Caño Negro Nature Reserve and Wetland Fishing

Why would a 60 to 200 pound fish swim over 200 miles up freshwater rivers from the saltwater Caribbean to be in some shallow lagoons? A natural mystery, but many Tarpon and snook undertake this journey regularly to the Wildlife Reserve of Caño Negro in Costa Rica., an angler’s paradise.

Caño Negro Nature Reserve and Wetland Fishing

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Tropic on May 20, 2001

The idea of tropical wetland envisages an immediate image of lingering sulfur smells, biting insects, still
black water ponds with thorn bushes dominating uninteresting muddy landscapes, harboring flocks of wading birds and dragonflies. But in reality, this is not the case in Caño Negro; here we have a village set in the middle of a wildlife reserve with good hotel accommodation, eco-tours and most of all, some excellent sportfishing. The mineral rich water of the Rio Frio flows out of the volcanic mountain range, influencing the many lagoons that comprise the complex wetland, home to many caiman, ducks, egrets, cranes and other birds. This also creates the ideal environment for aquatic insects which encourage the small baitfish to breed here and they in turn attract the bigger fish to feast on this abundant food supply.

Calm clear water lagoons are ideal for light tackle anglers seeking the various gamefish, with the tarpon dominating the interest of the fly rodders. Using Outcast PAC pontoon craft, there is no negative effect on the surrounding wetland and fishing here becomes more like a hunt, quietly stalking the cruising tarpon and enjoying the abundant wildlife seen along the banks and in the overhanging trees.
${QuickSuggestions} There is very little shopping possible in Caño Negro, so be prepared to take all necessary personal supplies with you from Jan José. The climate is hot and humid during the day, though at night it is cool at times with a fresh breeze coming off the lagoons.

Clothes should be tropical, light colored and with long sleeves and long pants. Rain showers can occur during the day, so light rainwear would be a secure addition. Insect repellant is only necessary in the evenings and early mornings. Plan your tours ahead and for fishing, there are boats and guides available.

Horseback trail trips are also very good, especially in the dry season. We had some very good horses with the guide able to get us into areas where we could easily observe many jungle and wader birds, basking caiman and even monkeys.

For fishing, the Outcast PAC pontoon boats were ideal for entering the shallow creeks and logoons, seeking the schools of feeding tarpon or casting along the shore for smaller tiger Guapote and Machacas. Most of the guides speak workable English and have a good knowledge of the wildlife and sportfish found in the Nature Reserve of Caño Negro.${BestWay} The four hour drive from San José to Caño Negro is in itself quite an adventure travelling through the mountains with cool alpine countryside and down to the tropical San Carlos plains. Though the road is generally very good, the final 15 miles to the Nature Reserve was on dirt road that was actually made of large rocks and held together by red clay. There is a regular bus service from San José via Los Chiles, but this would take a day to get here and limit the fishing time.

To get the best fishing opportunity and hooking a large tarpon, it is advisable to use the boats for hire offered by the hotel or angling outfitter. We used Fly Fish Costa Rica and their Outcast PAC pontoon craft with English speaking professional guides. At the hotel one can also make arrangements for eco-tours on covered boats to the lagoons or down the Rio Frio.

Horseback riding is best arranged ahead with a hotel contact and a local rancher. One can also undertake long trail hikes and it is very necessary to take a guide on these trips since knowledge of the swampland and quicksand areas will give added security.
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

Cano Negro, Province of Alajuela

Fisherman's Club Caño Negro

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tropic on May 20, 2001

The new hotel is made up of five individual cabins with two large rooms, each having two queen size beds and modern showers with hot water. Large overhead fans provide good cool ventilation and the screened windows are an added bonus. The water and lagoon is walking distance from the cabin with the gardens open with many citrus trees. The staff are very friendly and some even speak English. It is always a good idea to keep the doors closed, to avoid intrusion by insects and other wildlife.
Fisherman's Club Cano Negro
Caño Negro
Cano Negro, Costa Rica
(506) 656 0071

Albergue Caño Negro

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Tropic on May 21, 2001

Rustic and very typical of the houses and cabins found in the swamplands of the area. The two story cabins have comfortable two bed and bunk bed rooms with shared bathrooms at ground level with some having the luxury of hot water ... others are spartan at best. There are ventilation fans and are cool, even during the day being set in among wonderful large tropical trees and open to close encounters with birds and smaller mammals. Living in such proximity with nature, one has to be careful to shake out clothes and shoes before putting them on. Scorpions are common here in the wooden structures and though not very dangerous, do sting. The host Alvero speaks no English though he tries to communicate his vast knowledge of the local wildlife and is willing to arrange very good nature tours and fishing trips. There is also camping available on the grounds and even tents for rent.
Albergue Cano Negro
Caño Negro
Cano Negro, Costa Rica

La Palmera

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Tropic on May 20, 2001

The meals are typical and family style. The menu will depend upon the available supply of the local market and is fresh with lots of rice and beans to boost the volume. This is very much a family experience and a friendly atmosphere.
Caño Negro
Cano Negro, Costa Rica

Caño Negro and Rio Frio

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tropic on May 20, 2001

The lagoon fishing is best in the early morning when the fish are cruising through the lagoons and feeding on the schools of baitfish. Tarpon can be found near the surface and the take is immediate, resulting in a great battle with lots of actobatic display. Tarpon can run from 60 lbs. to over 200 lbs. so care has to be taken in fighting and playing these big active fish. When searching silently for these fish, there will be lots of encounters with the wildlife and caiman can be seen cruising about the surface or basking on the banks. The smaller sportfish like the Machaca and Guapote are mainly hooked along the edge of the lagoons, near structure and where the lagoons empty into the river. My preference is to fish for the Tarpon first and then go for the smaller fish using lighter tackle.

Fishing the lagoons is a lot different from fishing in the Rio Frio river where there is more current and deeper pools.

Be prepared to get wet,dress accordingly and make sure the camera and film is in a dry bag.

Cano Negro and Rio Frio
Caño Negro
Cano Negro, Costa Rica

Rio Frio

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tropic on May 21, 2001

Drifting down the Rio Frio is not only a wonderful fishing experience, but also a great chance to see the wildlife and vegetation, being more like a rainforest jungle with tall trees and dense underbrush. The water is green and clear with a lot of overhanging trees and submerged logs to make casting very difficult in places. But it is worth the effort since it is here that the big fish hang out and the tropical light tackle fishing takes on a whole different scenario. We rounded a bend to find tarpon rolling in a big pool under a huge Caiba tree. Their long silver sides suggested some 100 lb. class tarpon and sporadic splashing against the bank signified they were feeding on small baitfish. Anchoring above the pool, I could make out their exact feeding area and cast the streamer fly to a position I felt would provide me with an ideal drift into their active zone. No sooner had the fly moved ten feet, a sudden stop was felt in the line, then some violent head shaking followed immediately by a great splash and the visual beauty of a giant 120 lb. tarpon taking to the air in a show of gill shaking and tail walking. The battle had begun and my guide immediately lifted the anchor and tried to give me more distance away from the leaping fish by using his oars. The trick is to not be pulled towards the fish and keep the control by bowing to every jump, striking firmly whenever the fish again entered the water. After many wonderful displays of the leaping tarpon, the fight lasted about 28 minutes and the noble fish was tired enough to be pulled alongside the pontoon craft and released by gently removing the barbless hook by hand. It quickly swam back down to its deep dark domain and we rested a while, recovering from the exercise and excitement of tangling with one of the greatest sportfish ever to inhabit our tropical waters.
Cano Negro and Rio Frio
Caño Negro
Cano Negro, Costa Rica

Caño Negro Nature Reserve

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Tropic on May 21, 2001

A very different world is found here among the large lagoons and slow flowing rivers. This tropical wetland reserve is a popular stopping point for the many migrating birds from the North and the lagoons offer the ideal habitat for caiman, gar and many other fish. The wildlife is abundant and can give a visitor the best wetland experience found in our tropics with easy access for ecological tours and light tackle anglers.

For many years, Caño Negro was isolated and a near island in the middle of the water world and marshes that surrounded it. Getting there was only possible by boat and in the dry season, horses and oxcarts supplied some communication. Then a road was build and the area became available to tourists, radically changing the economy and encouraging new eco-hotels and guide operations. The Park Guards exercise a strict control on the use of the Reserve and have an information center to offer tourism assistance and receive the fees charged on a daily basis for visiting the area.

So why do the Tarpon come here? Well, I think for same reasons we do ... this is a place full of interesting hidden spots, mineral rich water with lots of good healthy food, friendship and an ambiance that can certainly be considered Nature's Spa.

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