Costa Rican Tip Ups
One of our goals during our first year here in Costa Rica is to explore. We have started to do that, hitting new communities, new beaches, new areas. One thing has been pretty consistent on most beaches and that is the Tico fishing style. Instead of the Lamiglass rods and Berkley reels of the Kenai River, they use plastic reels and wind up some 20 pound mono filament, a small hook and they are good to go. Instead of neoprene waders or lightweight waders, they wade waist to neck-deep, barefoot and in shorts.
This past weekend we spent the day at Panama Beach and met a local fisherman. He was about 18 years old, tall, dark and slender with black wavy hair. His hands had nicks and cuts and thin burn like scars, most likely from hand holding the monofilament with fish on the line. I regretfully did not get his name, but we attempted to converse for quite a while over a topic we both had interest in, fishing. It was amazing to watch him fish, and like all fisherman he loved to talk about his fishing.
The first thing on his list, find some bait on the beach. I think what he used was a very small hermit crab, which he deftly removed it from its tiny shell and put it on a very small hook, one you may use to catch minnows. The hook was below a very small bell weight. He then would wade knee-deep into the water and while holding a white plastic roll in his left hand, he would toss the hook 10 feet off the beach and wait. It didn’t take long before he would be whisking a 4-6 inch sardine in. Quickly he would yank the hook out of the mouth a the sardine and then run to his yellow or black plastic roll and hurriedly run a bigger hook through the back of the sardine and race back down to the water. This time he would go much deeper, at least to his waist. Then like Roy Rogers he would swing the live sardine on the hook and weight over his head like he was going to lasso a bull and then sling it out as far as he could. By my estimates it was 25-30 feet off shore. Then it would sit. He would put the reel in the sand, put a little sand on it and go get the white reel to catch another sardine for his second line.
On this particular day it seemed to be good fishing, as I could see the sardines flying out of the water as they were being chased by game fish. Every once in a while I would even see the flip of a tail, or splash of the head of a game fish. Within minutes my friend was sprinting back to his reel as it was being drug down the beach; Fish on! Then the work began. I don’t know if you have ever fished with a hand line, no rod, no reel, just you the fish and the line in your hand. But it can be an extremely painful experience as monofilament burns skin rather easily as it slides through your hand.
As he picked the line up he would sprint straight up the beach to set the hook. Then as he wound up the line back on the reel, he would come back down to the shoreline. From then on it was a typical fisherman’s fight. He would pull in some line, make some headway and then the fish decided to run and would snap the line through his hand and of the reel. I could tell it hurt because after every run he would glance at his hand and then quickly splash it in the ocean before starting another pull. This would go on four or five times until the fish came to shore. When it was close, he would again back up the beach. What I found interesting was that he didn’t “bonk” the fish, didn’t kill the fish or anything, he just left it and grabbed his other reel. The fish, in turn, just laid on the beach.
On this day I watched him catch and land three fish. They were all about 10-15 pounds and they all put up a decent fight. The last one I caught on video and he had a tough time with that one ” grande, grande” he kept telling me. Now I wasn’t able to fully understand what kind of fish they were, but through a little research I figured out they were Jack Crevalle, not a highly prized food fish, but food none-the-less. Not food directly for him, food because he would sell the fish and use that money to buy food. He earned the money just as much from the cleaning of the fish as from the catching, because he used a butter knife to clean it. Yes a typical American butter knife to clean all three fish.
At the end of the day, fish cleaned, lines out of the water, fish washed in the water from whence they came,he slings the three Jacks over his shoulder and pushes his beat up blue bicycle off the beach. Before he gets 100 feet he already has at least one fish sold, and maybe more. As he exits the beach the little tico kids all surround him to gawk at the days catch, a hero in their eyes as he pauses to tell them how he caught the fish so quickly and about that goofy gringo that kept asking him a million times ” what kind of fish is that? ” Perhaps next time I will join him and learn the Costa Rican twitch with the Costa Rican tip ups.
This is an unedited video of his last catch of the day.