Jungle Tarpon and Freshwater Species 2018-03-30T08:58:28-06:00


Jungle Tarpon, the Tapam, Rainbow Bass and other Freshwater Species

Jungle Tarpon or Freshwater Tarpon are the Kings of Nicaragua´s jungle. Not all of the specimens are on the coast. The silver king is also a king of the jungle because it migrates up the San Juan River and into the side channels and tributaries.

Our guides know the deep and tranquil waters where to find the jungle Tarpon, also know as Tapam fish.

Atlantic Tarpon fish live up to 70 or 80 years and reach two meters in length. A day following the river and tributaries to where the big Tapam waits is a joy in and of itself but the thrill of landing one of the kings of the jungle last a lifetime.

Nicaragua is home of the largest Tarpon in the world. Costa Rica Says the same because they have Barra Colorado where San Juan river finishes its path to the Caribbean Sea.

Most of the fish that they are proud of come to this path along our shore coastline and many of them use the end of San Juan River 5 minutes from our hotel to enter in San Juan river. As is. But we also have the Rio Indio path to Caribbean sea with plenty of population of fish all year long.

Fresh water Tarpons are very evasive and as we mentioned before, it can breathe in the air if it needs to and that is why it is found in rivers where there is less oxygen.

There are some fish that do not migrate and remain in rivers and interior lakes. Miskito´s call these Tapam the “kings of the jungle”. Nicaragua has a steady jungle tarpon population all year long. Our water mass is ideal to find them inshore, in lakes or rivers of the jungle.

Tarpon in freshwater take shelter in the deep and calmer and quieter places. Even though there are areas where the population is denser because there is more food or the area are more secure.

In the Rama Garden Fishing Lodge, we are surrounded by rivers and lagoons with different characteristics which make the area an ideal habitat for the Silver King and other species.  Whether you are fishing from the sea or in these rivers and Lakes Rama Garden Fishing Lodge is ready to help you to catch the Big Fish.

Freshwater Tarpon in the Rivers of Nicaragua

Jungle Tarpon inhabit the rivers, creeks and lagoons of the jungle. Within the San Juan River, there are what we call bulls or cows; these Silver Beauties swim downstream to other channels. This is the place where you can find the Tapam.

They even reach the Great Nicaragua Lake or channels that lead to Costa Rica. These specimens of Fresh Water Tarpon can easily surpass 200 pounds. Some of this fish remain here almost all year long and only go back to sea or to lagoons during the summer when it is dry.

It is worth noting, that on average, the size of the jungle tarpon in the San Juan River & Rio Indio is extraordinary. The same happens with other types of tarpon that do not completely go upriver. The Atlantic Tarpon can live up to 70 or 80 years and they can grow up to two meters long. They also migrate twice a year.

We dare to say that in Nicaragua, there are two kinds of Jungle Tarpon. One is darker and more aggressive and usually frequents rivers and lakes during migration.

How to catch the Tarpon in Freshwater?

River and freshwater lagoon fishing requires silence. When we fish for Tarpon in freshwater lakes or small creeks we must realize that the numbers of specimens captured are usually inferior to the number of fish who bite, the area for holding a big fish is reduced, the amount of jumping they do when they get caught is another attractive when fishing them.

There are some that weigh over 70 kilos and that do not jump. They do not waste energy and do everything possible to escape.

This is why it is imperative that we make sure we keep the struggle to a minimum because they might accidentally suffer some injury or even die. In any case, we have to make sure to carry out efficient revival tasks.

This virtually untouched river land offers the sports fisherman a variety of river habitats as well as the Caribbean Coast in which to fish for Tarpon, Snook, Rainbow bass (guapote) and Machaca a feisty fish that is a relative of the piranha.

Besides fishing for trophies, visitors to our lodge can take a two day and one night tour of the reserve staying overnight in a traditional home in the village of Rama in the Natural Park.


Freshwater Species in Nicaragua Rivers

There are other freshwater species of fish in Nicaragua rivers, creeks, lakes and lagoons, of excellent sizes to have an exciting experience and require light tackle. The feeling of throwing from the branches and managing to catch yourself a trophy with a perfect throw is completely gratifying.

Catching a  trophy while fishing in Rivers and Lagoons happens more than often. You can go out with our guides, use light tackle and catch a large number of exotic fish.

A lot of fish we come across are aggressive and beautiful for a fishing experience. These are some common species found at The Rama Garden Fishing Lodge Nicaragua, River & Lagoon fish of these waters. Freshwater Species in Nicaragua:  Rainbow Bass, Monster Snooks, Jack Crevalle, Roncador, Guavina, Moonfish, Sardines, Tilapia, Guapote, Róbalo, Anguila, Calva, Machaca – Tiger Fish, Mojarra, Palometa, Aligator Gar, Tropical Jar ,Drum among others.


Mojarra is a fish of the Gerreidae family, and it is the  common prey and bait fish in many parts of the Caribbean, most species exhibit a schooling behavior and tend to exploit the shallow water refugia associated with coastal areas presumably to avoid large-bodied predators.

The population of Mojarra is stable in many areas of the river. There are larger ones that are dragged by the stream in large numbers from the headwaters to the main rivers like the Indio River or the San Juan River. After, they establish themselves in their place of origin.

They have a black bar located in the middle of their body. The male adults can weigh up to a pound and have a red color on their fronts. The females are smaller with dark grey scales.

They can be caught with the same small bait used for the Rainbow Bass fish but are especially active with flies and with fake small crustaceans; they are eaten by Jungle Tarpon and Rainbow Bass.

Parachromis dovii
Rainbow bass guapote species of nicaragua rivers

Rainbow Bass 

Rainbow Bass  (Parachromis dovii ) is a fish  usually found in deep waters but emerges in the surface to feed and sleep.  The female is a yellow color while the male is a blueish and back color and are able to grow to considerable sizes. They have a bump on their front and we have caught some weighing up to 4.6 kilos (10 pounds).

The Rainbow Bass fish is a carnivorous, highly predatory fish. Their diet consists mainly of small fish and macroinvertebrates. They prefer turbid, eutrophic lakes, often found in warm water depleted of oxygen. Their native substrate is one of the mud-bottoms, but can also be found in other ponds and springs with sandy bottoms covered in plant debris.

Rainbow Bass is most active during the first rains of the season and during the end of summer when the waters are murky. They prefer deeper areas with rocks to hide in and are also found in rivers and lagoons.

In the archipelago of the Nicaragua Lake of Solentiname they call them “Laguneros” and the population grows around the islands.

The equipment used for Rainbow Bass is similar to the one used to catch Black Bass: short rods, quick and with light spools and small bait that simulate small fish or shrimp (Crankbaits or Spinnerbaits). One can also use poppers or flies.

We recommend throwing between the branches or as close to the shore as possible and wait for them to come out of their hiding spots. They will attack with aggression because they are extremely territorial.

Their aggressiveness and strength remind one of the Pavon fish or the Tucunare  (Peacock Bass). They call them peacock because of the colors they have when they reflect the light.

Not far from our Lodge, you can find areas of calm water and with a lot of vegetation and submerged rocks. These areas, either in lagoons or channels, are perfect areas for the Rainbow Bass. It is a very technical way of fishing and a very entertaining one.


Tiger Bass

Tiger Bass (Parachromis managuensis ) , the False yellowjacket cichlidTiger Bassis a species of cichlid native to Guatemala and Honduras in Central America. This fish is unlike the Guapote due to its size and color. The female of this species is even more brilliantly colored, with deep shades of red and oranges much more prominent than the males color

Generally, we find them near lagoons where they live or off the shores hidden among sticks and fallen branches. Even though they are nocturnal animals, they can also be found at dawn.

They weigh two kilos and measure up to 50 centimeters and are spotted and of a yellowish color.

snook nicaragua centropomus undecimalis
yellow tail snook

Yellow Tail Snook

The Common snook is an estuarine-dependent fish species. Within estuaries, juvenile common snook are most often found inhabiting areas such as coastal wetland ponds, island networks, and creeks. Snook do show a tendency to gravitate towards lower salinity conditions in the early stages of their life. By being able to adapt and thrive in both high and low salinity conditions through osmoregulation, common snook display a high level of habitat plasticity.

The Yellow Tail Snook – Robalo has yellow fins and a similar tone in the center of its body. They exhibit a black line from the back part of their heads to the center of their tale. The females are yellower and are usually larger than males.

It is easy to find some larger than 60 cm in the San Juan River. In fact, some might even grow up to 30 pounds and there have been even larger Robalos caught.

Some Snooks have been found measuring more than a meter in the Indio River. They swim upstream to clearer waters to lay their eggs. They are very active and very aggressive at dusk, especially if we use Rapala bait. When it comes to the Snook, we say: “the bigger, the better.”

They are fierce and at dusk, they like large and striking bait. They bite hard and they eat crabs and other fish. Flys can also be used to catch them. They have shown favorability for the color white. They have well-developed teeth and can cut lines that weigh less than 40 pounds.

In addition, due to their great strength when caught they can easily open the hook. It is a great experience Giant Snook fishing.

They can also be caught from the beach or from the estuary of the San Juan or the Indio River. The best months to catch them are between the months of August and October.

Swordspine Snook

There are three different varieties of Robalo around the hotel’s surrounding waters. They are hard to distinguish because they all have a silver color. One of them is called Swordspine Snook.( Centropomus esniferus)

This one is the easiest to differentiate. They can grow up to 5 pounds. They eat smaller fish like the Roncador, Mojarras, smaller Guapotes and other younger fish. They are very active. This type of Robalo is a big part of the local’s essential diet. They are especially appealing for fly fishing, but also with poppers, they are insatiable.

The other two species remain all year even though they are also sea animals. They are always in schools and they are not elusive. When you find one there are more nearby.

We catch them adrift with the motor off or holding on to a branch. They are usually found in whirlpools and in still waters.

Tarpon snook
Swordspine Snook Centropomus Sniferus

Machaca fish –  Sabalete

The Machaca fish is similar to the Tarpon. Some exhibit a silver-tone and others gold; the lower part of their body is white. They have several rows of teeth like sharks.

Their teeth are on the side of their mouths because their upper jaw is moved towards the front. We can find them in deep and fresh waters but they swim to the surface to feed.

In our area, we find many of them, the Machaca fish is also the prey of the Tapam fish in Nicaragua. You can see their shadows in clear water rivers even before you through in your bait or fly.

They are fast, aggressive and are very strong. You do not necessarily find them on the shores but they take shelter under some structures made of fallen branches and trunks while they wait for their prey.

Generally, they are not alone and when they bite they do not stop jumping. Due to their sharp teeth, they can cut the line and it is necessary to hold them with gloves. If fly fishing is our thing, the Machaca offers a very stimulating experience.

La Calba

Centropomus paralellus is generally up to 25 centimeters long, but it has been known to reach 72 centimeters. The maximum published weight is 5 kilograms. Like other snooks it has a large head with a long, pointed snout and large, laterally positioned eyes. The body is yellowish brown to brownish green in color. It has a silvery sheen on the sides and belly and a dark line along the lateral line

This Kind of Snook called Calba is under-appreciated in sport fishing, however, it is a voracious fish, capable of a fight incomparable to other fish in the area. Its body is long and thin and can grow longer than a meter and a half and can weigh about 10 pounds.

Calba fish eats amphibians, crustacean or larvae, and worms. To catch them, we use spinners, deep lures, or other kinds of bass lures and even sinker flies. Natural bait can also work.

This species is caught and sold as a food fish. They migrate and come in thousands from the sea and Tapam feeds them.

Pez Bobo – Joturus pichardi

Joturus pichardi, also known as the bobo mullet, is a species of fish of the mullet family Mugilidae

They can weigh about 5 kilos and they come from the Indio River. They are not around all year. Their habitat is in clear and fast water and in waterfalls.

They travel in large schools and they migrate to the mouth of the Indio River to reproduce.

They eat seaweed and small crustaceans. In lakes and lagoons, they serve as prey for larger predators.

Atlantic Croaker ( Migroponias undulatus )

The Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) is a species of marine fish that moves through the bay in interior parts of the river and makes a very specific sound hence its name.

The name croaker is descriptive of the noise the fish makes by vibrating strong muscles against its swim bladder, which acts as a resonating chamber much like a ball. The Atlantic croaker is the loudest of the drum family.

You can find them in the superior part of the rivers and they are eaten by the area’s inhabitants.

There are about 9 different species and people fish them with bait and thin line, we use them as live bait for Tarpon.

Alligator Gar & Tropical Gar

Alligator gar are the largest species in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fishes found in North America. Mature alligator gar commonly measures 6 ft (1.8 m) in length and weigh over 100 lbs. (45 kg). However, anecdotal reports suggest they can grow up to 10 ft (3m) in length, and weigh as much as 350 lbs.

In this area, there are two species registered. The smaller one is called Tropical Gar and the other one is called Alligator Gar. Both are fish of considerable size and can be easily found in lagoons and channels.

There, they share their environment with alligators, the Tarpon, Sword fish…. etc.

Lately, we have caught them in the San Juan River pulling bait. Although that might be a coincidence because the specific places to catch them cannot be accessed by boat.

Sword Fish ( Pristis pectinata )

The smalltooth sawfish reputedly reaches a total length of up to 7.6 m (25 ft), but this is likely an exaggeration and the largest confirmed size is 5.54 m (18.2 ft). It weighs up to 350 kg (770 lb)

This protected fish swims upstream the San Juan River; however, there has not been a sighting of them for more than ten years.

Yet some fishers have told us they have found some in the northern part of the river. The fish is not eaten.

Its sole presence reminds us of our enormous and rich ecosystem.