Osa Angler

The  Sailfish Tree

Todd Staley

Todd Staley has been chasing finny creatures around the Osa for nearly two decades. He has been Fishing Director at Crocodile Bay Resort since it opened in 1999. You can send photos, fishing reports, ect. directly to him at wetline@hotmail.com.  Photos courtesy of Crocodile Bay Resort.


Every year starting in December, each morning I gaze to the hills on the Golfito side of Golfo Dulce. I am looking to see if the hillside has begun to turn into a blooming tapestry of florescent yellow.

I don’t even know what the name of this tree is. Asking around I heard Cortez, Brazilian Fire, Jacaranda, and several other names In these days of one-click criticism I won’t even guess at which one is correct. All I know is when these trees bloom, the sailfish come. To me it has always been the Sailfish Tree. I have been awaiting their arrival each year for the last 20 years.

They generally bloom the first part of December but with 186 inches of rain in November (not a print error) and rain continuing through the first two weeks of December, my Sailfish Trees did not bloom this year until the end of the second week in January. Immediately the number of sailfish increased.

Of course the tree is not the reason the sailfish show up in big numbers. What happen is three distinct Caribbean winds blow from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea across Central America and into the Pacific for about four months. This causes surface water to be pushed offshore and the upwelling does not have enough oxygen to support sailfish. Pockets of oxygen-enriched water in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and central and southern Costa Rica are formed and move the fish into these areas. Fortunately, one of these areas is in our own back yard.

The fact that all this is happening when it is ice cold up north makes Costa Rican one of the premier destinations on Earth to fish sailfish. It doesn’t hurt that it is also the dry season and the ocean is generally flat.

To the locals the trees blooming means the start of summer. To nature guides and farmers, I’m sure they have another meaning. To me it’s Sailfish and long work days. Wink wink.

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