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Tired of Ice in Your Guides? Consider Fishing in Belize!
We got online and checked out what a visit to Belize might offer us, and we found that it has a wide range of activities. We could choose from snorkeling, cave tubing, bird watching, exploring Mayan ruins, and of course, fishing. The second largest barrier reef in the world lies just off the shore of Belize, and both the deep sea, reef and flats fishing. I had always wanted to catch bonefish and tarpon. There may be opportunities to catch permit, barracuda and other exotic species.
The next step was finding a place to stay. This was a honeymoon after all, so something nice, with air conditioning a must was what we were after, and we found it. Journey’s End Resort (journeysendresort.com) looked like it had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, and it was located on Ambergris Caye, that was a center for all the activities I mentioned earlier. The guide service recommended by a friend as also located just four miles down the beach from the resort. That sealed the deal. I reserved two days of fishing with El Pescador before we left.
To get to Belize City from Seattle takes over nine hours. It requires two jet flights. Then you take a short puddle jumper flight, and then a water taxi to the resort. Thanks to a travel agent friend of mine, everything went smoothly. We made all our connections and there were people waiting for us on arrival in Belize that escorted us right to the water taxi. We left Seattle on a midnight flight and were settled into our room by 3 p.m. the next day.
Our room was just what we expected and the staff at the resort was terrifically friendly. The next morning we took a walk up the beach to get our bearings, and we were surprised to see bonefish “tailing” all along the shore as we walked up the beach path. As we were to learn, we just happened to pick a place on the best bonefish flats on the entire island! That night we rigged our rods and we hit the beach the next morning.
Not far up the beach we found very good numbers of bonefish feeding in the shallows. Some buddies of mine had loaned me a bunch of flies and I just tied on what looked good to me. It looked good to the bonefish, too. I hooked three and landed two of them in my first hour or so fishing. Amazing. Bonefish are reputed to be the most elusive, spooky and finicky of all the fish in the flats. An American transplant that we me said it took him six months too hook his first fish. My fishing started out with a heavy dose of beginners luck, and it got more difficult as the week progressed. I did manage to hook at least one bonefish on all but one day that we were able to fish for them.
I learned that the key element in planning for a fishing trip to the area is not the resort, not the airline but something I hadn’t even considered: the phase of the moon. We arrived just as the moon was going to full and it had at lot of impact on our fishing. It got more and more difficult, due to the tides and the ability for all fish to feed through the night, as the week progressed. You can’t always count on good weather, which we had, but you can put the odds for good fishing in your favor by visiting during the first or last quarter of the moon.
We did luck out in spite of the moon. We had perfect conditions for our first guided fishing trip. We arrived at the dock at El Pescador (www.elpescador.com) and were introduced to Nesto Gomez. When he asked what our preference was for fishing that day, and I said that I would like to get a bonefish for my wife, he looked at me like I was an alien or something. He said today was the first day in over a month that they could fish for tarpon. It had been rainy and stormy and the flats had been muddy and visibility awful “Give it a half-day,” he pleaded. My wife said tarpon, and I agreed. We made the right decision.
When we arrived on the flats, Nesto tied on one of the flies I had been loaned. I took my position in the bow, with my barrowed rod and reel, and he climbed to a platform above the outboard with his pole and began searching for fish. We didn’t have to wait long. He would yell “Three at your two o’clock coming fast!”, and I would try to spot the fish and toss my fly in their pass. Then he would yell “Strip! Strip!” and I would pull like crazy. I missed a shot at my first fish by dropping my line, but I didn’t on my next cast and one of the fish turned and grabbed my fly. “Hang on, hang on,” Nesto would yell. “Don’t raise your rod tip!” I would brace myself against the lunging strike, and pull the line with the rod pointed straight at the fish. Then boom! Out of the water they would come, and zoom, race away again. Long powerful runs and high, gill rattling leaps are what tarpon are noted for, and I got to see and feel a lot of them. I hooked up six times and managed to land three of them. My arm was shot. Casting a 10-weight rod and wresting with these fish was exhausting, and they were only 15 pounds!
I tried tarpon fishing later in the week, and had a guide, Gilberto, with 22 years of experience, but he was no match for the conditions. We saw very few fish and when I made a cast in the midst of a pack of tarpon, they completely ignored my fly. It just wasn’t going to happen.
One day there was a mix up with the scheduling of our guided trip. When I arrived at the dock in the morning, the dock master at El Pescador looked at me like I was a stranger. He checked his roster in office and I wasn’t on it. He had me down for Saturday not Friday. At first we were upset, but we wound up fishing with some friends that we had met earlier in the week, and had a blast. He and his wife had planned an afternoon on the water and asked us to join them. They showed us a whole lot of water. We cast for jacks, saw bonefish in the mangroves, had a manatee boil right next to the boat—and I landed two barracuda! They were very gracious spending their time with us, and we obviously had a lot in common: a love for the water and fishing. Danno and Kathleen had just finished a house on the beach, just up from resort where we were staying. Danno had watched us fishing for bonefish and had invited us in for coffee. Once we started talking fishing, it was all over.
It was through Danno that I learned of a guide service that I will be using on my next visit. Called GoFishBelize (www.gofishbelize.com), it is owned by Abner Marin. Abner is the son of Carlos Marin, who is a legend as a fly fishing guide in Belize. The service offers fishing for all types of fish in Belize with all kinds of tackle. I can’t wait to get out with Abner. GoFishBelize also offers a range of other activities, including snorkeling trips, bird watching, mammal and turtle viewing, or just scenic tours of the barrier reef or the mangrove lagoons.
Everything about Belize was better than we expected. The people really made this trip. Everyone was friendly and helpful. We felt not only safe but welcomed everywhere we went. The food was first class. The small town on the island, San Pedro, was fun to visit and full of restaurants and shops. Our favorite restaurant, the Sunset Grill, fed giant tarpon practically next to our table while we enjoyed our lunch.
Next time you’re headed out in freezing temperatures to do some steelhead or ice fishing this winter, think about what is waiting for you down south. I know I will. Warm weather, clear water, and some very fine fishing right off your doorstep. It’s all waiting for you in Belize!