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By Tom Enderlin

As we close what it roughly the first half of the 2019 season here at the Jungle Tarpon Reserve we couldn’t be happier with results.

As is typical in Costa Rica, early season weather patterns are always a bit variable as the country receives unpredictable tropical waves from the Caribbean, bringing with them a bit of wind and water. This season was no exception, with various rain events bringing the river up and creating challenging fishing conditions for brief periods. But with every flood came significant groups of fresh tarpon migrating up from the ocean and into the lagoons and river. We associate this migratory phenomenon with what the tarpon likely associate with a rising tide, and the same water that causes anglers to struggle momentarily also gives life to our river system. It is the rainy season after all, and one should expect to get a bit of wet to spice things up. If there is anything we’ve learned over the years it is that the river’s extremely dynamic nature ensures that changes can improve conditions just as fast as they can cause us problems, and tarpon can turn even the most seemingly desperate situation into an explosive opportunity as they suddenly switch on. After all, it is as they say darkest just before the dawn…

Overall, the fishing has been very good with all groups landing tarpon ranging from 20 to about 140 lbs. Many of our groups this season were tarpon newbies as well, and while this adds a little extra to our guiding challenge on the river we also were able to share in some magical moments as nearly all of those first-timers locked into and landed tarpon. We also had some of our regulars come back to join the fun, and they too were rewarded with great experiences on the river. We haven’t seen many true giants landed yet, but they are here evidenced by massive silver backs and fins rolling in both the river and lagoons. With any luck the second half of the season brings continued success on the water as groups new and old visit us to pursue their jungle tarpon of a lifetime.

We continue to work with UMass Amherst’s Dr. Andy Danylchuk on a pilot genetic study of the reserves tarpon, and all landed tarpon this season have been and will continue to be fin-clipped in order to analyze their genome and hopefully learn a little more about how population dynamics and migratory patterns link our tarpon to the rest of Central America’s (and the world’s) tarpon.

On a side note, our camera trap study has been highly successful this season. Our resident jaguar Luz continues to stalk the forest, and she has been joined by at least 2 other jaguars, 2 pumas, a large group of ocelots, and many other wildlife. As one cruises the river the thick foliage hides the many treasures the forest conceals, so these camera traps provide a great window into the world of the tropical rainforest. We are in conversations with several renowned Costa Rican big cat biologists and hope to expand our study and create more awareness amongst the local community. More to come soon.