Belize in Late January
Fished out from Belize City the last week of January in the hopes of catching some Baby Tarpon and Snook, which, according to the lodge promos were in good numbers at this time. The first day, we stayed at the main lodge, the remaining time we spent on a really lovely Caye about 15 miles out and just inside the Belize reef. Let me say, right up front, the all personnel involved with the lodge operation were first-rate, thoroughly professional, and did every thing they could to make for a pleasant stay.
The fishing was bad beyond belief. For the entire trip, I caught one bonefish (which I didn't really want to fish for, but the guide insisted on because it was the only game in town). When we could, we cast endlessly into the mangroves for Snook and Tarpon, and, on very rare occasions, one of us (we were a party of six) would get a strike. Someone of us did land a Snook one day, and on another occasion we saw hundreds of permit, but could not get one to strike. On the very last day, two of our guys got into a mess of feeding juvenile tarpon right at last light and had fun hooking and mostly losing them on poppers. If fact, poppers seemed the most successful lure. If there was such a thing.
We made it pretty explicit that we wanted to fish solely for tarpon and snook, but as I said, we spent most of our time fishing for small bonefish, which I could care less about when there are 'poons and snook around. The bonefish did give the guides something to do besides scratch their heads wondering where the tarpon and snook were; it also gave them a wonderful opportunity to tell us, over and over again, what we were doing wrong and why we weren't catching anything. I admit, I'm a horrible bonefish angler, but I didn't enjoy having my face rubbed in the fact, day after day.
The one time I had a fair shot at some snook, which the guide spotted leaving the mangroves roots and venturing into a small pocket surrounded by said roots about fifty feet away, I screwed it up. I made one cast back into the pocket and a Snook followed the fly out and dogged it for about ten feet; then stopped. I stopped stripping the fly and the fish lost interest an swam back into the pocket. The guide helpfully explained what I'd done wrong and suggested I cast again.
I did. Straight into the mangroves. A three-wrap around an overhanging mangrove branch I had failed to allow for.
And that was it for that, and my Snook fishing for the trip.
I had been to the same place a couple of years ago and had decent fishing for baby tarpon and small snook. That was in November and we were told the fishing was much better in January.
So. What happened to all the fish?
One theory: It's an urban fishery.
Belize City is home to many thousands of desperately poor people who have very little to eat. There is a lot of netting, at night, by those who can, and the fish are sold at affordable prices to these hungry people. The City grows daily from immigration from Guatemala and other Central American countries, and the immigrants are hungry and need to be fed. It is illegal to fish for tarpon and snook commercially, but enforcement of the ban is problematical for a number of reasons. Because cruise ships are such a huge economic engine for Belize City, in-shore sport fishing is not too high in importance. The cruise ship dollars more than make up for any loss of revenue from fly-fishermen.
If this theory about the lack of fish is correct, the inshore sport-fishing near Belize City is doomed.
I know I'll never go back there again, nor will any of my party. Of course, I know fishing is fishing and you're bound to get burned every once in a while, that's just part of the game. But. I can't afford to dump $3,000 on a gamble when it looks like the odds are stacked against me.
I love Tarpon. I like Snook. I'll find them somewhere other than near Belize City.
yikes - doesn't sound like a fun trip Eric
There are still some great DIY opportunities out there, at least you can really do what you want although the results aren't always better it would drive me totally nuts to have no choice of what to chase after.
As a guide, if the clients ask for a certain experience that I felt isn't the most promising I would accommodate as long as they understand the situation. Perhaps after a day or two one would acquiesce, but it would be your own choice and it sounds like they pushed you into doing what they wanted to do instead.
Puerto Rico is a great place for tarpon, but NOT the San Juan lagoon thing unless you want to squeeze a quickie in while you're near the airport. Look into the west end, Porta Del Sol where the locals go on their vacations. There are guides, but also boat rentals and lagoons with lots of tarpon and other species. I've seen permit in the 30# class as well, although was too occupied with the tarpon to change flies.
Bahamas bonefish, or better yet Hawaiian bones might change your mind about them too - I have heard those Mexi-bones are minnows.
I know you said you were into tarpon and snook, and that you're terrible with bones. But if you want a great, I mean GREAT trip for bones, go to Los Roques. It's the best place I've been to for bonefish. They're plentiful and on average, a nice size. Most of the fish we've caught there were in the 3-4 pound range, and there were always big ones around. It's about $4K for a week there.
I appreciate your reply, but, frankly, bones are not my thing. Unless fish jump out of the water, I'm not terribly interested.
Then, too, a lot of planes seem to be crashing going to and from The Rocks.
A mighty high five to you, though, because at least you replied to my post. I don't know why Juro's site is so dead. I really thought my post on my thoroughly unreliable, yet expensive, celebrity reel would get some comments.
People read this stuff. But don't comment.
I'm the anti-musician, but I play trombone and recorder in several musical groups. The traffic on the these sites is Olympic medal caliber. When I post on The Trombone Forum (there really is such a thing, believe me), I can't get through a short post before a pop-up informs me someone is already posting to the thread.
So, what's my point here? People are reading this. There's a counter going all the time. Why aren't people posting? Juro bled his life's blood to make this work. Please, if you have something to say about any of the idiotic things I post, or the very helpful things others post, please comment and keep this
Forum alive and lively.
Last Trombone in Waldport
LOL - thanks Eric, but no worries my friend. People will post when things thaw out over most of the nation I'm sure.
BTW all of the years of activity with all it's peaks and valleys has made it quite the archive of knowledge! I just used the search option to research my upcoming trip.
I generally don't like fishing flats in January. The weather makes it a crap shoot. I've fished belize two times and I thought the fishing was good with a wide range of opportunities. But I fished in march and the end of February (still a little early for my liking).
I would chalk up your experience to bad luck (no amount of money will trump luck). If you didn't like the guides, I wouldn't fish with them again. Having said that, a guide really only wants you to have a good time (catching fish). I suspect threw grew frustrated when their suggestions to catch bone fish were rebuffed. I usually go with the guides pick if things aren't going my way.
It's a big ocean with plenty of fish in the sea.
Belize in January...been there done that and got the t shirt. Wouldn't go back then. Weather too unreliable. Fully understand wanting out of winter and a warm water break, but January can be tough in the northern hemisphere.
One More Comment
Some interesting feedback. Thanks to all who replied. Life is a learning curve as long as we're on the planet. I'll follow the leads on the baby tarpon and snook.
I just wanted to say something about the Belize guides that may have been misunderstood.
I guided for steelhead on the Deschutes for a number of years and so, know a little bit about how a guide's mind works. People always tell you the experience is the thing and they don't care whether they catch fish or not.
If they didn't want to catch fish, they'd be off bird-watching somewhere.
It's fish. And it's fish (or at least action) at satisfying intervals. Steelhead are tough. Two fish a day is a respectable and desireable bag. Getting skunked is not unheard of. Landing five per day is a cause for celebration (at least in my circles).
Baby tarpon and Snook, where they are supposed to be abundant, on the other hand, are a different story. One expects action every day, landing the buggers or not. Decent probing of the mangrove pockets should pull one out every now and then. That's been my experience in Florida on Captiva/Sanibel, anyway.
So, there's the guide. Watching his sports casting their brains out for nothing and thinking, "God, where can I get these guys into fish." The guide runs here and the guide runs there with the same blank result. He's going nuts.
"Well", he thinks, "there are always bonefish. Maybe we can catch some of those they'll be happy and I'll feel better about this whole frustrating mess."
So, sort of intuiting this, I wasn't fishing for the bonefish because I wanted to. I was fishing for bonefish so the guide wouldn't feel so frustrated.
And, by the way, I have the utmost respect for the guides I fished with. They are knowledgeable, conscientious and hard working. Please understand that. They were doing their best to show us a good time; the stars just happened to be aligned against it, through no fault of theirs.
And, yes, the bone fish of Belize (at least where we were) are minis. They looked like brook trout patrolling a cirque lake.
And that's -30- for tonight, friends.
well, in the interest of generating some posts...
What's the deal with snook? I just don't get it.
Bonefish has the beauty and strong runs, and they are often caught sight fishing in picturesque flats, leaving the angler with memories that will last a lifetime. The first time experiencing a feeding frenzy of tailing bones, where the tails reflect the low afternoon sun and light up the entire flat like Chinese lanterns, is almost a life changing event. The bigger ones can easily take 150 yards of backing from your reel, and the whole fish is essentially one big muscle, having escaped evolution with pure speed, paranoia and the ability to change their reflective color earning the name grey ghost. The perfect entry point to any tropical fishing, and when beyond the mini/size of Belize/Mexico, it's really the perfect gamefish, easily DIY-ed, and many fly fishermen, myself included, are in no hurry to advance through the ranks of species, because bonefishing can be fantastic.
Then of course the Permit, the elusive and notoriously difficult jack derivative, causing grey hairs in fishermen for years, often regarded as the top prize for any fisherman with single-digit AFTM class rod. Still of course sight fishing, that makes every fish special, and in permit circles one counts the spottings and attempts, and not just the caught ones. Catching a permit is a big deal, and its reluctance to eat a fly just makes it more interesting to the circle of addicts. Again this truly is a game of skill as cast, presentation and fly must be perfect, conceptually it is very similar to nymphing for a very selective brown trout, it really is the fisherman outsmarting a fish in a very specific way. Catching a big permit would crown any fly fishing career.
And continuing, there is of course the tarpon, the giant herring that grows to ridiculous sizes for any sane person to attempt with a fly rod, but apparently that only makes it more addictive. The tarpon is infamous for wild jumping, in an attempt to lose the fly, it can dance across the surface like nothing else, an excellent showman that grow so large that if one should manage to land a big one, you need to wide-angle camera to fit the fish in a picture. Very addictive fishing, and mostly sight fishing at that.
And then, of course the barracuda. I am in complete awe of this fish, the speed and predatory instincts of this species are truely amazing. They can jump like tarpon, and they can snag any prey in two with the precision and speed unmatched in the flats environments, even by sharks. And you can find them pretty much anywhere. Not very easy to catch on a fly, unless you can make long casts, but stripping your line when you see big cuda racing after your fly is fantastic fun, and their take is often so hard that hook-shank, wired leader and any knot would be lucky to survive it. Not as well suited for fly fishing and not usually a whole-day thing, but still, yeah I love the cudas.
and so on...
But what about the snook? In my mind, it has has absolutely nothing to offer. No blistering runs. No predatory instinct and ability like the cuda. It does not have the size of permit and tarpon, and as far as I know you blind fish after it around mangroves, and 99% of the time from a boat. And when you get one on the line, it remains utterly unspectacular, a little splashing at best, no strong runs, it's not a fish made for high speed swimming or acrobatics, it's made to lurk around mangroves unwilling to explore the its surroundings full of adventure. It's a fish that has given up the moment it is born. And after an unspectacular fight, you can land the thing. And it looks like a cod, which also describes how it fights. At least you can eat the cod...
Surely the snook is nothing more than a bi-product from real fishing. It's the equivalent of hunting seagulls with a gun, it's just not something you do, except as a distraction when opportunity finds you, not the other way around.
Never fished for snook in my life, but I'm headed for Ascension Bay a little later this month, and after I fail to catch permit, I might go snook fishing. I do not expect to like it. :chuckle:
I get the feeling that the last three paragraphs were all tongue-in-cheek. If so, well done, as you had me going for awhile. They need to come up with a true tongue-in-cheek emoticom (or not.)
Give Turneffe a chance
Sorry to hear your experience of fishing in Belize was not all it panned out to be, but off the coast of Belize in the Turneffe Atol is where you will get a great chance to catch Tarpon, Snook and of course Bonefish. firstname.lastname@example.org
New to this forum but I will delve into my Belize experiences. I have fished down there for the past 7 years for primarily permit. For the first 5 years, I fished for 7-10 days in April or May, and had success on each trip. One thing I noticed though is that this correlated to the peak season and while the flats were not over crowded you were often not alone. Last year I decided to fish for 8 days with Lincoln Westby in January. He was upfront on the weather and let me know that I could loose a day or two to weather. It was a gamble I was willing to take in return for some solitude. They day I arrived was overcast and rainy as a strong front approached and the next day was less than desirable weather wise; however, we were able to sneak in a quick fish in between squalls and bring a permit to the boat. The next 6 days the weather was perfect and we experienced numerous shots everyday with 3 more permit landed for a total of 4 for the 8day trip.
Based on this experience, I am heading back again in January in 2014. For me, I am willing to take the gamble of bad weather in return for the possible reward of fish that have seen relatively little pressure over the past several months.
A couple of things to keep in mind with Belize. If tarpon are your primary target then look at May into the summer when the migratory fish show up. There are residents that can be found year round but I would plan to fish for other species if outside of the migratory season. The Pelican range that I have fished with Lincoln/Blue Horizon has tons of permit but very few bonefish. Tarpon are around but it depends on whether or not the bait is around...if concentrated the fishing can be lights out for tarpon in the 40-60-lb range. Decide what you want to fish for and then do the research on the desirable areas. For example, the Turneffe Atoll has lots of bones on the Oceanside reefs that run larger than the small runts you often hear Belize associated with. Permit are also plentiful on the Oceanside flats as well as the inner lagoon. You will find tarpon in the cuts there and some large ones at that but it is primarily blind casting with an intermediate or sinking line. This could be a disappointment if you have your heart set on sight fishing the flats for them there. I would be hesitant with fishing around Belize City with the exception maybe being the Belize River for tarpon, and I would not devote a whole trip to that personally. Lots of gill netting in the past and closer to a big population center so it will receive more pressure. Never targeted snook down there so I can't really weigh in on the quality of fishing for them in Belize.
Thanks for the report. It's good have great details about the species, best fishing season and some locations for futuer reference.
Spent a week at Blue Horizon, we did see a few permit but the fishing was very tough. The food was good and the guides were good but I wonder if the fishing pressure has had an affect on available permit or the shrimp boats that use to clean the shrimp and then hand line for permit in that area have, supposedly that activity has stopped.
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