystems. It’s like the cartoon with the bigger fish eating a little fish, and an even bigger fish eating that fish, and so on. At the top of that food chain here on the Pacific is usually the “lady in the blue dress”: a blue marlin. And she often does not hang out alone. Last week off the Osa Peninsula, my crews raised 10 marlin within a half mile of one of those floating ecosystems.

A firm believer in structure fishing for marlin is Capt. Donald McGuinness. He likes to work areas above seamounts or around bait-filled floating logs. Even a small log over time will attract tripletail, ocean triggerfish, bar jacks, bonito, yellowfin tuna and dorado. If dragging a lure won’t produce a bite, he will catch a bonito and send it down as live bait or troll several as skip baits.

I was fishing with McGuinness once when it seemed it was going to be one of those rare days in Costa Rica when you don’t catch anything. Everything looked perfect, but the ocean was dead that day. Then we stumbled across a small tree trunk loaded with bait. After working the area for more than an hour with no strikes, McGuinness said, “She’s here. We just have to wait till she’s hungry.”

For two more hours we worked the area within a mile of the log, and nothing. Finally we saw free-jumping bonito racing for their lives. Right behind them a marlin cleared the water and crashed back in with a terrific splash. We watched this spectacular show four more times in the next hour, but still no strike. Finally McGuinness rigged four bonito and began trolling them behind the boat. It was still another 20 minutes before the water exploded as the marlin inhaled a bonito, and the dance began as line screamed off the reel.

Scenes like that are going to be a common occurrence the next few months. If a marlin is on your bucket list, there is no better time to come to Costa Rica.

Check The Tico Times online at for an up-to-date fishing report following this article. Skippers, operators and anglers are invited to email fishing reports by Wednesday of each week to


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