Diversity of Fishing
The variety and quantity of fish in Belize is a result of the diversity of aquatic habitats that support them. The Barrier Reef is the most important, providing shelter and food for a huge variety of reef fish which in turn attract larger predatory fish. The country’s second virtue is freshwater rivers and their brackish estuaries which are often used by fish to spawn before moving out into the sea. Also, the sub-tropical climate is just right for literally hundreds of fish species. This rich mixture of sandy beaches, barrier islands, intercoastal waterways, seagrass beds, mangrove-studded bays, salt marshes and estuaries is what makes fishing in Belize so diverse.
Fly Fishing Belize’s Saltwater Flats
Belize’s saltwater flats form an extensive array of mangrove-lined bays, creeks, channels and lagoons that are popular for fly fishing. A day on the flats usually involves wading through shallow water or fishing from the casting deck of your boat, always with a sharp eye for your preferred species. With a lot of skill and a little bit of luck you can achieve the Grand Slam of fly-fishing: catching a tarpon, bonefish and permit all in one day! Bonefish are best known for their incredible strength in putting up a fight when being reeled in. They are the most plentiful game fish on Belize’s flats and average around 5 lbs. If you are looking for a real fight and want to put your fishing skills to the ultimate test, then you need to go after a tarpon. This is by far the largest species on Belize’s saltwater flats ranging from 60–90 lbs but can even approach an amazing 200 lbs. They are nicknamed “saltwater torpedoes” because of their incredible strength. They are also infamous for jumping out of the water when hooked. If you want to catch a permit, be prepared to be very patient. These have become a popular game fish because it requires a great deal of skill to hook one on a fly-rod. Permit have a very keen sense of smell, brilliant eyesight and display an uncanny intelligence.
Fishing the Reef & Outer Wall
The Barrier Reef offers the greatest opportunity for landing a lot of fish because it harbors so many species such as barracudas, jacks, groupers and snappers. Most reef fishing is done mainly with lines, hooks and live bait. This type of fishing is great year round since reef fishes feed on the small crabs and sardines that inhabit the reef. The best time of the day for reef fishing is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You can find more than 12 species of snappers in Belize but the mutton snapper is the most abundant, ranging from 1 to 4 lbs. Dropping a line into a productive “fishing hole” will often produce a lot of smaller snappers. Trolling along the inside of the reef, at a depth of 60-80 feet, will also produce a lot a small fish as well. However, the most exciting fishing is along the outside of the reef, on the wall that drops to the deep depths of the sea. It is here that you will find the largest species of reef fish that will put up a big fight. For example, in waters 100–150 feet deep, you’ll find the amazing kingfish. The kingfish is of the mackerel family and is particularly known for their speed and agility in the water. They feed on sardines, shrimps and squids but particularly favor jacks that are found closer to the reef. Just like the tarpon, the kingfish is also known for putting up a fight, gloriously jumping out of the water when hooked. If you have ever caught a kingfish, you understand how gratifying they are to land.
Deep Sea Fishing
Moving outside the barrier reef into the depths of the open sea can yield dolphin fish, wahoo, tuna, sailfish and marlin. The dolphin fish, also known as the dorado or mahi mahi, is one of the most beautiful fish in the the sea with its radiant blue, green, yellow and gold colors. With a life span of only about 5 years the dolphin fish is a fast growing fish which makes it perfect for sports fishing. Much like other deep sea game fish, it jumps out of the water when hooked. They range about 10–50 lbs and are mostly present in the months of June and July feeding on bait fish, squids and sea horses around the drifting sea weed patches. Deep sea fishes need to be attracted to the surface and this is done by trolling brightly colored lures along the surface. Most offshore fishing takes place during tournament time in February, June and October. However, offshore fishing can be arranged year round. Marlin is good all year, while sailfish is best in the spring and wahoo in the winter. King mackerel is best in April, May and June. When it comes to deep sea fishing, you need to be patient because it may take a while trolling before you hook a fish. But when you land one of these big game fish, rest assured that it will have been worth the wait.
Fishing Belize’s Rivers & Estuaries
Belize has many rivers that offer excellent river fishing. The largest and best rivers for fishing in Belize are the New River, Belize River, Sibun River, Manatee River, Sittee River, Rio Grande River and Moho River. Most river fishing is done from the river mouth up to a few miles upstream for jacks, snappers, cuberas, snook and tarpon. You can use live bait with a spinning rod or use a fly fishing rod. Most of the fishing is done from the casting deck of your boat. Cuberas are best caught when the water is cool using deep running plugs as they tend to find cover in the deep holes along the middle of the river. They are also called “river rhinos” because these hard-fighting fish are infamous for pulling hooks. Snook are plentiful and are best caught along the mangrove edges at outgoing tide when the water is a little muddy. Tarpon are good during the spring when they enter the rivers to spawn. With a lot of skill and a little bit of luck you can can try and achieve the Jungle Slam of river fishing: catching a tarpon, cubera and snook all in one day.