Costa Rica Game Fish and Fishing Seasons
Sailfish are two species of fishes in the genus Istiophorus, living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world. They are blue to grey in color and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back. Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins.
Both species of sailfishes grow quickly, reaching 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft) in length in a single year, and feed on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic forage fish and squid. Individuals have been clocked at speeds of up to 110 km/h (70 mph), which is the highest speed reliably reported in a fish. Generally, sailfish do not grow to more than 3 m (10 ft) in length and rarely weigh over 90 kg (200 lb), although larger specimens have been seen off the shores of Costa Rica.
The sail is normally kept folded down and to the side when swimming, but it may be raised when the sailfish feels threatened or excited, making the fish appear much larger than it actually is. This tactic has also been observed during feeding, when a group of sailfish use their sails to “herd” a school of fish or squid.
Sailfish are highly prized game fish and are known for their incredible jumps. The sailfish also turns its body light blue with stripes when excited, confusing some fish and making it easier to catch prey. The Indo-pacific sailfish is related to the Marlin.
It is theorized by marine biologists that the ‘sail’ (dorsal fin array) of the sailfish may serve the purpose of a cooling and heating system for this fish; this due to a network of a large number blood vessels found in the sail and because of “sail-raising” behaviour exhibited by the sailfish at of near the surface waters after or before high-speed bursts.
Marlin, Istiophoridae, is a “billfish” and is closely linked to freshwater trout. A marlin has an elongated body, a spear-like snout or bill, and a long rigid dorsal fin, which extends forward to form a crest. Its common name is thought to derive from its resemblance to a sailor’s marlinspike. Even more so than their close relatives the scombrids, marlin are incredibly fast swimmers, reaching speeds of about 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph).
The larger species include the Atlantic blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, which can reach 5.968 metres (19.58 ft) in length and 818 kilograms (1,800 lb) in weight, and the Black marlin, Makaira indica, which can reach in excess of 5 metres (16 ft) in length and 670 kilograms (1,500 lb) in weight. They are popular sporting fish in tropical areas.
Marlin are rarely table fare, appearing mostly in fine restaurants. Most modern sport fishermen release marlin after unhooking. However, the old fisherman in Ernest Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and the Sea was storied to have caught an 18-foot (5.5 m) marlin to sell its meat. Very large marlin, which may set a record, are taken and weighed on shore. Records are most often recorded in the IGFA World Record Game Fish books.
Tuna are ocean-dwelling carnivorous fish in the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers?they have been clocked at 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph)?and include several warm-blooded species. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, tuna flesh is pink to dark red, which could explain their odd nick-name, “rose of the sea.” The red coloring comes from tuna muscle tissue’s greater quantities of myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule. Some of the larger species, such as the bluefin tuna, can raise their blood temperature above water temperature through muscular activity. This ability enables them to live in cooler waters and to survive in a wide range of ocean environments.
While many stocks are managed sustainably, it is widely accepted that bluefin have been severely overfished, with some stocks at risk of collapse.
The Eastern Pacific Ocean bigeye is also in need of better management in order to maintain sustainability, leading the world’s major canneries involved with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to agree to not accept that stock if meaningful conservation measures are not put in place by September 1, 2009.
The Mahi-Mahi (in Hawaiian) (Coryphaena hippurus) also known as dolphin-fish or dorado, rakingo, calitos, maverikos, or lampuka (in Maltese) are surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They are one of only two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the Pompano dolphinfish.
Although its common name is dolphin-fish, the mahi-mahi is a fish not a dolphin, and is not at all related to the Delphinidae family of mammals whose common name is simply dolphin. An alternative name for mahi-mahi is simply dolphin, or common dolphin. The English language adopted the Hawaiian word, mahi-mahi without formalizing its spelling. The American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, cites the preferred spelling (occurring ?more frequently?) as the hyphenated mahi-mahi. The secondary spelling is the single word, mahimahi, with the identical Hawaiian word given as the derivational source. But Webster?s Unabridged, second edition, reverses this preference order, preferring the single word to the hyphenated version, as does the Oxford English Dictionary (2000 draft entry).
Linnaeus named the genus, derived from the Greek word, koryphe, meaning top or apex, in 1758. Synonyms for the species include Coryphaena argyrurus, Coryphaena chrysurus and Coryphaena dolfyn.
Mahi-mahi live 4 to 5 years. Catches average 7 to 13 kilograms (15 to 29 lb). They seldom exceed 15 kilograms (33 lb), and any mahi-mahi over 18 kilograms (40 lb) is exceptional.
Mahi-mahi have compressed bodies and long dorsal fins extending nearly the entire length of their bodies. Their anal fins are sharply concave. They are distinguished by dazzling colors: golden on the sides, bright blues and greens on the sides and back. Mature males have prominent foreheads protruding well above the body proper. Females have a rounded head. Females are also usually smaller than males.
Out of the water, the fish often change color among several hues (giving rise to their Spanish name, Dorado Maverikos, “Golden Maverick”), finally fading to a muted yellow-grey upon death.
Mahi-mahi are among the fastest-growing fish. They spawn in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year, and their young are commonly found in seaweed.
Mahi-mahi are carnivorous, feeding on flying fish, crabs, squid, mackerel, and other forage fish. They have also been known to eat zooplankton and crustaceans.
Mahi?mahi’s taste resembles other whitefish such as flounder, and tilapia.
The Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) is a dark blue scombrid fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. Its speed and high-quality flesh make it a prize game fish. In Hawaii, the fish is known as ono. Hispanic areas of the Caribbean and Central America call it Peto.
The body is elongated and covered with small, scarcely visible scales; the back is an iridescent blue-green, while the sides are silvery, with a pattern of vertical blue bars. These colors fade rapidly at death. The mouth is large, and both the upper and lower jaws have a somewhat sharper appearance than those of king or Spanish mackerel. Specimens have been recorded at up to 2.5 m (8 ft) in length, and weighing up to 83 kg (180 lb.) Growth can be rapid. One specimen tagged at 5 kg (11 lb) grew to 15 kg (33 lb) in one year. Wahoo can swim up to 80 km/h (50 mph), Firestein and Walters, 1969. They are one of the fastest fish in the sea.
The wahoo may be distinguished from the related king mackerel by a fold of skin which covers the mandible when its mouth is closed. In contrast, the mandible of the king mackerel is always visible as is also the case for Spanish and Cero mackerels. Their teeth are similar to those of king mackerel, but shorter and more closely set together. Do not mistake Barracuda for Wahoo. Barracuda have prominent scales, are greenish in color and lack the characteristic blade-like tail characteristic of the mackerel/tuna family of fish.
The Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis, is a game fish common in the marine waters surrounding Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama, and in the eastern Pacific, from California to Peru. It is the only fish in the genus Nematistius and the family Nematistiidae. It is distinguished by its “rooster comb”, seven very long spines of the dorsal fin.
The roosterfish has an unusual arrangement of its ears: the swim bladder penetrates the brain through the large foramina and makes contact with the inner ear. It uses its swim bladder to amplify sounds.
Rooster fish can reach 4 feet in length and over one hundred pounds. The weight of the average fish hooked is about 20 pounds. The fish is popular as a game fish, but like most fish in the jack family (besides the amberjack and California Yellowtail) it is not considered a good eating fish.
The Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, is a reef fish found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States. The original name in Latin American Spanish is Huachinango or Pargo.
The red snapper commonly inhabits waters from 30 to 200 ft (10 to 60 m), but can be caught as deep as 300 ft (100 m) or more on occasion. They stay relatively close to the bottom, and inhabit rocky bottom, ledges, ridges, and artificial reefs, including offshore oil rigs and shipwrecks.
The red snapper’s body is very similar in shape to other snappers, such as the mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, lane snapper, and dog snapper. All feature a sloped profile, medium-to-large scales, a spiny dorsal fin and a laterally compressed body. Red snappers have short, sharp, needle-like teeth, however they lack the prominent upper canine teeth found on the mutton, dog, and mangrove snappers.
Coloration of the red snapper is light red, with more intense pigment on the back. Juvenile fish can also have a dark spot on their side which fades with age.
Like most other snappers, red snappers are gregarious and will form large schools around wrecks and reefs. These schools are usually made up of fish of very similar size.
Red snapper are a prized food fish and are caught commercially, as well as recreationally. Commercially, they are caught on multi-hook gear with electric reels, as gill netting has been banned in the Gulf of Mexico, from which most of the commercial harvest comes. Snapper constitute a major industry in the Gulf of Mexico, however recent changes in the quota system for commercial Snapper fishermen in the Gulf have made the fish less commercially viable.
Genetic studies have shown, however, that many fish sold as red snapper in the USA are not actually L. campechanus, but other species in the family. This kind of seafood mislabeling is probably common with species that suffer from heavy overfishing, and whose stocks are depleted to the point that supply cannot keep up with demand.
Red snapper will eat almost anything, but prefer small fish and crustaceans. They can be caught on live bait as well as cut bait, and will also take artificial lures, but with less vigor. They are commonly caught up to 10 lb (4.5 kg) and 20 inches (50 cm) in length, however there have been fish taken over 40 lb (18 kg).
A red snapper attains sexual maturity at age 2-5 and an adult snapper can live for more than 50 years. The vibrant red color of these fish comes from high levels of carotenoid pigments, largely astaxanthin, coming from shrimp in their natural diet.
The Cero Mackerel, Scomberomorus regalis, is similar in appearance and coloration to the Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus except that the Cero has a longitudinal stripe in addition to the spots of the Spanish. The Cero reaches larger sizes than the Spanish, often 10 lb or more, but those over 30 lb are extremely rare. The first dorsal fin is black anteriorly, the lateral line descends slowly from the shoulder without the sharp break seen on the king mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla. Fishing methods and prey are similar to those of the Spanish mackerel.
Groupers are fish of any of a number of genera in the subfamily Epinephelinae of the family Serranidae, in the order Perciformes.
Not all serranids are called groupers; the family also includes the sea basses. The common name grouper is usually given to fish in one of two large genera: Epinephelus and Mycteroperca. In addition, the species classified in the small genera Anyperidon, Cromileptes, Dermatolepis, Gracila, Saloptia and Triso are also called groupers. Fish classified in the genus Plectropomus are referred to as coral groupers. These genera are all classified in the subfamily Epiphelinae. However, some of the hamlets (genus Alphestes), the hinds (genus Cephalopholis), the lyretails (genus Variola) and some other small genera (Gonioplectrus, Niphon, Paranthias) are also in this subfamily, and occasional species in other serranid genera have common names involving the word “grouper”. Nonetheless, the word “groupers” on its own is usually taken as meaning the subfamily Epinephelinae.
The crevalle jack, Caranx hippos (also known as the common jack, black-tailed trevally, couvalli jack, black cavalli and yellow cavalli) is a common species of large marine fish classified within the jack family, Carangidae. The crevalle jack is distributed across the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from Nova Scotia, Canada to Uruguay in the west Atlantic and Portugal to Angola in the east Atlantic, including the Mediterranean Sea. The crevalle jack is distinguishable from similar species by its deep body, fin colouration and a host of more detailed anatomical features including fin ray and lateral line scale counts. It is one of the largest fish in the genus Caranx, growing to a maximum known length of 124 cm and a weight of 32 kg, although is rare at lengths greater than 60 cm. The crevalle jack inhabits both inshore and offshore waters to depths of around 350 m, predominantly over reefs, bays, lagoons and occasionally estuaries. Young fish dispersed north by currents in the eastern Atlantic are known to migrate back to more tropical waters before the onset of winter; however if the fish fail to migrate, mass mortalities occur as the temperature falls below the species tolerance limits.
The crevalle jack is a powerful predatory fish, with extensive studies showing the species consumes a variety of small fish, with invertebrates such as prawns, shrimps, crabs, molluscs and cephalopods also of minor importance. Dietary shifts with both age, location and season have been demonstrated, which led some researchers to postulate the species is indiscriminant in its feeding habits. The crevalle jack reaches maturity at 55 cm in males and 66 cm in females, with spawning taking place year round, although peaks in activity have been documented in several sites. The larval and juvenile growth has been extensively studied, with the oldest known individual 17 years of age. The crevalle jack is an important species to commercial fisheries throughout its range, with annual catches ranging between 1000 and 30 000 tonnes over its entire range. It is taken by a variety of netting methods including purse nets, seines and gill nets as well as hook and line methods. The crevalle jack is also a revered gamefish, taken both by lures and bait. The species is considered of good to poor quality table fair is sold fresh, frozen, preserved or as fishmeal or oil at market. The crevalle jack is closely related to both the Pacific crevalle jack and the longfin crevalle jack, the latter of which has been extensively confused with the true crevalle jack until recently.
The Centropomidae (Snook or Robalo) are a single genus family of freshwater and marine fishes in Order Perciformes, including the common snook or r?balo, Centropomus undecimalis. Prior to 2004, three other genera were placed in Centropomidae in subfamily Latinae, which has since been raised to the family level and renamed Latidae because a cladistic analysis showed the old Centropomidae to be paraphyletic. Each of the four species (fat, swordspine, common, and tarpon) can be easily identified by their lateral black line. They are good tablefare, and are a sought after gamefish but tricky to catch.
Dating from the upper Cretaceous, the centropomids are of typical percoid shape, distinguished by having two-part dorsal fins, a lateral line that extends onto the tail, and, frequently, a concave shape to the head. They range from 35 centimetres (14 in) to 120 centimetres (47 in) in length and are found in tropical and subtropical waters.
There are two species of Tarpon, one native to the Atlantic, and the other to the Indo-Pacific oceans. They are the only members of the family Megalopidae and genus Megalops.
Tarpon are large coastal fish growing up to 8 feet in length. They are large-headed, relatively slender silver-sided fish with extremely large scales.
Tarpon are prized by anglers for their leaping, head-shaking fight. However they have little to no food value and are normally released un-harmed.
When swimming in oxygen-poor water, tarpons can breathe air from the surface using their swim bladder as a primitive lung. They have leptocephalic larvae similar to those of eels, which float in surface waters before taking on the adult form, at which time they migrate to inshore waters where they mature before returning to the ocean . The genus name derives from the Greek adjective- megalos meaning “large”, and the noun – ops, meaning “face”.