Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica

Read more about Costa Rica Fishing at www.crocodilebay.com

Just as the words “We jammin’” blared over the speakers the first time aboard the Croc of Gibraltar, a rigger clip snapped. My brain instantly tuned out the Marley CD as heads swung to the rod now throbbing to life in a starboard holder. “Vela! Vela!” declared the captain atop the bridge as he excitedly repeated the Spanish word for sailfish. Sanford Hochman, a Cape Cod native normally of quiet disposition, rose like a Centurion about to do battle. The mate lobbed a live goggle-eye jack behind the now idling boat, and the rest of the scene went according to Hoyle: fish rises in the trolled lure spread, bait tossed out, fish transfers to the bait, line tightens, circle hook does its thing, and the man-fish encounter commences. Hochman, a custom rod builder, can pump and wind with the best of them. As the Pacific sailfish twisted, twirled and put on a show thatthe Flying Wallendas would envy, Hochman artfully maneuvered the rod to meet the 100-pound-plus fish’s every antic. In about eight minutes, the sail succumbs with the leader and then its bill secured. A few quick pictures, and let the animal recover a bit before releasing. So beautiful.

Such drama becomes common off western Costa Rica, aptly so named by Columbus for its rich coast. Costa Rica Fishing out of Crocodile Bay Resort and the Golfo Dolce, the blue waters 10 to 30 miles offshore yield abundant sailfish, marlin,dolphin, wahoo and tuna. But that’s not the only fishing karma you get hereabouts – shallower green and coastal waters provide great action with roosterfish, cubera snapper, African pompano, black snook and trevally. Our first day aboard the Croc of Gibraltar found the seas a bit saucy, causing even the 35-foot Strike boat with twin 370 diesels to rock and roll a bit. Nonetheless, under overcast skies and a drizzle now and then, we registered another sailfish release by angler Terry Durbaugh, a veterinarian and also a New Englander, plus a beefy skipjack tuna. We saw other sails cut across the spread occasionally, but they wouldn’t stay to dine. We switched lures from chuggers to bullets, changed colors, varied the trolling speed and directions, but not much happened after the initial strikes. That night at dinner, I needled Todd Staley, a long-time friend and Costa Rica Fishing Director of Crocodile Bay Resort (CBR), that I didn’t come all this way for just a handful of sailfish. Noting my sarcasm, he responded with a smile that was only bending the lips, slyly adding that the weather will improve and to “pretend” like I have a little patience. Indeed, Staley made me eat crow.

The following day found us under blue skies, abundant sunshine and calm seas, and our lure spread became much easier to spot from the depths. Action heated up faster than the water, and German (pronounced Herman), our captain aboard the Croc of Gibraltar, and mate Erick spent most of the time running and gunning after free-jumping sails or birds following fish rather than the prior day spent mostly blind trolling. We trolled four lines on 30- to 50-pound conventional gear, with two in the outriggers, one flat line and a shotgun from the bridge. At the ready stood 20-pound spin rods for smaller fish and an 80W in case a big blue decided to pay a visit. Preferred gear at CBR consists of 6- to 7-foot Okuma rods, Shimano TLD and Tiagra reels, and Triple Fish line and fluorocarbon leaders.

The two short lines with bigger lures sported wooden green birds in front of them to increase attention. Erick says that favorite lure colors include green, orange, black-and-red, purple-and-black, and blue-and-white. A cedar plug often gets attention as well from just about all species. Once a fish comes up in the spread, Erick springs to the deck from the bridge. If the fish doesn’t take one of the lures, Erick casts a prerigged live goggle-eye, bonito or blue runner while anglers reel in trolled lines to deter tangling.

Day 2 saw lots of that. Not only did we get multiples on sailfish, we scored several big dolphin. Sanford Hochman caught the first green marauder, fighting it on 20-pound spin after German went ballistic upon spying a big school nearby. We admired their cobalt-blue pectoral fins as they blitzed here and there beneath the boat in the clear blue water, gobbling up the chunks of cut bait that Erick stashed in the cooler just for this purpose. Hochman and his fishing partner this day, Steve Cahill, took turns on the rod. After we couldn’t stand it any longer just snapping pictures, my traveling companions Michael Kelly, Kelly Braden and I also strapped on stand-up belts, with Michael tallying the biggest dolphin of the outing, a chunky 35-pound cow. By day’s end, every rod in the holders had been bent more than a few times. We also spotted a sea turtle and enjoyed the playful antics of porpoises around the boat. Others in the CBR fleet also reported good action on sailfish and dolphin, with a few bringing in wahoo and a couple of anglers losing hooked blue marlin at the transom.

Three years ago when Kelly Braden and I visited CBR, we’d never caught a roosterfish. Leaving the dock, our skiff ran just north of the point separating the Golfo Dulce from the Pacific Ocean and shut down near a series of large rocks that jut out near the shoreline. We slow-trolled sardines on two rods, and minutes after setting them out one of the rod tips twanged as if snagging on the bottom. Another twitch, a little line taken, and then the reel sounded like an industrial electric drill as line burned off the spool like no tomorrow. Barely getting the rod out of the holder, I pressured that fish within an ounce of the 20-pound line test and could still barely hold on. With sweat beginning to cause my clothes to cling and a heartbeat at least double time, I couldn’t believe it when the roosterfish finally rose from the surf to the edge of the boat. I’d have bet my hat that that 30-pound fish was twice its actual size.

Kelly caught her first roosterfish as well, and we each released three more before turning the bow for home on this half-day excursion. Todd Staley oversees 80 employees associated with the Costa Rica fishing operation. Boats run from 17-foot skiffs to offshore 35-footers, with boats leaving the dock at 7 a.m. sharp and returning mid-afternoon. The night before, you indicate your preferred drinks and choice of sandwich, and they’re in the ice chest when you climb aboard the next morning. It usually takes about an hour to run offshore for trolling, and figure about half that time or less to bottom fish or to check out coastal rocky areas for roosters. Prime time for sailfish would be January through May, with June and July is usually tops for marlin – blue, black and striped. Black snook peak in December and May, while you’ll get dependable, year-round shots at roosterfish, cubera snapper, trevally and African pompano. If you consider the exotic beauty of this special country, the unmatched comforts and conveniences of Crocodile Bay Resort and the simply outstanding Costa Rica fishing opportunities, it’s easy to see that this is a destination that’s pretty hard to top. And that’s exactly why I will keep coming back.
Where to toss the Bags - international flights to san jose, the country’s capital, can be arranged with a number of major airlines. if you arrive early, catch the 3 p.m. one-hour nature air charter flight over the mountains southwest to Puerto jimenez; if you arrive later, spend the night in san jose at hotels that will be recommended when booking the trip with crocodile Bay resort and fly out the next morning at 7 a.m. you’ll be met when arriving in sanjose by a CBR representative and taken to the charter airport. when landing in Puerto jimenez, you’ll be whisked to the resort only minutes away.

The first thing I noted upon arriving at the Resort: its four-star rating is well deserved. the guard-protected entrance to the 44-acre property offers 34 air conditioned rooms that include handcarved furniture, modern (comfortable)beds and many sport private jacuzzi baths. other amenities: a pool with swim-up bar, hot tub, a 5,000-square-foot luxury Spa, a conference center, pool and snooker table, gift shop and bar. They even provide a free 10-minute massage from a professional masseuse at the end of the day in a tented patio next to the pool. The all-inclusive packages provide accommodations, meals and beverages – including well-brand cocktails. internet is offered but often out of service, so we usually went to an internet cafe in Puerto jimenez. I can’t say enough about the fantastic food, offering a full breakfast buffet each morning (including omelet and pancake chefs) and a stupendous dinner buffet nightly with steaks, a variety of fish, soups, sushi, side dishes galore and desserts prepared at the Resort. the night prior to each day’s Costa Rica fishing or tour, the staff notes what kind of sandwich and drinks you’d like, and by morning they’re already in the cooler. I’ve never encountered a more accommodating staff, including Alberto who arranges the tours, front desk personnel such as Markos, and Karol in the dining room. CBR’s 750-foot private pier plays host to a fleet of 39 inshore and offshore boats from 17-foot skiffs to 35-foot tower boats.

Todd Staley does a remarkable job organizing a staff of 80 guides, mates and support personnel, always doing so in a personable and friendly style. The cost of Costa Rica fishing or tour packages vary based on the season, length of stay and what type of Costa Rica fishing – inshore or offshore – you’d like to do. Visit http://www.crocodilebay.com/ for full details on the rates, tours, fishing and other info about the costa rica fishing resort.

Bring Your camera - Aside from great Costa Rica fishing, crocodile Bay resort (CBR) offers a wide array of opportunities to venture out and explore the magnificent Osa Peninsula. Much of the Peninsula consists of the 104,898-acre Corcovado National Park, which National Geographic dubbed as the most biologically intense place on Earth. Wonderful opportunities abound to see wildlife, but there are also crocodiles, venomous snakes, packs of peccaries and even a healthy population of jaguars are present in the area.

Check out the full list of Costa Rica Tours Here Osa Rainforest – This is the most popular and highly recommended of the tours offered. A 30-minute ride from the resort upon a rustic dirt road took us to our first stop at the tip of the osa Peninsula. Along the way we saw parakeets, several herons, a three-toed sloth and a vine snake. Our guide Danilo led us along several wide paths, with one that led to a couple of scarlet macaws loudly quibbling between themselves high in a tree branch. Farther inland, Danilo spotted a troop of about 20 white-faced capuchin monkeys. This particular pack was not fond of our presence and began to bare their teeth to scare us off. On other occasions, these monkeys came right up to us looking for food, but feeding them is definitely not recommended. After leaving the irritated monkeys in peace, we saw bats inside a dark hole in a tree. Danilo also pointed out two toucans near the treetops. We next visited the primary rainforest with less wildlife but dense vegetation, during which we waded a small river to a steep hill. Danilo showed us various plants that locals utilize to make paint, provide aloe and other needs. On the way back to the resort, we viewed a sloth, a pack of spider monkeys and rare squirrel monkeys.

Gold Panning – Our guide Alberto took us for a hike about half a mile up the nearby El Tigre river. Not speaking a word of English, local resident Luis Rojas, a gold panner for 42 years, nodded at the pan in his weathered hands to non-verbally prompt me to also engage in panning for gold. I noted the way he panned the sediment shoveled from just above the river bedrock, and tried to replicate what he did. I took the pan, which weighed about 15 pounds with all the rocks and sand, and started to knock off the larger rocks at the top. Placing it into the water, I swirled the water around and around. Luis gently intervened and showed me how to do it more effectively to force the heavier gold metal to the pan’s bottom. I quickly got the hang of it, and soon Luis sifted through the black sand residue in my pan with his finger. Several small gold flakes flashed before our eyes. A day’s toil typically garners one to two grams of gold, with five grams being excellent. One gram will fetch $60. Luis remarked that he used to pan 20 to 30 grams a day before commercial interests invaded the area during the gold boom over 20 years ago. Rojas noted that the best time of the year to gold pan is during the rainy season, since the gold washes down the river faster due to stronger currents.

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary – With a baby spider monkey clinging to the back of his neck and a parakeet on his left shoulder, Earl Crews gave us a tour of the osa wildlife sanctuary just a short boat ride across golfo Dulce from CBR. Earl is co-owner with his wife Carol of this non-profit animal rescue center. Scarlet Macaws, which aren’t native to this side of golfo dulce, squawked overhead. Several curious spider monkeys approached and one kept trying to grab a can of tanning lotion from the outer web of my backpack. White-faced capuchin monkeys ran about and played with the other spider monkeys and howler monkeys. Earl explained that since most of these monkeys were brought to the sanctuary as babies, they mingle with one another – something they never do in the wild. We observed a toucan and a kinkajou in their respective cages. While the nocturnal kinkajou slept, the toucan hopped from one end of the cage to the other, and eyed our every movement. The highlight occurred when Earl held a two-toed sloth in his arms as if it were a baby. At first glance, it appears like a hairylooking seal. Earl told us that this slow-moving mammal is docile, nocturnal, lives its entire life upside-down in trees and takes a week to digest food.

Jungle Night Walk – Ambling along the outskirts of the crocodile Bay property at 8:30 p.m. one evening, Danilo suddenly stops our small group and points to the left of the path. “look, look, right there,” he says. I focus my flashlight where he’s pointing andI get a chill down my spine: It’s a coiled fer-de-lance. This is the most dangerous snake in the western hemisphere, as it causes more deaths than any other american reptile. Danilo instructs each of us to keep our distance, but it gave up any hope of remaining undetected and instead slithered away. We moved on to the caiman lagoon. “look for any glowing eyes when pointing your flashlights,” danilo instructed. After he made some chirping sounds, several caimans swam over as well as a large crocodile. He later pointed out several birds sleeping in trees as well as frogs and jesus christ lizards (so called because they can run across the top of water). While we didn’t see any red-eyed green tree frogs or poison dart frogs, they are also out and about at night. We certainly gained a different perspective of wildlife that’s more prevalent at night.

Other Notes of Interest about Costa Rica:

• Official Name: Republic of Costa Rica• Area: 51,100 sq. km. (19.725 sq. mi.)• Capital: San Jose• Location: Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.• Population: 4,327,000Religions: Mostly Roman Catholic• Language: Spanish• Government: Democratic Republic• Currency: Colones (518.74 = $1US)Doug Kelly, Editor-in-Chief of Destination Fish, gets out from behind the PC now and then to knock the moss off his heels and visit alluring fishing retreats. •

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