As of 2019, the Meso-American Barrier Reef was rated the largest living barrier reef in the world
Deep Sea Fishing
DEEP SEA FISHING - All Year Long (Best time to catch Marlin (Feb. to April & Sept. to Nov.) The much deeper, ocean side of the barrier reef, fishing is said to be excellent for king and Spanish mackerel, grouper, snapper (several varieties), bonito, blackfin tuna, and wahoo, along with sailfish and marlin. Farther out, deep sea fish include swordfish, tuna, shark, porpoise, and dolphin. The warmest months often offer the best chance to hook grouper, mutton snapper, tarpon, sailfish, and mangrove snapper. Deep-sea fishing is not particularly popular in Belize, although spring and fall are good times to catch marlin and sailfish. White and blue marlin and sailfish pass through Belizean waters from February through April and September through November.
Barrier Reef Fishing
REEF FISHING - All Year Long Tarpon Fishing best from (Oct. to Dec. & June to July) Barrier Reef fishing tends to be the most popular type of fishing here in Belize. Tarpon, barracuda, and cubera snapper are equally plentiful near Belizean reefs. Forty-pound or larger tarpon are fairly common here, sometimes in the same coral flats where you'll find permit and bonefish (although they are not considered good eating). A large tarpon can easily take 90 minutes to subdue with a 10-weight fly rod. Tarpon can be fished year-round, but are most plentiful from October through mid-December and again in June and July.
Good-size snook are reported all winter, both in rivers and estuaries. These species can be found around reefs, flats, and mangrove cayes the rest of the year. The aggressive barracuda are notorious for breaking leaders in the water or, once landed, snapping at fishers feet. Mutton snapper, ladyfish, and crevalle jack also frequent the coral flats, along with the occasional grouper and red snapper. Trolling and bottom fishing along the reef can yield grouper, king macherel, jackcobia, kingfish, snapper, wahoo, bonito, and tuna, depending on the season and water depth.
The ribbon of coral reef paralleling the Belize coast glints with healthy schools of big fish. Whether you're trolling or fishing the bottom, you're apt to catch big grouper, cobia, kingfish, wahoo, king macherel, jack crevalles, and prize snapper, including the ubiquitous yellowtail and the brawling cubera. The barrier reef is so warm year-round, and the food so abundant, that reef fish do not migrate. Hence, expect good fishing here at any time.
Belize is not known for its blue water fishing. In fact, few charter boats are available for deeper waters. However, during the spring and fall, sailfish and marlin are occasionally caught along the seaward side of the reef.
FLAT FISHING - All Year Long - Many saltwater fly-fishers come to Belize to stalk the elusive bonefish, an almost transparent fish known for its feisty spirit and crafty ways. As the name implies, the creature is too bony to make a decent meal. Although the bonefish is relatively small - averaging 2 to 6 pounds - ounce for ounce it is considered the toughest fighter in the sea. This predator is often found in knee-deep, crystal clear coral flats, abundant all year round, but particularly from September through January, where it attacks smaller fish with lightening speed. The bonefish is taken on both fly and lure. The shallow, grassy, hard-sand coral flats in and around the Cayes are a particularly fine habitat for bonefish - so bring your waders!
Permit are also found throughout the year. Other common species are barracuda, snook, jacks, several types of grouper, and varieties of snapper, including mutton, mangrove, black, yellowtail and red.
FLY FISHING - All Year Long - Saltwater fly-fishing is best in the southern part of Belize, where the presence of divers, snorkelers, and Belizean fishers has been felt at least. Anything south of Dangriga is likely to be especially promising. It's not unusual to go for days at a time without seeing another rod or line.
If you're into angling's hottest trend, saltwater fly-fishing, you'll find it in Belize, where bonefish, tarpon and permit churn up the flats everywhere. Belize's most renowned flats are those around the Turneffe Islands, where the bottom is a mix of hard-packed sand and sea grass, and the water is virtually always wadable. Turneffe's popularity means it is more crowded than other spots around Belize, though for those used to fishing in Florida or other "discovered" areas, it will no doubt seem secluded.
Also popular are the flats off Ambergris Caye, famed as one of the world's most lucrative tarpon spots. Year-round, you can count on at least a small tarpon (20 to 50 pounds), though 100-pounders also abound in these waters. Schools of scrappy ladyfish, jack crevalle, permit, bonefish and barracuda are plentiful here. The waters off Placencia are famous for permit, who thrive on the crystalline coral and mangrove "ocean flats" that emerge from deep water. The best time to try for them is at the end of an incoming tide, when tailing permit swarm the flats looking for food. Then even this most elusive of fish is inclined to strike your fly. Other superb places to cast your fly include the flats at St. George's Caye, Hickes Caye, Tobacco Reef, South Water Caye and Glover's Caye, Hickes Caye, Tobacco Reef, South Water Caye and Glover's Reef. If you're just learning to fly fish, most lodges offer instructions.
Peak fly-fishing seasons vary from place to place, but generally you'll find that tarpon are most plentiful from October to mid-December and in June and July; bonefishing is best from September through January; and permit fishing peaks from August through October and March through June. Be aware that March can be windy with scattered storm bursts, and July and August are usually rainy and buggy.
RIVER FISHING (All Year Long) Because of the unique conditions and high quality of the country's offshore waters, freshwater fishing in the interior receives scant attention from visitors. If it's too windy to fly fish, or if you feel more comfortable with a spinning rod, Belize's rivers offer snook, snapper, jack and tarpon fishing in an incomparable jungle setting. One of the most scenic and prolific inland waterways is the Belize River, which climbs in an easterly direction across western Belize to empty into the Caribbean near Ladyville. Here along placid waters, walls of bamboo and troops of monkeys decorate the shore and tarpon roll across the surface like a pack of piranhas thrashing at a hapless victim. Cast your lure into a pack of these tarpon and you can't help but catch one, though don't be surprised when he rears up out of the water - several times.
Lobster Fishing - Closed Feb. 15th (to) June 14th June is an important month in Belize for festivals. It also marks the start of the lobster harvesting season which happens each year on June 15th. The harvesting of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster is only allowed from June 15 to February 14. The season closes from February 15th to June 14th for the mating season. Spiny Lobster is one of the top marine exports for Belize bringing in up to $15BZ million in past years and is a major contributor to the local economy.
How do Belizean Fisherman Catch Lobster? There are two main ways that lobsters are fished for in Belize. The first method is by free diving with a hook-stick. The lobster is caught by sliding the stick under its belly and pulling the hook up and out. This takes a lot of skill and (diving) experience, as lobsters as surprisingly fast swimmers.
The second method is by using a lobster trap. Inside the hand built traps, bait is placed and they are then located in sandy, shallow areas. Once the lobsters are ready to be collected, one person will free dive to the traps and attach a line. Then another person on the boat will pull the traps up and the lobster out. Fishermen on sailboats, dories and skiffs will use this method. Lobster shades are also used to harvest lobster. They are similar to lobster traps but they do not contain bait. Lobsters will seek shade during daylight and hide in these traps.
FISHING FROM THE DOCK - Regarding fishing from the shore, you'll certainly do better in a boat, but you can still score from the dock. Bonefish and all of the local reef fish are in abundant supply. Ultra-light tackle with small spinners and grubs will catch almost everything. Rattletraps will also catch most of the reef fish, plus barracuda.
I've done well catching bonefish right on the beach right near Boco del Rio. During the sunrise of the day I fly fish hitting the areas on the flats bare of turtle grass. Small shrimp imitations, and crazy charlies work out well.
Then during the night when the tide is in, many of the reef fish come into near the beach searching for food sources. Light spinning gear and natural bait is more efficient than flies then lures in the darkness. The mula conch or horse conch is wonderful bait, it is smelly and it is tough and hard to get picked off the hook. The Barrier Reef side of Ambergris Caye is really shallow and you can wade for hundreds of feet up to your waist if you are not really short.
The leeward side of the caye is filled with mangroves and with a mucky bottom. Basically, the wind side is open for wading, but watch out for fast pangas, or fishing skiffs. I use wading shoes, not bare feet due to sea urchins and sharp objects. Waders and fly vests are too hot for this climate, I use a fanny-pack stuffed with my gear, and of course a nail clipper on a re-tractor and a hemostat.
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