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Wild Blitz of Jacks, Roosters, Black Tuna, and Spanish Macks! | Costa Rica 2019

Ryan Collins

Welcome to another edition of "Costa Rica Saturday," a weekly series that will continue for the month of April.

This past winter my life Lauren and I guided two groups of anglers and their wives from the USA in Costa Rica. We explored the jungle, saw sloths and monkeys, and went fishing!

We've been going to Costa Rica since 2015, yet one thing I had never done before was go kayak fishing in Costa Rica.


First-Ever Kayak Trip

On the morning of January 30th, I awoke to a flat calm Golfo Dulce. MFCC members John Silva and Mike Hollander were already down at the beach surfcasting as the sun rose slowly over the mountains.

When I hit the beach, I could see scattered schools of Spanish mackerel feeding on the surface. Unfortunately most of the great-eating mackerel out of casting range. 

I spoke with John and Mike and they reported several missed hits but no fish landed. Spanish macks have a decent set of teeth. They often slash at lures which makes them difficult to hook.

It was a scorcher of a morning. No wind, bright sun and temperatures in the 80's. Luckily for me my wife Lauren loves the sun, and by 9:30am we paddled out with copious amounts of SPF.

Blitz of Spanish Macks

As soon as we got about 1/2 mile offshore the area really started coming to life, with big schools of Spanish mackerel feeding on the surface. The action was pretty fantastic. 

White and pink 3/8oz epoxy jigs worked great. The fish were feeding on small 1-2 inch long baitfish, similar to the bay anchovies we have here on Cape Cod.

Spanish mackerel put up a good fight on light tackle, and they are also great to eat. Our Costa Rica friends and neighbors love eating fish so I decided to keep about 8 mackerel for the dinner table.

The bites were coming fast and furious. Spanish macks can be a lot of fun! Especially on a small light tackle setup.

Around 10:30am Lauren decided to be a good sport by paddling back to shore to let John and Mike know about the good fishing. 

It was right about then I started hearing hundreds of splashes way off in the distance. I squinted my eyes and through the glare of the sun I could see an enormous blitz of what looked like small tunas! 

Black Tunas and Dorado

I paddled like crazy to reach the blitz, which was probably about 1.5 miles offshore. Needless to say I was sweating bullets in the mid morning Costa Rica sunshine. 

My epoxy jig was immediately inhaled as soon as it landed in the blitz of small tunas. Locals call these fish "atun negro" which translates to black tuna. In the photo below you can see them busting in the top left.

They are similar to skipjacks or bonito, and fight very much like a false albacore.

We caught a bunch of these black tunas with MFCC members Jim Murphy, Jim Thames and Tom Hollis during the 2018 Costa Rica trip.

After catching a half dozen black tunas, I was once again almost ready to call it a trip. The sun was beating down and I was hot. 

That's about when my epoxy jig got slammed by a surprise dorado!

The mahi-mahi immediately went airborne, jumping two or three times straight clear of the water off the port side of my kayak. It was a gorgeous sight and one heck of a big surprise!

The dorado was probably about 30 inches in length. I had him on the line for about 5 seconds before he shook the hook free.

I was devastated to have lost the mahi, but also pumped to know there were other species of fish feeding in the blitz.

Frigates and Sardines

Soon thereafter John Silva arrived on scene. I filled him in on what was going on and soon John hooked up with Spanish mackerel, which were now feeding nearby the black tunas. 

At around 11:15am I noticed the blitz was once again undergoing a change of sorts. A large shoal of sardines moved in and began feeding on the same tiny baitfish the black tunas and Spanish macks were feeding upon.

Huge frigate birds also appeared, circling in the sky above our kayaks. Frigate birds are an indication that large predators like roosterfish and jack crevalles may be in the area. The frigates will wait for the roosters and jacks to scare sardines towards the surface. Then they swoop down with great speed to grab any stunned and injured sardines.

John and I were discussing the frigates, when suddenly huge eruptions and white water crashes appeared on the horizon. A giant feed of monster roosterfish and jacks was going off. 

Biggest Jack Of The Trip

I paddled as quickly as possible to the feed but the fish were moving fast. Big roostefish and jacks were slashing sardines, and the frigate birds were going nuts.

Then suddenly everything ceased. The scene went oddly quiet. That is when I glanced down and saw the school of giant roosterfish and jack crevalles swimming in circles around my kayak.

I watched the fish in disbelief and then made a long cast with 1.75oz red/white Halco Roosta popper. I reeled the popper moderately fast and gave it a big chugging action. 

Seconds later the popper was in haled, white water went flying into the air, and I was hooked into either a massive roosterfish or jack crevalle.

Unfortunately this all occurred on the light spinning rod I had been using for the  mackerel and small tunas. The setup is great for small fish, but it was not designed to catch big roosters and jacks!

The fish put up an epic 30 minute battle on the light rod, and towed me about one mile to the east. Finally I got him to the surface and was able to grab his tail.

What a fish!

Unfortunately the jack had inhaled the popper. There was no way this fish was going to survive. 

Around noontime John and I arrived back on the beach. I laid out the haul and within minutes the mackerel had been given away to gracious neighbors. The big jack and tunas were enjoyed by our house's caretaker. Everyone was happy!

You can watch the entire kayak trip by clicking play below. 👇

Tackle and equipment:

In Conclusion

Fortunately most mornings in Costa Rica are flat calm, which is perfect for the kayak. I am learning that Roosterfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalles, dorado and more can be caught from the yak.

Coming up next Sunday at 6:00PM, I'll share with you another post from our 2019 trip to Costa Rica. In this next post we'll chase down 50 pound grande roosterfish in the kayak!

PS - if you're looking for more information about where we fish in Costa Rica, then please check out Playa Zancudo, which is where we stay.

Tight lines 🎣

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. We will be there in a little over a week, hoping to do some fishing. Bring the whole fam from the Cape.

    1. Sounds like a great trip you have planned Sarah!

      What area of Costa Rica are you visiting?

      1. Hacienda Pinilla, just outside Tamarindo. We know some locals who grew up here on Cape, so def plan on fishing with them. My boys love to fish it’s in their blood both my parents fished the Cape. Tuna, bass..we love it.

        1. That’s awesome! LMK if you end up catching some nice ones, and have fun!

  2. I feel like I am in the kayak with you guys experiencing these events first hand . Great info your passing on !

    1. Pumped you enjoyed this post Dave!

      Honestly, I think these Costa Rica kayak trips may be the most exciting fishing trips of my life. It was a pretty special experience.

  3. Great fishing video. One of my favorite things on my trip with you guys was enjoying the 85 degree ocean water in the dead of a Cape winter. I stayed in it for hours. Hope to go again.

    1. Nothing is better than that water. You can stay in all day long. Special place for sure and it was a pleasure to have you there with us.

      Have you seen the new website we launched for Noah’s wildlife village and reserve?

  4. I really enjoyed your report and video. Your kayak trip went from one exciting situation to another! That must have been amazing to see all the Roosters swimming around you.
    Remembering your bout with the treble hooks a few years ago, I cringed a bit seeing you unhook the Mackerel with your bare hand. Was glad to see you use the pliers!
    Given the heat, is there a problem with the caught fish spoiling or drying out before you get to the beach? We are so obsessed in the Northeast with getting our fish on ice right away, you probably don’t want to let fish sit out too long in Costa Rica. I would imagine that storing the fish in the water would not be a good option as it might attract “the man in the gray suit”.

    1. It was really amazing watching the ecosystem take shape and come together. To watch the small baitfish move in, followed by the mackerel, then the bonito, then the frigate birds and finally the jacks and roosters was quite impressive. Mother Nature never fails to amaze!

      Ice is always tough to get and keep in Costa Rica. I’d say those mackerel were baking in the sun for about 2 hours max, and fortunately the quality of the fillets did not suffer much.

      No great white sharks in this area of Costa Rica from what I’ve so far learned. I would be much more nervous kayak fishing off Chatham than in Costa Rica! LOL

      And with regards to the treble hooks, I could not agree more, especially when hooked up with a big rooster or a jack. Towards the end of this last Costa Rica trip, I actually fished poppers with one big single circle hook. More on that coming soon…

  5. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Nice job Ryan! Boy that water looked so beautiful! Flat calm. Great catch! Congrats on your Big Jack! Are there white sharks around in that area?

    1. It was really spectacular watching all that life unfold right in front of us. Definitely got lucky that day!

      No great white sharks in this area of Costa Rica from what I’ve so far learned. I would be much more nervous kayak fishing off Chatham than in Costa Rica! LOL


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