Heavyweight Costa Rica Dorado Catches

Big dorado catches draw crowds at 2018 Offshore World Championship.

Courtesy Evelio Ramirez

Sam Worden, of Team 2011 Offshore World Championship, popped a 62.6-pounder at the 2018 Offshore World Championship.

One surprise result from the 2018 Offshore World Championship (OWC) was the high number of massive dorado caught by anglers throughout the event. In 2017, the heaviest dolphin caught at the OWC was a 47-pounder. In 2018, seven dorado weighed more than 48 pounds.

The fish caught were not close to the current IGFA all-tackle record — an 87-pounder landed in Papagayo Gulf, Costa Rica — but they were definitely eye-catching and personal records for a number of anglers competing in the tournament.

Because the top dorado on the dock wins a prize, competition and suspense surrounded day three’s weigh-in when numerous teams weighed monsters. Day one started the dolphin deluge and set a benchmark, with a 46.8-pounder caught by Juan Manuel Cobar de La Hoz, of Team 35th International Sailfish Tournament. That was just the beginning. Day three saw a push of massive dorado intersect with competing tournament boats. From lightest to heaviest: Juan Cabrera Pena, of Team XXV Torneo De Pesca De Aturo Puerto Calero, caught a 49.6-pounder; Pedro Martins Guimaraes, of Team Torneio de Peixes de Bico-Icarai, landed a 50.5-pounder; Carlos Assad, of Team Torneio Marlin do Rio de Janeiro, hauled in a 55.7-pounder; Sergio Barcelos, of Team Torneio Open Com Iscas Artificiais, stuck a 56.3-pounder; Andrey Dzhagarbekov, of Team Kup Grada Hvara, boated a 56.7-pounder; Ricardo Balazeiro, of Team Torneio de Canavieiras, weighed a 58.9-pounder; and Sam Worden, of Team 2011 Offshore World Championship, popped a 62.6-pounder.

Worden’s dorado was the only fish to break the 60-pound mark during the event, but it was refreshing to see massive dolphin back in Costa Rica after several slow years. The trend of big dorado catches continued after the 2018 OWC ended, with much of the rest of 2018 inundated with big dorado.

“The dorado bite continued in good numbers throughout the year all along the Pacific Coast,” says Todd Staley, communications manager for the Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP). “Most of the fish I saw down south were 20 to 30 pounds, but several up to 50 pounds were taken.”

Staley believes the combination of weather changes, reduction in El Niño sea-surface temperatures and a decrease in number of licenses for tuna-seine boats in Costa Rica contributed to the better numbers. The 45-mile protected zone along the coast from purse seiners was a major factor in the recovery of tuna for sport-fishing boats, as well as other species like dorado and marlin. He also attributes the rise in marlin catches away from fish-aggregating devices (FADs) to less purse-seine activity. But Staley says there is still work to be done to protect Costa Rica fisheries from exploitation.

“Illegal fishing is still a problem in Costa Rica,” he says. “Floating FADs used by tuna boats are illegal and take tons of juvenile tuna, dorado, wahoo and other species. Some of the commercial boats targeting sharks will take anything they catch. We will address illegal fishing in a 2019 national campaign.”