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.
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