Costa Rica is not often considered a freshwater fishing destination. Anglers typically imagine fighting a spectacular leaping billfish, or slicing fresh sashimi from a Yellowfin Tuna. However, anglers targeting Gar, often called Needlefish, will be particularly pleased. Among the largest freshwater fish in North America, Gar weighing more than 300 lbs. have been pulled from Costa Rican waters.
Gar fishing in Costa Rica is a magnet for European anglers, especially those coming from Lithuania, Russia, the Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Gar can weigh up to 300 pounds
When you fish for Gar or Needlefish in Costa Rica, you will be fishing for a species of Gar that has two rows of large, needle-like teeth and weigh around 100 lbs. on average, although the fish can reach lengths in excess of eight feet and weights of more than 300 lbs. In Costa Rica, most Gar caught will weigh between 25 and 100lbs. They are called Gaspar by the locals.
Many Costa Rican sport fishing guides who have boats in the Caño Negro lagoon and Rio Frio near the Nicaragua border, and especially in the Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado region on the Caribbean coast, specialize in freshwater Gar fishing and angling.
Gar fishing in Costa Rica best when it is dry
Gar are caught year round, but Gar fishing in Costa Rica seems to be best during the dry season, from April-June and then September through January on the Caribbean coast. With lower water levels, the Gar are more concentrated. The aggressive tropical Gar are more than willing to smash a lure or race off with live bait.
Gar share a home with Tarpon and Shark
The Gar/Needlefish habitat in Costa Rica tends to be, essentially, a tropical swamp. It shares its home with many Costa Rican sportfishing species that can be exciting to see and catch, such as Tarpon and Guapote. Gar on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica share an aquatic habitat with the Bull Shark, which often frequent fresh water, as do Caiman and Crocodiles.
Anglers who decide to fish Costa Rica for Gar will want a sturdy big-game rod and a heavy-duty spinning or bait casting reel, since the big Gar in Costa Rica tend to be in the 100lb range.
Catch-and-release Costa Rica Gar fishing
Gar are not food fish, and should therefore be released. You will need a steel leader to get the Gar to the boat without having your line bitten through. Anglers who go Gar fishing in Costa Rica should keep a pair of wire cutters close at hand to release the fish while avoiding its many strong, needle-like teeth.
Crankbaits, plugs and large chunks of live bait are effective. Use barbless hooks or flatten the barbs on existing lures to make for easier hook removal or, if the Gar swallows the hook, disgorgement.
Costa Rica Charters for Needlefish
- Rio Indio Lodge for Nicaragua fishing
- Areas Fished: Nicaragua
- Target Species: Jack, Shark, Tarpon, Snook, Guapote (Rainbow Bass), Machaca, Mojarra, Needlefish (Gar)
- 22ft Bull Shark for Caribbean fishing
- Areas Fished: Tortuguero, Barra del Colorado, Nicaragua
- Target Species: Snapper, Jack, Shark, Tarpon, Snook, Guapote (Rainbow Bass), Machaca, Mojarra, Needlefish (Gar)