In 1972, I along with two buddies, traveled to Costa Rica in order to go fishing for tarpon. We went on the cheap, and wound up in the small village of Barra Colorado Norte, fishing in a 25’ boat made by hollowing out the trunk of a tree, guided by a skinny eighteen year old kid named Eddie Brown. A couple of year ago I reconnected with Eddie, who now owns a couple of modern fiberglass skiffs and operates an independent guiding service out of Tortuguero, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, and arranged for my wife and I to spend a couple of days fishing with him.

    We left San Jose on Nature Air’s 6:00 am flight and twenty minutes later were gliding down toward Tortuguero’s beach side landing strip. I was on the sea  side and was glad to see that it was flat calm, with a thin line of breakers coming on to the sands. Getting out of the plane I was greeted with a big “abrazo” (hug in Spanish) by Eddie, who is no longer a skinny kid. He has eaten well over the years.

     After a couple of minutes of re-getting to know you conversation we were off to the Tortuga Lodge, a couple of hundred yards across the river, for a quick breakfast and to drop off our bags. Then we went fishing.  

    The mouth of the river is a mile or so from the lodge and I anticipated an easy ride out into the Caribbean. Not! The bar is shallow and with the river going out against the swells, the waves backed up to four to five feet, and was that way for about  two hundred yards or so. It seemed to me that we would have a lousy ride out, but it was do-able. Instead Eddie suggested we run down the estuary about fifteen miles or so and go out the Rio Colorado instead. The bar there was not what it was back in the seventies, when we never even thought about approaching it. It had been dredged, and even had buoys, and we cruised right out without even throwing a drop of spray.

    Once outside it was just a matter of slowly motoring southward in about a hundred feet of water and look for rolling fish. It took a while before we got to where a couple of boats out of the Silver King & Rio Colorado Lodge were fishing, and after a couple of minutes saw a couple of fish roll.

     The method used to catch these fish is a strange one. Using an ounce and a half bucktail. we cast out and put the reel in gear, letting it sink to whatever depth it happened to reach. Then we would give the rod an short upward sweep and then let the lure sit there. It wasn’t a constant motion, but we’d do it maybe once every five seconds or so. Maybe it would work just as well without moving it, since my wife would only move hers every thirty seconds or so, and seemed to get more hits that either Eddie or I did.

     That first day we jumped about a half dozen fish, all in the sixty to seventy pound range, but my wife was the only one able to get one to the boat, and it wasn’t easy. Eddie’s rods were loaded with twenty pound mono, and since the fish were in deep water, they tended to jump a couple of times when first hooked, but after that it was a down and dirty fight, taking twenty minutes or more.

    We went back to the lodge over the Tortuguero bar and it was a piece of cake. Just like you would run an inlet with large following seas, Eddie put the boat on the back of a wave and held it there right into the smooth water.

    The next day we decided to go out the short bumpy way. It was a rough ride out, with a ot of starting an stopping, waiting for just the right set, but we got out. A five minute ride put us in a hundred feet of water, but instead of looking for fish, we just stopped and started fishing. Eddies brother was the only other boat there, and he was hooked up when we arrived, and after two or three minutes we were as well.

    What followed was an unbelievable days fishing. Within the first five minutes I hooked a fish, for a couple of seconds. One jump and it was gone. A couple of more bumps and my wife hooked up, followed by Eddie. He handed me the rod and we were fighting a double. Both fish jumped a couple of times an then the struggle started. After about fifteen minutes of fight, I decided to put a little extra pressure on to end the fight quicker. Eddie must set his drags with a scale that registers down to the ounce. On my tackle, there is always a little room to put extra pressure on the fish by lightly thumbing the reel, so I did just that, which ended the fight quicker then I wanted to, with a breakoff. My wife, on the other hand did just what she was supposed to do, and got the fish to the boat after almost a half hour struggle. But, she had done enough for the day, and decided to watch for the rest of the trip.

     That left just me fishing, with my fifteen pound bait casting outfit, and for the rest of the morning it was constant action. Not always hooking up, but hit after hit. We were using bucktails that Eddie had asked me to bring him from the states from Bass Pro Shops. The hooks that they used were lazer sharp, but a touch too light and tended to open up just enough to make getting a solid hook-up difficult. But that might have been better than hooking every fish solidly. I’d get a couple of jumps and the fish would be off. A hooked fish would mean a twenty to thirty minute max effort fight to get the tarpon to the boat for the release.

     I always say that if you don’t know how many fish you hook, you’ve had a great day. It’s easy to count to two. We got four fish to the boat, but I honestly don’t know how many hits or jump-offs we got. By around 1:00 pm I was beat, so we headed in to try for some snook in the river. After about an hour of trolling around just inside the breakers without a hit, we headed back to the lodge for a couple of Imperials.

    The fishing wasn’t what it was back in the seventies, when all the fishing was in the river, but it can be pretty spectacular. Back then we were catching fish in thirty feet or so of water, and a lot of the fighting was near the surface. Now, out in the deep water, there is less jumping and more plain old hard work. But if you are looking for a great fishing trip, with lots of action in a beautiful setting, it's not a bad place to go.












(mostly true)




by Capt Gene Kelly

My wife with her fish

A larger Eddie Brown and myself

THE PATCHMEN                                          by Capt Gene Kelly

GUATEMALA LIGHT                                     by Capt Gene Kelly

PARADISE ON EARTH                                   by Capt Bob Koliner

GUATEMALA GUY'S TRIP                             by Capt Gene Kelly

FOUR DAYS IN PANAMA                                by Capt Gene Kelly

ONE MAGIC NIGHT                                         by Capt Bob Koliner

THE GREAT WHITE SHARK ROBBERY          by Capt Gene Kelly

THE RAGING QUEEN                                       by Capt Gene Kelly


COSTA RICA TARPON - CIRCA 1972                 by Capt Gene Kelly

JUST ANOTHER FISH STORY                            by Capt Gene Kelly

RETURN TO COSTA RICA                                 by Capt Gene Kelly

MONTAUK                         Artcle in Marlin magazine September 2011

COSTA RICA - IT’S NOT JUST FISHING           by Capt Gene Kelly

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Capt Gene Kelly

Tropical Fishing Adventures

PO Box 2104, Montauk, NY, 11954

631 668 2019


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