Northern Costa Rica’s Jungle Tarpon Reserve is a vast inland system of freshwater rivers, creeks and flooded lagoons surrounded by verdant rainforest and swampland. During the dry season the lagoons and creeks are reduced to nearly a trickle, but come August, the area literally springs to life.
Runoff from surrounding volcanoes fills the creeks, rivers, and lagoons creating a vast inland sea teaming with migratory baitfish, monkeys, wading birds, and caiman. Somehow the primal tarpon of the Pacific sense this and journey over a hundred miles inland to feed on the bounty of the jungle’s flooded interior. The feast attracts tarpon of all sizes with the majority of the fish weighing 50 to 100 pounds as well as behemoths in the 150 to 200-pound class.
The most unique and dynamic fishery in the region is unquestionably the river. Flowing through a mosaic of virgin rain forest and active farmlands, this mid-sized jungle river is among the most intense and intimate landscapes imaginable to pursue trophy tarpon. When hooked, these big tarpon typically go wild, leaping into overhanging branches or diving into the dark waters to wrap you on countless obstacles. Fighting tarpon here is active-duty jungle combat at its finest.
The other unique fishery is comprised of a network of shallow creek-fed lagoons. While these are meadows in the dry season, in the fall and early winter they are full of baitfish creating an incredible stillwater tarpon fishery. With wind and chop being extremely rare, the lagoons provide a glassy smooth volcano-ringed arena through which hooked tarpon violently erupt.
The Fishing Program
The Jungle Tarpon Reserve is limited to four anglers per week. All anglers fish two per guide out of local pangas and employ a split-day schedule, typically fishing the river one session and the lagoons the other. Days start early with a 100 yard walk to the boats where a light breakfast of fruit, local pastries and coffee is served on the board as you head out to the morning beat. Late morning you will return to your accommodations for lunch and a siesta and then head out for an afternoon/evening session that typically runs from 2PM-6PM . Fishing will be a mix of casting to rolling or actively feeding fish, blind casting to likely holding spots, or targeting wakes and nervous water in the lagoons. There are even times when the tarpon line up in the mouths of creeks like giant trout and feed explosively on baitfish as they are flushed out of the jungle.
As of 2020, guests stay in newly-constructed Riverside Camp. This luxury house features four private bedrooms and three full bathrooms set across two levels. Amenities include air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and a swimming pool. The house also has two living room areas with comfortable couches and TVs. The private dock, where fishing days begin and end, is located on the property and is a two-minute walk from down the floating ramp from the main house.
Meals at Jungle Tarpon Reserve are a combination of gourmet cuisine prepared on-site by several local cooks, and casual home-cooked meals by several local families and restaurants. There has always been a strong focus to include the local community as much as possible. Whether by sourcing local ingredients or visiting a family for a unique, traditional meal in their garden, rest assured that the program at Jungle Tarpon Reserve benefits as many local families as possible.
Jungle Tarpon Reserve is a collaborative effort between head guide and host Tom Enderlin and Solid Adventures of Sweden. It does not take long to notice that American expat Tom Enderlin is a smart, passionate guy looking to create a unique and sustainable fishing destination. He truly cares about the tarpon, the environment, and making a positive impact in the region.
Tom has created a program where all of his anglers will be volunteers supporting conservation through the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Each landed tarpon will be measured and scale-samples will be analyzed by their Tarpon Genetics Program. The big picture of this is to better understand how these unique tarpon fit into the global tarpon scheme, and how to better implement protection of these majestic fish for future generations. Tom also operates a small non-profit called Conservación Bosque del Sábalo. The goal of this project is to create an internationally recognized freshwater tarpon sanctuary that would promote environmental stewardship, community awareness, enhanced scientific understanding, and the creation of sustainable economic opportunities.