Belize isn't a big country. But in the eyes of the saltwater fly fisherman it is huge.
The coastline of this Caribbean nation stretches a mere 240 miles. The world's second largest barrier reef is a short boat ride from the mainland, providing protection for the nearly 1,000 square miles of pristine flats home to a year-round venue of fly fishing opportunities. The waters of Belize abound with aquatic life, from manatees and dolphins to persnickety permit, acrobatic tarpon, and lightning-fast bonefish.
Vic Barothy put Belize on the fishing map in the early 1960's. Barothy was already notorious for his houseboat bonefishing trips in Isles of the Pines, Cuba, which then held every world record bonefish. When Fidel took power on New Year's Day of 1959, Vic and his wife, Betty (a former silent movie star), loaded two cruisers with whatever valuable possessions they could get on board. Late that night, each took a helm and the two of them sailed for what was then British Honduras, towing all their skiffs and and a group of loyal Cuban guides.
Barothy was no dummy about fishing. His father had owned one of the most famous hunting and fishing lodges on the Pere Marquette and he had grown up in the business. One of his best friends was a guy named Joe Brooks, who used his connections and influence at Field & Stream to put Vic's three new lodges and houseboats in the angling public's eye. Barothy designed his Turneffe Island Lodge, and Belize River Lodge to resemble his family's Michigan operations, and hired Mennonites to handle the construction in an era and region where electricity was uncommon.
In 2009 the Belizean government unanimously passed one of the most comprehensive catch and release fishing legislations in the world, legislation designed specifically to ensure that bonefish, permit, and tarpon will continue to thrive and entertain discerning anglers for many years to come.
Belize is the perfect destination for experienced anglers in search of a constant challenge while remaining ideal for those totally new to the saltwater flats. It is renowned for its permit fishing, sure to frustrate even the most competent casters. It is one of the few destinations where tarpon of all sizes are found year round. Its bonefish are not as large as other destinations, but they are plentiful and consistently puts a bend in peoples' rods and a smile on their faces. Throw in snook, barracuda and jack crevalle, and you
have a recipe for saltwater fly fishing adventures that will keep you coming back for another cast.
There is something for everyone in Belize, and a collection of some of the most well-organized, professional lodges, guides, and fishing operations in the Caribbean. Each lodge has its own unique character. Some offer high-end services ranging from five-star culinary experiences, while others are remote fishing camps with an emphasis on dawn-to-dark fishing. And, quite literally, everything in between. Some lodges specialize in a particular species, while others excel at targeting all that Belize have to offer. Some are hard-core fishing camps, while others offer incredible non-angling and eco-tour opportunities, even Scuba diving along the Barrier Reef.
Every month of the year presents opportunities for great fishing. The most popular months are focused around winter and spring, while most Belizean guides will tell you that the summer and falls month are often the best for the fishing.
Belize is perhaps the most user-friendly of the Caribbean nations; it is a democratic, pro-American country with English as its official language. It's native people are happy, productive and enjoy one of the highest rates of literacy of the Americas. There are numerous daily flights into Belize City from Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami, and the reliable local Tropic Air services all of the country's regional airports along with neighboring Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. The people of Belize are warm and friendly. English is the official language of this former British Commonwealth nation, and most locals also speak Spanish, Creole, or one of the regional Mayan dialects.
Ambergris Caye may be the most popular tourist hot-spot in Belize. The Barrier Reef is within sight of the beach, and the flats that line the island teem with bonefish. The protected flats in the Bay of Chetumal and near the mainland feature year-round resident tarpon fishing for fish from 30-80 pounds, and larger migratory fish from 80-200 pounds are available in May and June. The Bay of Chetumal near the border with Mexico is famous for its permit. Non-anglers love to relax on the beach, or enjoy countless eco-tours and activities.
The flats just outside of Belize City may be the
most diverse in the area, and anglers here frequently find tarpon on one side of the boat and schools of permit on the other. Bonefish populate the mangrove-lined flats. Monster snook and juvenile tarpon are always aplenty in the numerous jungle rivers and creeks. Grand Slams and even Super Slams are regular occurrences here.
Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere. It's coral reef flats are ideal for wading and stalking tailing bonefish in mere inches of water. The interior lagoon is home to schools of permit. And migratory tarpon patrol its reef edges and channel in the late spring and summer months.
Placencia is the place to go to wade for tailing permit. The lodges here are not fancy, unlike the vacation homes and resorts in the small coastal town. But the guides live and breathe permit, and tailing permit are on the menu from can see to can't see.
Punta Gorda is a sleepy village of 5,000 people in the far south of Belize, and the self-proclaimed "permit capital of the world." It remains close to its Mayan roots, and the two great fishing operations here focus on permit, with some specific areas that also feature resident and migratory tarpon as well as bonefish.
Catching a "Grand Slam" (bonefish, tarpon, and permit in the same day) is perhaps the most sought-after feat for the dedicated flats fisherman, and waters inside the Belize Barrier Reef present some of the best opportunities to accomplish this goal. The fish are there, and the rest comes down to good casts and more than a little luck.
In recent years, increasing numbers of saltwater anglers have focused on permit and Belize is one of a only a few saltwater destinations where anglers routinely experience the excitement of flats wade fishing for tailing permit and have a reasonable opportunity to catch one.
Permit and bonefishing in Belize is consistent throughout the year, while the coast of Belize has some terrific tarpon fishing, particularly in the spring, when aggressive fish pour out of the blue onto the shallow off-shore flats. These migratory tarpon average about 40-140 pounds, with a few larger fish, too.
Belize River Lodge is nestled into the rain forest just outside Belize City. It is the easiest Belizean lodge to get to, with nearly limitless flats, mangrove shorelines, and jungle rivers just a ten minute boatride away. Adult (100+ pound) tarpon are regularly found near the river mouth. Just a few more minutes in the skiff will put anglers in the midst of some of the best bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook fishing in Belize.
Belcampo is a wonderful project combining high-end accommodations, fine dining, excellent fishing, and outstanding non-angling eco-tour options. Its private bungalos and suites are built within the fresh embrace of the jungle. The fishing is focused on permit, with some opportunities to cast to tarpon, bonefish, and snook. Non-anglers will enjoy the plush accommodations at Belcampo, while relishing in the full-service spa and the host of eco-tours available.
Thatch Caye is a very small private island located about 10 miles off the coast of Dangriga, Belize, Central America. This saltwater resort is located on a private island dead-center in the middle of the best permit fishing in Belize, if not the world. A charming little island getaway, Thatch Caye is surrounded by some of the finest permit waters found anywhere as well as an abundance of snorkeling-worthy coral and sea life.
El Pescador is the perfect destination for both serious anglers and those looking to enjoy a combination of fishing, relaxing, and eco-touring. The lodge boasts year-round action for resident tarpon, bonefish patrol the mangrove lined shores and beachs of Ambergris Caye, and permit are a frequent sight. Non-anglers enjoy El Pescador's three swimming pools, villa upgrades, delicious food and well-stocked bar, and plenty of eco-tour options.
Tarpon Caye Lodge in Belize is a saltwater fly fishing camp custom-tailored for the serious flats fishermen and, more specifically, hardcore permit fisherman. The location is perfect, as you are never more than a short boat ride to the permit flats. With good reason, this part of Belize is known as the permit capital of the world! Tarpon Caye Lodge can accommodate up to 8 rods at a time, making it ideal for small groups looking for a unique and intimate setting.
Turneffe Flats Lodge is recognized as a premier fly fishing, Scuba diving and ecotourism destination. Air-conditioned beachfront cabanas, white sand beaches, and miles of bonefish and permit flats await every guest. The lodge has easy access to all of the 300 square miles of the archipelago reefs, flats, channels, lagoons, and rich marine habitat of Turneff Atoll, all of which is protected by the Belizean government to guarantee excellent fly fishing.
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