I met Kelly Owens, owner of Rancho Tropical in Golfito, Costa Rica, at the last Reno SCI show. After talking several times with a very personable Kelly and taking some brochures home to share with my kids, I felt this might be a place I would like to visit for a future fishing trip.
Costa Rica has long been one place on my bucket list that I’ve very much wanted to visit, so at the 2015 Las Vegas SCI show, with my 13-year-old granddaughter in tow, we again visited with Kelly. My granddaughter was sold, so I booked the December fishing trip to coincide with Christmas school break for the grandkids.
Joining me on this trip was my wife, Linda Lorraine Darcey; my daughter, Carrie Lorraine Darcey; my granddaughter, Aspen Lorraine Darcey; my son-in-law Greg Klepzig; and my other granddaughter, seven-year-old Reesa Darcey Brown.
We were met at the Golfito airport by Brenda, Kelly’s sister, and then taken by water taxi to the lodge. We stowed our gear in the comfortable cabañas and the kids went swimming in the pool.
On the first day we all motored offshore in one of Kelly’s well equipped 31-foot Bertram boats with Captain Keith at the helm and Devis and Jeremy as deck hands. With four bait lines and four teaser lines out, we were ready for whatever. Within an hour we had our first hookup–a Pacific sailfish that Carrie fought for about 10 minutes before it broke off. Not to worry though, for within an hour we had another sailfish hooked up. That one Carrie successfully fought for 20 minutes and got it landed. We gently released the fish after taking pictures and then, an hour later, we had another hookup and this time 13-year-old Aspen got her first chance with a sailfish. After a fine fight with lots of jumps she had her first sail boated.
Greg was hooked up an hour later, but lost his after several spectacular jumps. He did manage to bring in two nice dorado in the 25-pound range, as did Reesa. Aspen hooked up and landed her second sailfish, with the last hookup of the day belonging to Grandma Linda. She fought the beautiful sailfish, which did its share of tail-walking, right up to the boat for pictures. Six hook ups with four landed seemed like a pretty good first day to me, and that night we had grilled mahi-mahi for supper.
The next day everyone wanted to try some inshore fishing for a change. The grandkids had a blast jigging for baitfish, sometimes catching three or four at a time. We didn’t find any rooster fish, but we did hook into several 10-pound cubera snappers, a few jack cravalles and finally a brute 45-pound cubera. Aspen fought the big fish for 20 minutes with the lighter inshore fishing tackle, then asked grandpa to give it a go, as “my arms feel like jelly,” according to her. Grandpa horsed on the fish for another 20 minutes, gaining line, only to have it stripped off again and again. Just when I was about to give up and pass the rod to my son-in-law, the leader finally showed. We had him–almost 1/2 mile from the rocks where we initially hooked up.
By the third day, many in our party were fish-weary so my daughter Carrie and I had the big boat all to ourselves. By 8 that morning, she had her first sail hooked, landed and released, but after then we had a dry spell of more than three hours. Captain Keith kept trolling farther and farther off shore until we were about 25 miles out where we started seeing sailfish leaping out of the water after baitfish, sometimes three and four at time. Keith swung the boat around and trolled off to the edge of the baitfish and Wham! we had a hookup, then Wham! another hookup and Wham! another hookup! With three sails on and reel drags screaming, Carrie and I each fought a fish while a deck hand held the other rod to keep the lines from tangling. The ensuing “fire drill” back and forth across the stern trying to keeps lines from tangling worked. What a thrill seeing three hooked up sails dancing across the Pacific.
After all were landed and all released, Captain Keith circled back again and we repeated the same scenario! Three sails hooked up, same fire drill, three sails landed and released. I looked up at Captain Keith and shouted “No mas!” He laughed and replied, “no way,” and made one more pass—this time for a double that Carrie and I both landed and released.
We finished the day out with three more hook ups–all landed. One sail, a real monster, took me almost 30 minutes of give and take to get in. At one point, he had all of my line out, plus 200 yards of backing and I still had trouble stopping him. Finally, when it was all said and done we had him at the stern to unhook and revive. He was right at 7 feet long (as wide as the boat) with a huge girth. With 12 sailfish hookups and landed between us, I felt like that was an epic day of fishing to be sure.
The final day was a bit of a let down compared to day three. We couldn’t find the large concentrations of sails, but little Reesa was able to get one first thing in the morning, proclaiming as she reeled, “I wanna do it myself grandpa, but stay close by.” With a little moral support from grandpa, her sail was brought in for photos then released. We caught several mahi-mahi (dorado) and we had lots and lots of sailfish strikes, but no further hookups.
In four days, we were able to catch and release 16 sailfish, not to mention all of the dorados, snappers and jacks. We also saw several green sea turtles along with rays, dolphins and three species of whale and were able to bring 30 pounds of frozen snapper and mahi-mahi fillets back to the States. It was a fine family vacation, but having all three Lorraines catch and release their sailfish in one day, for me, was very special.–Frank Darcey