Sport fishing in Belize. Image courtesy Chris Harris
Belize has world-class game fishing that is only now being discovered by anglers. This English-speaking country is located in Northern Central America – an easy two hour hop from North America. It is home to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site the Barrier Reef – the largest in the Western Hemisphere and home for unmatched game fishing.
The prized bonefish are present in equal numbers throughout the year in Belize and there is no clearly preferable season for bone fishing – in short bone fish are here throughout the year. The allowed season is from April through October. Bone-fish inhabit the mangrove-lined lagoons and flats on the interior of the Belize Atolls. These bone-fish are generally larger and take flies more readily than the ocean side fish; although they tend to be on the move, making casting accuracy more crucial.
Permit are in Belizean waters throughout the year, although permit fishing tends to be more predictable when the prevailing winds are most consistent – generally in the winter, spring and summer. Some of the better permit fishing can be in the fall if the weather is not affected by cold fronts.
Permit are the prime objective of many saltwater anglers and the country has gained a reputation as the permit capital of the world. As much hunting as it is fishing, permit present a unique challenge and many guests have celebrated their first ever permit in Belize.
Most permit are found as singles or in small groups on the flats and bars throughout the Reef and Atolls, although anglers also frequently see larger schools of permit tailing in shallow water. Most of permit fishing is done from a poled skiff but we also see permit on the wadeable ocean-side flats. In 2007, Fly Fishing in Saltwater magazine named Belize as one of the 10 best permit destinations in the world.
Tarpon fishing is somewhat seasonal since the tarpon is a migratory species. Tarpon numbers begin to increase in April and May and drop off a little in September or October.
The best tarpon months are June, July, and August. However some resident tarpon are around throughout the year. Tarpon are regarded by some anglers as perhaps the ultimate challenge of saltwater fly-fishing. Although there are always some resident tarpon to be found, our migratory tarpon season extends from mid-April to October. Tarpon inhabit the rivers, creeks, channels and lagoons off Belize and most tarpon jumped are 60-90 pounds, with some fish in the 100-150 pound range and occasional monsters approaching 200 pounds.
Grand Slam Season
Belize Sport Fishing Calendar. Legend: Fair, Good, Excellent.
May, June, July, August and early September are considered to be the best fishing months in here primarily because there are good numbers of all three species available. Summer temperatures are in the low-to mid-90s and a steady trade wind generally makes the weather very comfortable.
Another favorite sport fish, the snook, can be found in the small mangrove creeks around the country’s several atolls. Barracuda are a popular sport fish present in large numbers throughout the year. Local Reef fish species including snapper, grouper and jacks are also abundant throughout the year. Along the reef, wading anglers can take snappers and jacks by casting deceiver patterns or poppers into the surf. Spending some time during your stay here “chasing” other species is always fun and usually rewarding.
River fishing for tarpon – note pooch in background trying to help.
Daily Fishing Schedules
Fishing schedules in Belize are as flexible as possible. A standard day’s fishing is about 8 hours. Generally the fishing day begins after breakfast and ends around 5 p.m. although it is adjusted depending on the tides and other factors. Most lodges and tour operators offer the option to take a packed lunch or return to the lodge for the noon meal. Early morning fishing, particularly for tarpon, can be exceptional, and arrangements to go tarpon fishing before breakfast are easily made.
Fishing lodges and tours are easily accessible via San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Placencia or Corozal. Video Belize, sport fishing tournament in Belize.
Catch and Release
Local fishing lodges and resorts believe strongly in protecting the local fishery. With some exceptions, most fish at are released but this is at the option of the angler and his guide – after all – what can replace a fresh catch of fish barbecued on the beach?
Temperatures throughout the year range from 70-95 degrees (average 84). Water temperatures average 78-80 degrees in the winter and 83 degrees in the summer. A comfortable southeasterly trade wind blows throughout most of the year, and pick up in March and April. June begins the “rainy season” in Belize but this is primarily to the mainland and has little effect on the offshore atolls. Fall weather is generally wonderful with pleasant temperatures and mild winds; however, the weather can occasionally be dominated by “northers’” or cold fronts. Video below: Charlie explains how to land Permit in Belize.
Environmental Conditions Make It An Angler’s Paradise
The country has an unmatched combination of environmental factors that come together to create the ideal habitat for a myriad of saltwater game fish. The most outstanding attribute is the Barrier Reef, that is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Eight to forty miles off the coast, an intricate chain of mangrove studded islands and cayes provide a habitat for a coral ecosystem. Coral water species demand a strict set of environmental criteria in order to develop. This is why large barrier reefs such as the Barrier Reef are not common.Video below shows self-guided bone fishing right off the beach in Belize.
The Outdoor TV Channel discovered Belize as major game fishing destination in 2011 and dedicated a seven part series anchored by Tom Brokaw and other noted celebrity anglers.
Fishing Licenses for Belize
If you’re going fishing, you need a license. For many years it was not a bother and anyone could fish anywhere with nothing to worry about. The Fisheries Department has a an unofficial go easy on the tourists rule but really, you need a license to fish.
Click here to go to the Coastal Zone Management Authority where you can get your fishing license online. Or you can check with your fishing guide who can take care of this requirement. The handy guide below sets out in condensed form almost everything you need to know about Belize Sports Fishing. You can click on the image for a larger, easy to print out version.
Official Guide To Belize Fishing, Seafood, Species, Closed Seasons, Lionfish And Regulations. Click for larger version.
Article Updated 14 March 2017. Some Images Courtesy Chris Harris and Coastal Zone Management Authority.