Slowly but surely, Belize is climbing to the very top of Central America’s fisheries. Offering all kinds of angling opportunities, this little Caribbean gem could’ve easily inspired 77 reasons to fish here. But that would make for a quite a lengthy article, and we don’t want to cut into any of your precious gear-packing, plane-ticket-to-Belize-booking time.
Fishing Regulations in Belize
Before we get to why fishing in Belize is so remarkable, let’s take a quick look at some of the local fishing regulations.
Obviously, you’re going to need a Belize fishing license before you can wet a line in these waters. Whether it’s casting from the docks, or trolling offshore, the easiest way to get a license is to apply online. A daily license costs BZ$20, and a weekly permit will set you back BZ$50.
If you plan on making your visits to Belize a regular thing (which we highly recommend), you can also purchase an annual license for BZ$100. For this permit, however, you’ll need to apply at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute in person.
As far as marine conservation goes, Belize is one of the leading countries in the region. All Bonefish, Tarpon, and Permit are therefore strictly catch and release species.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what makes Belize one of the premier fisheries of the Caribbean.
1. Blessed by Nature
When it comes to geographical features, Belize happens to be among the luckiest fisheries in the world. One of the key reasons for this is that the country lies right on the Belize Barrier Reef. This 200-mile structure is a subsection of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, one of the largest coral formations in the entire world!
Now that’s really exciting news if you’re a geography major or a plankton, but why should an angler care about a big coral formation?
Dazzling looks aside, this giant underwater marvel stretches along the entire coast of Belize, supplying both nutrients and shelter to a wide range of smaller bait fish and crustaceans. These attract – you guessed it – the big and the hungry of the game fish world.
The reef is home to more than 500 species of fish, and is the prime culprit behind the creation of an impressive variety of flats and lagoons. There are also more than 200 islands, or “Cayes,” located off the shores of mainland Belize.
Speaking of lagoons, did you know that 5% of the entire country’s land area (22,960 square miles) is covered by these coastal inlets? Now some of you may not be good at math, but we’re pretty sure that multiplying those two numbers equals “more lagoons than you could fish in a lifetime.”
Another one of Nature’s blessings to the country is its string of freshwater rivers and estuaries, all of them bustling with diverse freshwater and marine life. The rivers dump an incredible amount of nutritious biomass into the ocean. A true feast for bait fish and crustaceans, which in turn…well, you know this part already.
Game fish like Snook, Snapper, Jacks, and Tarpon are regular visitors here. When they’re not feasting on the abundance of nutrients, these fish come to the estuaries to spawn.
Finally, the average temperatures range from 75°F in the middle of January to 80°F during the July “heat wave.” That probably takes the crown for the most laid-back seasonal change in the world. There are some differences in humidity and rainfall depending on the season, but you’re never more than a couple of degrees away from an optimal fishing opportunity.
2. A Fly Angler’s Paradise
Belize boasts more than 200 miles of coastline flats. The country is renowned for its bonefishing prospects, and is quickly gaining traction as a laudable Permit fishery. And if that wasn’t enough, fishing for Tarpon is arguably among the best in the entire Caribbean. Belize isn’t exactly shy about how good their Silver King fishery is, mind you. Heck, they even have an island called Tarpon Caye!
Snook is another regular fly fishing catch. In fact, seasoned fly anglers are constantly on the prowl for these guys.
And if you’re up for the ultimate fly fishing challenge, come and try your luck at a fly fishing Super Grand Slam. For the uninitiated, that’s catching Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, and Snook all in the same day. Did you know that Belize is one of only four destinations to record this achievement?
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular fly-fishing spots in Belize:
The western bank of Belize’s largest island is lined with bountiful fishing lagoons. Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon – you name it, it’s here. This place is also among the premier luxury fishing destinations.
Located 15 miles off Belize City, Turneffe Atoll is your go-to fly fishing destination. There are plenty of mangrove islands and saltwater flats here, and Bonefish and Tarpon bite like crazy.
For the longest time, the flats around Punta Gorda were a local angler’s best kept secret. The word’s out now, and more and more people come to experience this amazing Permit fishery. Still, the area is largely uninhabited, making it ideal for a quiet fishing getaway.
Permit Alley is more of an area than a “spot,” but hey, that’s fishing in Belize for you. Marking a 30-mile stretch of flats between Placencia and Dangriga, Permit Alley is brimming with its namesake, as well as big Bonefish.
Keep in mind that a number of flats in Belize have soft bottoms, so you’ll be doing most of your fly-fishing from a boat. Depending on where you decide to wet your line, you may encounter anything from white sand and coral patches to eelgrass bottoms.
If you pride yourself on being a wader first, there are plenty of bountiful turtle grass flats located in and around Ambergris Caye and Turneffe Atoll.
Your best bet, however, will be the flats around Tarpon Caye. The bottom around the island is solid, making it prime real estate for waders. You can either cast from the boat as your guide poles these flats, or simply hop out of the vessel to get an optimal casting position.
The jungle rivers and estuaries are an amazing setting for a fly fishing adventure. Places like the Belize and Monkey River offer exciting game like Tarpon, Black Snapper, Cubera Snapper, and Jack Crevalle.
3. Untapped Deep Sea Fishing Potential
Thanks to the sheer number and size of its flats and lagoons, most traveling anglers swarm to the Belizean coast to fish. And rightfully so. However, this has left Belize’s deeper waters pretty much unspoiled. Which is good news for you.
Once you get past the beautiful reefs, you’ll be greeted by a variety of big game species that rival any of the hottest deep sea fishing destinations in the Western Hemisphere. You can start trolling for Sailfish right along the drop-off, or go out a bit further and have a go at Marlin or Blackfin Tuna. The familiar offshore lineup of Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and King Mackerel are all here, too.
You can find most big game fish as deep as 650 feet, and getting to the hot spots usually takes no longer than half an hour. Take a look at our fish chart to see when you can target a specific species:
4. A Chance to Be a Hero
Ever since Lionfish was accidentally introduced to the area, it’s jeopardized much of the delicate ecosystem that is the Barrier reef. The fish has no natural predators in these waters, and the authorities are trying their best to systematically reduce its population. How about giving them a hand and catching one? Hey, if the girls seem unimpressed with your fishing tales, you can at least try following with: “I was actually saving the country’s environment. No biggie.”
On a more serious note, Belize is among the leading Caribbean countries in terms of conservation. About a third of the entire land territory is currently under some form of protection. There are many wildlife sanctuaries serving as shelter for endangered species.
As far as fishing is concerned, many policies have been put in place to address the dwindling numbers of species. For instance, Belize is the first country to completely outlaw bottom trawling. Also, fish like Bonefish, Tarpon, and Permit are limited to catch and release. Lastly, places like Hol Chan Marine Reserve are designed to preserve the sensitive marine habitat and local coral structures.
5. Reef Fishing
If fly fishing is too particular for you, and you don’t want to spend an entire day on the water, reef fishing is your ideal choice. As we mentioned, the reef attracts a wide range of marine creatures. Some of these just happen to be awesome game fish.
Most spots are within half an hour from the coast, so a half day outing will give you more than enough time to catch your fill. Jacks, Groupers, Snappers, and Kingfish swarm these waters like crazy, with Barracudas and Wahoo as abundant as in any Caribbean fishery.
6. The Views
Belize’s unique geography makes it much more than just a good place to wet a line. With lush, waterfall-laden jungle on one side, and colorful beaches and corals on the other, the views in this place are nothing short of spectacular.
The gin-clear waters around the local islands are the perfect invitation for snorkelers and watersports enthusiasts. Around 40 miles off Belize City, divers can enjoy the storied Great Blue Hole, a giant marine sinkhole made famous by French explorer Jacques Cousteau.
On the mainland, you’ll find a variety of eco-lodges to spend a few relaxing days in. Take a stroll to the mighty waterfalls, or enjoy one of the many Mayan ruins scattered across the country. Speaking of the mainland, Belize has one of the smallest population densities in the Caribbean. That means no tourist crowds, and no waiting in line to snap a photo.
The rivers are lined with lush bamboo that trees hide an amazing array of wildlife. This is your ideal entryway for a little jungle exploration. Here, you’ll always have a “resident” to keep you company, whether its a playful manatee, a seabird, or one of the frisky local monkeys.
7. The Cost
By now you’re probably thinking, “fishing in Belize isn’t such a bad idea.” And you’re right, but wait until you hear this: Belize has some of the stiffest fishing charter competition in the Caribbean. What does that mean for you? A chance at a Grand Slam for as low as 300 bucks!
With all the extra cash in your pocket, you can let loose and explore the jungle, book an extra night in one of the charming lodges, or hey, go out and catch even more fish!
And now, we turn it over to you. What’s the best thing about fishing in Belize in your opinion? Have you ever tried to get a Grand Slam? Let us know in the comments below.