Lake Arenal, Costa Rica Fishing

Arenal offers a different type of fishing than other areas within Costa Rica, learn more about the species available in this lake region.


Map of the fishing areas in Lake Arenal Costa RicaOne of the few prime spots for freshwater fishing in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal, in the center of the country next to the Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations.

See Which Charters Fish the Lake Arenal Area

Lake Arenal is a 33-mile long, man-made lake created in 1972-1976 by filling a valley with water, and used to produce hydroelectric power for Costa Rica. The town of La Fortuna, three hours from San José, with its hotels offering fabulous volcano views; its hot springs; fine dining, boutiques, volcano and zip-line tours, is the most popular Lake Arenal fishing destination.

Arenal offers freshwater Costa Rica fishing

Fishing in the Arenal region is one of the many activites available.Lake Arenal is rather shallow on the far west end, and up to 180 feet deep at the east end nearest the volcano. As the lake levels change during the year, many islands appear and disappear, making it tricky to navigate at low water levels. Fishing is at its best when waters are low. So the period with the least rain, between November and June, is the peak time for those wanting to enjoy Lake Arenal freshwater fishing.

Lake Arenal fishing can be a great experience for the serious angler or novice. Lake Arenal is world-famous for its feisty Guapote, called Rainbow Bass in the English-speaking sportfishing world. Lake Arenal also has another hard-fighting freshwater fish to entice anglers contemplating a Costa Rica sportfishing vacation: the small Machaca, which looks like a Piranha on steroids with its rows of razor sharp teeth.

Guapote is a prize Costa Rican sportfishing species

Lake fishing while in the Arenal region of Costa RicaGuapote is a hard-fighting fish that loves to lurk tight on the cover, in the shoreline grass, or, when the lake levels are low — fallen trees, stumps, and ledges that are just under the surface. Early mornings are when Guapote move in tight on the points to hunt sardines for an early meal.

Fly fishing in Costa Rica on Lake Arenal for Guapote is very similar to fishing for Largemouth Bass in the States. Poppers are a favorite, as are floating foam flies with crystal flash.

Fly fishing or conventional tackle on Lake Arenal

Conventional casting is another, more relaxing method. There is no need for a heavy rod; a 6wt or 8wt is perfect for the job of getting in close to shore and near the cover where fish hide. Using a 6′ leader is best, with 3′ of 13# fluorocarbon tippet.

Big Guapote tend to be very tight on most points, waiting for you to drop the fly on their nose. Many of the Guapote caught fishing in Costa Rica will be taken on top water flies. However, the Clouser Minnow with a sink line can produce some nice fish, and the strikes are really hard.

Machaca feast on very small bait

Machaca are a different breed to take on the fly. They don’t like large flies, and are mostly curious as to what has just landed in their territory. Most are taken on the surface, but they will take very small bait patterns sub-surface. Machaca are a schooling fish, unlike Guapote, so anglers fishing Lake Arenal might catch several in one area.

Lake Arenal Area Fishing Charters

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