Spearfishing Costa Rica

I feel bad for the fisherman huddled on the rocky point. Their lines glisten in the midday sunshine as they stretch into the ocean’s undulating waters. Buckets sit on the volcanic rock, filled with ever-warming bait. And they wait, patiently casting and reeling. Casting and reeling. Casting and reeling.

We, too, are here to fish, but we came with the intention of increasing our odds.

With a muted “thud,” I drop the oversized bag onto Playa Penca’s marbled sands and take a deep breath as the steady, onshore wind instantly evaporates the sweat beading on my brow. Bryan, Tim, and I all reach into the bag, retrieving our gear: snorkels, masks, gloves, dive knives, and spearguns.

Huddled around Bryan as he briskly sharpens the spears’ tips with a file, we make our plan. Enter the water here, at the north end of the beach, swim along the rocky coast, then make the 70 yard trek across the open water to the nearby island. There, on the leeward side of the island, the waters are calmer and we hope to find a solid reef, more fish, and better spearing.

Entering the water is transcending into another world. The things that occupy my mind on land fade —  work, plans, to-dos, next steps — and my mindshare is solely focused on mapping, exploring, and searching the underwater world through which I swim. The sounds in this world are limited to my rhythmic, hollow breath, the staccato crackle of small rocks bouncing against the reef as waves churn, and the lapping of water against my ear as I splash forward.


My eyes adjust to muted blue and green hues of the tropical water and the ground eerily appears as I approach the island. The blurry lines and shapes of rocks and outcroppings take definition as the waters shallow and countless fish fill my view. An endless spectrum of colors, sizes, and silhouettes appear, and my eyes work to focus on identifying species. This thriving underwater is absolutely beautiful and constantly moving with the oceans’ flow.

And then I spot one: a Trigger Fish.

This agile, tough, and speedy fish also happens to be delicious. I take a deep breathe, dive down, and stretch my gun out gun out in front of me. The fish spots me and darts off. I kick hard, propelling through the water, chasing it for ten yards. As my legs start to tingle with oxygen deprivation, the fish pauses. I take aim and pull the trigger.

The spear streaks toward the fish.

A hit.spearfishing31-1024x641

One shot.

One fish.

Dinner for two.

I like those odds.

The rest of my time in the water is spent exploring, chasing, shooting, missing, and repeating. We finally make our way back to the beach, water logged, sunburnt, and dehydrated. It was a great afternoon in the ocean — therapeutic, relaxing, satisfying.

Now, it’s time to cook some dinner.

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