Crocodile Bay Lodge Pacific Tarpon
Crocodile Bay Lodge Pacific Tarpon Hatchery We have recently recieved some exciting news from our camp in Costa Rica, at the Crocodile Bay lodge they have discovered a Pacific Tarpon hatchery! Which is great news, read on for the full article.
Todd Staley Camp manager writes… The big news around here is the locals may have accidentally stumbled on a tarpon hatchery.
The scientific name of tarpon is Megalops Atlanticus. As the name implies they are an Atlantic species, not indigenous to Pacific waters. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is world famous for its tarpon fishery.
The first time I encountered a tarpon in Pacific waters was in 1995, fishing in the Golfo Dulce. I was fishing up near Rio Esquinas when I saw one roll on the surface near the boat. Then another and then another. I thought I was going crazy. I asked some of the locals and they suggested I may have seen a school of milkfish. Milkfish look strikingly similar to a tarpon, in fact the Spanish term for milkfish is sabalo falso or false tarpon. They average around 40 inches and the fish I saw were much bigger.
About six years ago one of my captains brought a fish that weighed 37 lbs into the dock that caused quite a stir. He had never seen one before and said it jumped like crazy when the customer hooked it. I took one look at it and laughed. I thought to myself, a decade ago I wasn’t really crazy after all. My theory was that that tarpon had passed through the Panama Canal and somehow made their way up into the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
The Panama Canal almost didn’t get built. There was a big controversy as whether sea snakes from the Pacific would be able to pass through the canal and set up residence in Caribbean waters. A study finally showed they couldn’t make the passage through the canal because they do not enter freshwater and the canal was constructed. The same doesn’t hold true for varies types of fish. Snapper, snook, certain types of jacks and tarpon enter freshwater at will. Tarpon often travel from the Caribbean Sea all the way up the Rio San Juan and make camp in Lake Nicaragua.
Over the last few years my customers hook a few tarpon every year and have caught them over 125 lbs. My captains now know to release them if the angler is lucky enough to keep a hook in them long enough to get them boatside. It wasn’t until recently when locals starting catching small tarpon that I thought that there is no way these little guys are swimming all the way up here from the Canal Zone. They must be breeding in the Pacific as well.
I contacted Didiher Chacon, a marine biologist and President of Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (Widecast) in Costa Rica. Chacon did an extensive study on tarpon on the Caribbean side of the Costa Rica twenty years ago.
There are very few baby tarpon in the most popular fishing areas of the Caribbean side. The habitat is not available for juveniles. Down near the Panama border in the wetland estuaries he did find tarpon as small as two inches. He said the Pejeperro Lagoon is suitable habitat for juvenile tarpon. Tarpon larvae make their way from the ocean in to the mangrove estuary where they develop.
“The chance that someone carried those tarpon across the country and placed them in the lagoon is very slim.” He explained. “It is quite possible tarpon on breeding in the Pacific but it would take genetic sampling to be absolutely sure where they originated.” He went on to say the fish could be originally from the Costa Rica, Panama, or even the Venezuelan populations.
Wherever they’re from, it is exciting news.