Update from Osa Eden

My friend Michael Morger forwarded me an article about Costa Rica and the Osa Peninsula this week (published in the Washington Post), and I decided to include it with the photos from our last week there in February (note the location of our home which is very close to Drake Bay – the community featured in the article).  Katie, Rod Mergardt and I drove over three mountain passes and across 4 rivers a few weeks ago to Drake bay and the challenging drive and beautiful scenery (only covering 24 KM) was well worth the undertaking.

Katie and I are back in Bozeman for another two weeks and are planning the next expedition down to Osa Eden that will begin on March 28th.

The attached pictures highlight the incredible inshore fishing we had where we managed to catch a few sailfish and some monster Cubera Snapper (in the 20 pound class).  As we were fishing just off the extended Panama Peninsula, we were shocked to see a horse along the beach that must have been owned by the homeowner of this incredible “open air hut” that was precariously positioned on a bench just above the beach (see photos).

Also a shout out to Tosh (Cory’s son) who managed to land a monster Yellowfin Tuna in the 150 pound class (the largest of the season).  It took several hours and an epic battle but Tosh prevailed and the entire town of Puerto Jimenez enjoyed a feast for several days.

More to follow in the next few weeks.

T.O.

Costa Rica’s ‘biologically intense’ Osa Peninsula is truly wild


A wild chestnut-mandibled toucan sits on a branch in Drake Bay, on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. (Alamy Stock Photo)

Squawking parrots fly tree to tree, waking up the little village of Drake Bay on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. They’re right on time, shortly after 5 a.m., a fine hour to get up and enjoy the cool of morning before heat and humidity set in. I throw on shorts and tennies and hit the nearby jungle path that heads south along the coast, stepping carefully, trying not to make noise: heel first, roll the sole, shhhh.

They know I’m there. I can feel their eyes on me as I move, see bits of them through trees: a foot-long, spiky iguana regarding me with a prehistoric stare; a white-faced capuchin monkey throwing an inquisitive glance from a tree; a macaw, in primary reds and blues and yellows, rolling a hooded eye from on high. Venomous vipers hide in undergrowth, spiders in tree bark. A morpho butterfly flashes Avatar blue.

I am surrounded by animals — not tourists, whose voices are happily missing from the symphony of sawing katydids, chirping frogs and singing birds. Here, I’m species .000001. The sensation is lush, primordial, an eco-immersion in one of the great untamed wildlife kingdoms of the world.

National Geographic has described the remote Osa Peninsula as one of the most “biologically intense” places on Earth. It hosts more than 50 percent of the country’s animal and plant species, while covering only 3 percent of Costa Rica’s land area.

Here, animals rule, nature-lovers drool. And locals struggle to find a balance between making money off nature and protecting it. They’ve seen too many other dreamy green eco-destinations undone by development and rampant tourism. “There’s a fear that this place may get ruined, like so many beautiful places in Costa Rica,” says a longtime resident who has watched wealthy developers picking up properties up and down the coast in recent years.

The area’s best protection may be its isolation. Drake Bay can be challenging to get to.

Osa Casa

Driving on the rough 4×4 dirt road that leads to Drake Bay is dicey in bad weather, and car-rental companies may not allow it. There are multiple river crossings that can flood and become impassable. A few buses make the trip, but the ride can be scary. “I wasn’t sure we were going to make it,” said one intrepid European traveler arriving by bus at the end of rainy season.

Flying in a prop plane from San Jose to Drake Bay’s small domestic airport is relatively easy. But most people come by boat from the docks of Sierpe, a small, sleepy town a little more than an hour’s boat ride north. It’s cheaper, and the breathtaking boat journey, with wet-exit finale, offers a proper introduction to this wild corner of the world.

We arrive an hour early at the docks, find our captain and check out the hulking 400-horsepower outboard on the stern of our canopied boat. A nearby boat has twin 250s. The trip to Drake Bay was nearly impossible before the advent of these high-powered brutes, a crew member tells us.

The captain cruises through the calm, mangrove-lined Rio Sierpe, stopping to check out baby crocs on the shore, then revs and heads into the tricky intersection where river meets sea. It is a mass of confusion today, water headed every which way, with black rocks jutting up through swells and surf. Our captain navigates expertly outside the river mouth and inside the break. Despite a few soakings when the boat goes airborne and slaps back down, we arrive safely at our destination, exiting the boat’s stern and wading ashore in knee-deep water to be greeted warmly by local “ticos,” as Costa Ricans call themselves.


Most visitors come to Drake Bay by boat from the docks of Sierpe, a small, sleepy town a little more than an hour’s boat ride north. (Alamy Stock Photo)

We’ve come to Drake Bay from Manuel Antonio, whose national park and easy access from the capital of San Jose make it one of the most visited spots in Costa Rica. Tourists jam beaches and souvenir stands and queue up to get into the park, where some animals have become habituated to humans. Raccoons and monkeys are known to grab backpacks, unzip them and steal snacks and body wipes. (A guide told us that clever capuchins love to clean themselves with the wipes.) It’s cute, but sad. Definitely not natural behavior.

Drake Bay is a 180-degree contrast, a quiet kickback place with a climbing, rocky dirt road for a main drag, two little grocery stores on opposite sides of it, and a sprinkling of hostels, no-frills cabins, private rentals and small restaurants. The fancier lodges and eco-resorts, including luxurious all-inclusives, are tucked farther away in the jungle. There is no disco here, no museum, no boutique shops or galleries, just one or two beach vendors and a tiny souvenir store. Don’t expect to use a bank or ATM: There aren’t any. Bring a good stash of U.S. dollars or Costa Rican colones; locals accept both and may not take credit cards.

The up-and-down jungle trail I hike in the morning is a jewel. It leads across a short suspension bridge to a string of pretty coves and beaches. Well-prepared hikers (Sunscreen! Water! DEET!) can trek the path for hours one way. I smile when I spot a large steppingstone along the trail that reads: “Costa Rica, un pais de paz y amor.” It’s perfect. Costa Rica, the enlightened nation with no standing army, a literacy rate over 97 percent and about a quarter of its land under protection, is “a country of peace and love.” Yes!


A black-throated trogon at Corcovado National Park, a pristine primary rain forest that occupies almost half of the Osa Peninsula. (M.L. Lyke for The Washington Post)

The pace in Drake Bay is easy, evident in a hand-lettered sign advising visitors: “Go slow. You already are in paradise.” Slow is easy to do on the beach below, a long, uncrowded crescent of sand backing up on jungle. The protected water of Drake Bay — named for a 16th-century visitor named Sir Francis Drake — is warm, the surf gentle. Friendly town dogs wander the beach greeting old friends and new, rolling in the sand, splashing in the surf and chasing horses that, freed from saddles and reins, break into a full gallop across the open expanse.

Popping up everywhere around town are signs advertising tours for whale and dolphin watching, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, birdwatching, hiking, and snorkeling and diving on nearby Cano Island. (Unfortunately for us, it’s December, and waters are still too murky to snorkel.)

One of the most unusual tours happens by night.

We meet up with Tracie, the Bug Lady, at dusk along the jungle trail. Tracie Stice has a degree in biology, with a specialty in entomology. Her husband, Gianfranco Gomez, who joins us, is a naturalist and photographer. For years, they’ve been documenting the nocturnal creatures of Drake Bay and introducing tourists to the animals’ wonderfully weird ways.

They give us headlamps and we head down the familiar path into an unfamiliar world of glow-in-the-dark fungi and spider eyeshine. We see pygmy rain frogs the size of a fingernail, giant walking sticks, millipedes that give off cyanide, gladiator tree frogs that fight to the death to protect their nests and a creepy tailless whip scorpion that Stice handles like a dear old friend.

Gomez charts the activity of bats with a detector that tracks their echolocation. They swoop above our heads like gray shadows as he explains that there are only three species of vampire bats in the world — “and all three are here.” A delicious chill runs down my spine. This, I think, is “nightlife” at its finest.

The ultimate, must-do tour here is an excursion to nearby Corcovado National Park, a pristine primary rain forest that occupies almost half the Osa Peninsula. The isolated park provides refuge for multitudes of animals and plants that might otherwise be extinct, including jaguars and pumas, Baird’s tapirs, giant anteaters and harpy eagles. It is, says one tour guide, a “different planet.”

Reservations are a must, made through hotels or private operators. You can’t go without a certified guide, and the number of daily visitors is strictly, thankfully, limited to protect wildlife. We choose a $90 one-day excursion with a guide, lunch at a ranger’s station and boat transportation.

Our boat picks us up at 6 a.m. on the beach — about 45 minutes after the parrot alarm clock goes off in town. Ninety minutes later, we’re wading ashore at Corcovado, changing water shoes for hiking shoes and meeting our guide, a biologist with a long spotting scope, keen eye and quick wit. “Let’s go see whatever wants to say hello this morning,” he says in his lilting Spanglish.

The first thing he shows us are tapir tracks in the sand, the next a stern committee of redheaded turkey vultures, drying wings spread five feet wide on the beach. A raccoon-like coati-mundi pops up from the scrub, and lizard eyes follow us as we exit the sweltering beach and enter the shaded jungle, searching trees for toucans and macaws and exquisitely painted little birds, such as the black-throated trogon with its yellow breast and swanky, black-and-white patterned tail.

The rumble in the jungle begins as a distant, deep-throated roar. We follow the sound to a tree full of howler monkeys. The leaves shudder as they jump from branch to branch, mamas carrying their young on their backs, papas hooting and whooping. Excited visitors clump below, pointing up and mesmerized.

Before the day is done, with our guide’s trained eye, we will have seen all four species of Costa Rican monkeys: the howlers, white-faced capuchins, squirrel monkeys and spider monkeys that stage an attempted takeover of a toucan tree. The birds shriek in protest. It’s a raucous day in the wild.

Some seven hours after we came ashore, we splash back into the water and board the boat home, happy and tired. Soon, frigates and kites are wheeling above us and flying fish with wings like glass leap along the boat’s sides. I study Corcovado’s protected shores as we pass: all those empty beaches, all that crazy life teeming in the jungles behind them. The scene stretches on for mile upon mile.

I close my eyes, overcome with a sense of relief and gratitude. For here, on this untrampled peninsula, in a country of love and peace, in a world slowly paving over, there is still a place for the wild things.

Update from Costa Rica #15

It turns out the August is truly a great month to visit the Osa Peninsula in Southern Costa Rica.  The days tend to be cooler (ranging from 74 in the AM and the mid 80’s in the afternoon), a little wetter with intermittent showers and gentile breezes coming down off the mountains.

The vegetation everywhere is a deep green, the birds are active all day (vs just the mornings during the hotter summer months from January to March) and the inshore game fish are abundant.

We were here the first week with Tony Thompson and Kyong Miller and we had a great day inshore fishing with Captain Miguel Duarte.  Our first day on the water we finished with 6 Rooster fish, 8 Jack Crevalle, 1 Yellowfin Tuna, one Rainbow Runner and a Mahi.  We followed up with a spectacular sunset dinner at Playa Blanca Beach (see photo).

This week, Katie and I were out again with Miguel and although the seas were extremely rough (6 Ft. swells and thunderstorms), we managed to land 5 Rooster fish (two in the 40 pound class), three Blue Trevally, and three Rainbow Runners.  My largest Rainbow Runner was over 4 Ft. long and in the 20 pound class – an amazing fish.

Saturday night we entertained Bryan Johnson and his family (11 people)i for a massive fish barbeque to consume some of Friday’s Catch.  Bryan and his two sons (Bryce and BJ) run exclusive photography workshops for some of the world’s best nature photographers at Crocodile Bay Lodge. Based upon the photos that they shared at dinner (go to brycejohnson520 on Instagram), I have a lot of field work to do to close the gap on that level of talent.  I’m willing to take one for the team in 2020 to take another 100,000 photos to practice.  See a few of the photos they shared below…

Enjoy the photos and the next post from Costa Rica won’t be until we return on our next trip during the first week of December.

Plan your trips…

T.O.

PS:  Yes, that photo is in fact the Co-Pilot on our flight out of Puerto Jimenez today who evidently needs Tips to make ends meet.

Update from Costa Rica #13

This past week, Katie and I hosted The Karasin family (Blair, Vicki and Jack) for another Osa Eden Rainforest adventure.

For the record, the history for Blair and I now goes back 57 years – to when we were first introduced (at age 5) at summer camp in Mt. Kisco NY.  We’ve been fishing together since those early days and we actually began fly fishing together for trout at age 12, in the small rocky creeks around southern New York.

Blair has now made three trips to Osa Eden over the past 12 months and he has quickly chalked up five personal fishing records for: Blue Marlin (250 pounds), Mahi (60 pounds), Yellowfin Tuna (60 pounds), Rooster fish (40 pounds) and Jack Crevalle (32 pounds).  Whereas those are impressive (especially for someone who has fished in Saltwater all his life), it was nothing compared to the experience he had with a simultaneous hook up with his son Jack fighting two monster Jacks on light spinning gear, where both fish tipped the boga-grip scale at over 30 pounds.

We were actually fishing for bait on our boat (with no other boats in sight), immediately adjacent to Crocodile bay when all of a sudden, we were surrounded by a massive explosion of sardines on the surface by huge Jacks and Roosterfish.  With birds diving and the water boiling all around the boat it took only two casts to immediately hook up with a pair of trophy sized Jack Crevalle.  Jack landed his after about 20 minutes but it took Blair over 40 to bring his to the boat as the reel drag had a technical malfunction.  The initial run of Blair’s fish instantly stripped off about 200 yards of line and he was within about 10 wraps of the final backing before he was able to finally gain control of the fish. For the entire fight, we were unsure of the species until he was able to FINALLY bring it alongside the boat for Russo to tail the beast.  The picture of Blair and Jack holding these fish is special and I’m confident that the experience and debate about who’s fish was actually bigger – will be revisited many times over the years.

Other highlights for the week included great bird sightings, Pacific Dolphin, multiple species of frogs, Iguanas, Howler Monkeys, a local Motocross race and some Droneboy flight photos.

Enjoy and one more week to go (in Mid-May) to complete the Spring Field Campaign in Costa Rica.

T.O.

Pre sunrise shot by Droneboy at 1,500 Ft above Osa Eden looking out over the Gulf of Dulce.

Update from Osa Eden #12

In one of my previous CR updates, I reflected on the definition of extraordinary.  That is, every day here on the Osa Peninsula you have the opportunity to see something really special that you’ve most likely never seen before.  That happened again this past week both in the Rainforest as well as on the water.

Mike Kretlow (Katie’s brother) was our guest this past week and his first trip to Central America proved to be definitely memorable. It started with several close encounters – including Scarlet Macaws, followed by a Fer de Lance (highly poisonous snake), Toucans, then a whale shark, Humpback whale and 16 different species of fish.

While fishing with Captain Cory, we each managed to catch some impressive Rooster fish (30, 40 and 60 pound class fish), Cubera Snapper, Yellow Snapper, Jack Crevalle, Yellowfin Tuna, Fortune Jacks, Skip Jacks, Bonita, Horse eye Jacks, a Permit and even a Popeye fish (obvious when you see the picture).

The close encounters with the Whale Shark and Humpback Whales were really special as I was fortunately prepared with my camera to capture some timely photos.  The best shots were of the Huge Humpback that leaped completely out of the water –  fairly close to our boat (see sequence shots).  Katie and Woody jumped overboard and tried to swim after the Whale Shark but it proved to be just a little too fast for them to actually hold on for a ride.

The extremely hot and dry weather has finally broke as we are having afternoon showers on a daily basis.  The grasses in the rainforest are emerald-green once again, the flowers are blooming and the prolific fruit trees are beginning to produce (Mangos, Coconuts and Bananas).

More to follow as this week we explore some new fishing spots for the elusive Pacific Snook.

T.O.

Update from Osa Eden #11

Whereas Katie and I had a wonderful 3 week stint back in The States, it was nice go get back to Osa Eden last week.  This week we entertained Sarah Kirby and her dad John (who is a true expert on the bird populations of North and Central America).

I made sure to mention to Sarah that the most consistent thing to count on here on the Osa Peninsula, is to expect to see or experience something you’ve never seen before.  This categorically includes the rainforest scenery, geology, ocean, people, lifestyle/culture, wildlife (birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish etc.) or weather.  Well, it didn’t take long for that statement to prove true when in the first 48 hours we experienced the unexpected.

Day one was a birding expedition that covered most of the southern Osa Peninsula.  We took in the entire experience from the remote rainforest to the bone-dry grazing fields, from the mountain ridges to the rivers and the Osa Gulf to the Pacific ocean.  See photos.

Day two was a combination of inshore and off-shore fishing with Captain Cory that was truly special.  We thought that experiencing a massive bait ball explosion by three species of Pacific Dolphin may be considered the highlight of the day but it was nothing compared to what followed over the next few hours.

We immediately hooked into a very large Yellowfin Tuna (60+ pounds), that allowed Katie and Sarah to “pioneer” a new technique in fighting monster fish… The “Tag Team.”  This consisted of Sarah – doing everything she could to hold on to the rod with both hands and Katie holding the rod with one hand while simultaneously cranking the reel with the other.  Some limited progress in reeling in the fish was actually achieved in spite of the continuous laughing fits.

This tag team – (aka the leveraged tug of war) went on for about 30 minutes until the fish finally broke under the relentless pressure.  OK, the truth is that I had to grab the rod and crank in the fish for the last 10 minutes because the girl’s arms – legs and backs were completely toast.  Captain Cory was thoroughly entertained as this new technique was clearly a first on his boat.  As a team effort (Cory hooking the fish followed by the girls “tag Team,” followed by the hard-core crank) it was a special fish to land and by far the largest that John had ever seen.  See photos.

If that wasn’t the highlight of the day, on the next accurate casting attempt in front of the Tuna school I managed to hook a true monster.  Throwing my topwater popper from my medium weight St. Croix spinning rod into the middle of the bait ball, I hooked what clearly ended up being the equivalent of a freight train.

Initially, as I saw a mid-sized tuna leap out of the water, I thought that the fish on the end of my line was in the 20 pound class until it made a screaming run – ripping off 50 yards of line in just a few seconds.  Next the fish sounded deep and I realized after trying to slow it down that it may be a little bit bigger than we all initially thought.  If fact – a whole lot bigger.

I spent the next 60 minutes engaged in one of the toughest physical and mental battles I’ve ever had.  As Cory said to me repeatedly … “that’s what happens with you bring a knife to a gun fight,” AND “This is what you said you wanted!”  The spinning rod I brought onto the boat was clearly no match for the sheer size, weight, power and endurance of what turned out to be an 82 pound Yellowfin.  The only way I could break the fish and raise it up from the 90 foot thermocline it was locked into was to eventually “straight line” the rod, crank the reel and hope that the 50 pound line didn’t break or that the hooks in the 3 inch topwater popper would not pull out.

I was completely drenched in sweat as we brought the fish to the boat and set the Gaft.  As Cory wrestled the beast into the boat, it was apparent that I only had one hook out of 6 on the topwater plug that was actually secured into the lower jaw of the fish.  How that one small-single part of the treble hook held secure, on a fish of that size after that hour-long battle, we have no idea.  In hindsight, I should not have been able to land that fish (which exceeded my PR by 30 pounds), under those circumstances.  See photos.

So you might think that would end up being the best (most unusual) part of the day but it doesn’t come close to what we witnessed about 2 hours later.

We were now fishing very close to the Western Osa Peninsula (Pacific Coast) for a nice Rooster fish (which Sarah managed to catch), and we saw something unusual in the distance.  We initially thought it might be a dead whale but as we got closer, we then thought it might be a partially submerged boat or a large pontoon from a sea plane.  Turns out it was a “homemade” submarine that evidently had two motors, a single cockpit for the “captain” (aka DRUG SMUGGLER), a periscope and a large internal compartment for contraband (most likely Cocaine).  Our hypothesis is that it was navigated up from Columbia, past Panama to just outside Puerto Jimenez where it must have rendezvoused with another vessel under the cover of darkness to transfer the contents.  The smugglers must have believed that they sunk the vessel after the transfer but it managed to stay afloat and was under surveillance by the US Coast Guard.  As we arrived to check out the vessel, a Coast Guard Cutter appeared out of nowhere to see if we were somehow related to the incident.  They did a high speed drive by of Cory’s boat and with one close look at us (especially John who at 82 was wearing his West Point baseball cap), they knew the “the Gringo’s” were innocent of any wrongdoing.

You might think It would be hard to top the last 48 hours but this morning we were treated to an unprecedented number of birds at sunrise and a  troupe of Squirrel monkeys that put on a gymnastic display – leaping from tree top to tree top in the Rainforest canopy.

More to follow and plan your trips.

T.O.

Update from Osa Eden #9

If the Osa Peninsula has the greatest biodiversity on the planet, I guess that one would expect to see something completely new and different every week.  Well, that’s exactly what’s happened consistently as we’ve been here since December 1st and this past week was no exception.

We’ve noticed a significant weather change over the past 5 weeks as we’ve only experienced a few rain showers that were all very brief.  A typical day now starts with a low temperature of 74 degrees at sunrise and a typical high of about 90 around 3:00 PM.  The skies are “severe clear” every day and night and with minimal breezes it can be pretty hot if you’re not on the water.  The trees have begun to “flower” in a rainbow array of colors each week and the deciduous trees are now losing their leaves one species at a time.  The fruit trees are beginning to produce and Katie has been making batches of dehydrated bananas and pralines to compliment the Tuna jerky that has now been stockpiled.  Next up will be the Mangos and Papayas that will probably ripen all at once when we return for our next trip.

Rod Mergardt was here for his first trip to Central America and whereas we’ve had the opportunity to travel and fish around the world (from Alaska to the Amazon, from BC to Bolivia, from Maine to Montana and from New York to New Orleans – just to name a few), this trip was possibly the best.

We started with a variety of day sorties around the gulf (from Drake bay to Golfito), followed by a rainforest tour where we had close encounters with Howler Monkeys, Hummingbirds, Scarlet McCaws, Screech Owls, Toucans, Mealy Parrots, a Ringed Kingfisher (very rare), Herons, numerous other species of birds, Green Iguanas and an inquisitive White-Nosed Coati.

Fishing was equally diverse with Rod, Katie and I catching huge Yellowfin Tuna (Katie and I each with one in the 50 pound class), two monster Sailfish, Cubera Snapper, Dolphin (aka Mahi), Jack Crevalle, Horse-eye Jacks, Barred Pargo, Yellow Snapper, Pacific Barracuda, Roosterfish, Pacific Bonito, Spanish Mackerel, Crocodile Needlefish and a baby “Cracken.”  Actually, it may or may not have been a Cracken but in 14 years, Cory said that he’s never seen anything like it.

BTW… As Katie was just done fighting her monster Sailfish and 52 pound Yellowfin, Rod says to me… “T.O. She is tough as nails, I couldn’t have done that!”

One more week of “diversity training” with three days of fishing before we head home to experience the last of Montana’s winter (for only a few weeks).  We will be back here at the end of March for another 5 week session through the end of April.

Enjoy, share and plan your trips.

T.O.

Update from Osa Eden #8

Update from Osa Eden…

Our guests this week were Steve and Mary Ann Johnson from Williamsport PA.  They managed to take in the complete Costa Rica experience that included a rainforest wildlife tour (birds, squirrel monkeys, parrots, a screech owl, Iguanas and a rare three toed sloth), inshore fishing (Rooster fish, Cubera Snapper, Yellow Snapper, Mahi, Barred Pargo and a close encounter with a Humpback Whale), hiking, a mountain bike ride, tour of the new Avatar lodge and cocktails on the beach.

The fishing was off considerably all week due to a rare Red Tide condition that caused the fish to migrate away from their normal hangouts to safer waters.  I managed to have several very large Rooster fish chase my topwater popper but they were non-committal and I wasn’t able to inflict a sore lip.  The killer tide is now diluting and should clear up in the next week or so.

We are also witnessing the rainforest come alive with color as several trees are blossoming with stunning flowers.  They don’t last very long and they are on full display early this year due to the exceptionally dry weather.  This morning when Katie and I set out on an 8 mile hike, it was 64 degrees and very dry.

More to follow as we continue the exploration.

T.O.

Update from Osa Eden #7

It was a spectacular week for Ron and Betsy Burnside as they took in the complete Costa Rica experience at Osa Eden.  In addition to some great fishing off shore, we visited the town of Puerto Jimenez, explored trails in the remote rainforest, visited some exotic beaches and took in happy hour at the new Avatar Eco Lodge located just behind our home.

On our first day of fishing, Ron hooked up with a “Pitbull” 30 pound Yellowfin that had a BIG LETTER “S” on its side (S for Super fish).  After 45 minutes of a heated back and forth battle, he was finally able to bring it alongside the boat and secure it for several future Ahi Sushi dinners.

Topping that feat about an hour later, Betsy was able to land a monster Cubera Snapper in the 20-pound range.  Those two fish set us up for an entire week of dinners as well as all the Ahi Tuna Burgers we have prepared for the Superbowl party tomorrow.

Following the fishing expedition, we had a great Rainforest tour that created a close encounter of the third kind with a troupe of Spider Monkeys.

Finally, I’ve been perfecting my photography skills every morning just before sunrise, trying to capture the flight patterns of our local Hummingbird population.  I’ve figured out that it’s actually more effective to time close-up photos at the precise moment just before the birds land on one of their favorite branches near our outside deck.  It’s both a challenging and rewarding undertaking as I only get about 5 to 6 photo opportunities per hour.  That being the case, I have managed to get better photos each day as I figure out the nuances of the timing techniques.

More to follow as we have another great week of exploring and fishing scheduled on the amazing Osa Peninsula.

T.O.

Update from Osa Eden #6

It was an intense three-day fishing expedition for Blair Karasin and I as we explored the entire diversity of angling, just offshore of the Osa Peninsula.

Day one:  We hunted a few miles off shore for Marlin early but were unsuccessful and around mid-morning we heard a report of a massive Yellowfin Tuna school further offshore about 33 miles out.  We took off and after about an hour of travel, we were surrounded by an immense school of spinner dolphin that were gorging on a school of baitfish.  Just under the dolphin and bait were the Yellowfin that ranged in size from 40 to 60 pounds.

Hooking, fighting and ultimately landing multiple 40+ pound tuna can take a physical and mental toll on the fittest of anglers.  Each fish can take 30 minutes or more to land with even the heaviest of gear.  It taxes your legs, hips, back, shoulders and arms to the degree of total lactic acid fatigue.  What’s worse with these monster torpedoes is that once the fish reach a specific depth thermocline during the fight, they tend to hunker down there and refuse to come to the surface.  Just lifting and cranking them up from 100 Ft. down is the worse part of the battle.  We ultimately landed 10 (some on multiple hook-ups) and by mid-afternoon, it was time to call it a day and head back to port and recover for day 2.  It took Cory most of the 90-minute return trip just to gut and filet all the fish to squeeze them into the overflowing cooler.

Day two: We decided to hunt for Snook about 100 Ft off the western coast and whereas the fishing was spotty again in the AM, we got a radio report that there was another school of Yellowfin Tuna – this time about 7 miles offshore.  We took off and in about 20 minutes, we were once again in the middle of a massive bait school surrounded by spinner dolphin and tuna.  This time the Yellowfin were in the 20 to 30-pound range and we decided to “go light” and attempt to bring them in on spinning gear.  Not only was that challenging but is was also costly as I shattered my new St. Croix rod on just my second fish (for the record, I somehow managed to land a 30 pounder with my rod in 5 pieces).  Blair hooked a 35 pounder on an extremely light rod/reel setup and it ultimately took both of us tag teaming the fish to get it into the boat.  Between Blair, Cory and I, we landed about 25 of these fish before once again called it a day.

Day three: The game plan was to stay inshore and hunt for Monster Rooster fish and Cubera Snapper.  NO MORE TUNA – PLEASE!

Tosh Talbot (Cory’s son) joined us for the final day as he was attempting to land some fish on his trusty handline. We began fishing for Monster Roosterfish on the Motapolo point and it didn’t take long for Blair and I to simultaneously hook up on twin roosters in the 40 pound class.  Mine managed to pull the hook as it circled the boat but Blair managed to land his and it was a new PR for him in the 40 pound class.

For the next several hours, we then moved around from reef to reef hunting the elusive Cubera Snapper and we managed to land several small ones that were under 10 pounds.  We also landed a few large Jacks (horse eye and Crevalle), Mahi, needlefish and a new species of Snapper for me (the Rock Snapper), that displays incredible brown, yellow and white color bands.  We have now managed to catch 34 different species of Game Fish here in the Gulf.

The highlight of the trip was about to begin when Tosh managed to hook an extremely large fish on his hand line.  When it took the free swimming live bait (about 200 feet from the boat) we saw it leap about 6 feet out of the water and realized that it was a monster Roosterfish.  For the next hour, we were treated to Tosh’s skill as an angler as he managed to fight this beast with nothing more than what amounted to “a large spool of mono.”  It came close to the boat about 5 times before it would rip off another run of maybe 50 yards at a time. It was a pleasure to watch Tosh essentially use his forearm and index finger skillfully as if it were a fishing rod – flexing with each headshake of the fish.  The 40 pound mono was also extremely “stretchy” and with the sheer power of the fish combined with the distance away from the boat, he was able to constantly adjust to the forceful runs the fish would make as it dove, ran and circled the boat.

Tosh finally managed to wear out the Rooster (as well as his hands) and as Cory and he lifted it into the boat, we all realized that we had just witnessed something REALLY SPECIAL.  I’m not sure if this catch would qualify as a “category record” with the IGFA but I will check with Jack Vitek to see if Tosh can receive some recognition.  Just another example of how unique this fishery is where every time you go out on the water – something special is likely to happen.

More to follow and enjoy the pictures.

T.O.

PS:  It took me an additional 3 hours each night to process, trim, create tuna steaks and vacuum seal the filets to completely fill the freezers.  Looks like Tuna will be on the menu every night for the next month. 

Update from Osa Eden #5

This past week in Costa Rica I had the opportunity to capture some photos that included a few of my new neighbors, the wildlife.  They have not proven to be very cooperative in terms of posing but with perseverance and a little luck, I was able to get a few good close ups of Mr. Hummingbird, Mr. Iguana and Mr. Toucan.  The two iguana’s (one male and one female) are each about 5 feet long (including their elongated tails).  They decided to visit our pool yesterday afternoon and although I didn’t catch them swimming, they were bathing in the sun – lounging on our side benches.

On New Year’s Eve, I was able to fly the Drone along the Osa Beach adjacent to Paul Tudor Jones’s property and capture video of the fireworks show.  Whereas the video is spectacular, the still shots were just fair.  I’ve also included a few from that late afternoon as well that featured Tosh Talbot surf casting at low tide.

Next up will be another sunrise session of surf casting tomorrow, trying to get some good close up shots of Rooster fish and Snook in the surf.  Droneboy 2 will also go up and hopefully get some great aerial photos of the sunrise and Osa Peninsula.

More to follow,

T.O.