7 Reasons Why You Should Go Fishing in Belize
Aug 27, 2019 | 8 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 8 minutes

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.

Belize bottom fishing: An angler holding a big Grouper

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!

aerial photo of tropical island South Water Caye in Belize

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.”

a fishing boat in the water near a beach in Belize

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!

tarpon fishing in belize

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:

Ambergris Caye

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.

Turneffe Atoll

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.

Punta Gorda

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

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.  

a fly angler holding a 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.

River Fishing

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. 

an angler holding a wahoo fish

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:

fishing calendar belize

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.”

a lionfish

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.

a angler holding a permit fish in Belize

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. 

great blue hole belize

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!

a bird's eye view of a couple fishing from a boat in shallow turquoise waters

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.

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Comments (18)
  • united21kanha

    May 20, 2014

    Nice post for fisherman and traveler, after reading interesting post we get idea about fishing and traveling can be best for combination for next step.
    Thanks
    United-21 Kanha

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  • Belize

    Aug 4, 2014

    Belize is a mecca for fishing thanks to its beautiful and diverse Belize Barrier Reef.

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  • My Country Belize

    Nov 3, 2015

    Sorry, but Belize is off limits to deep sea fishing and trawling of any sort. You can go to Prison for a long time. Let’s preserve Belize’s fish.

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    • Reply icon

      Xavier

      Nov 24, 2015

      Hi, thank you for the comment! As far as we’re informed (according to many online sources and our local guides), deep sea fishing is ok. Billfish are, of course, catch and release, but tuna, wahoo, mahi and the likes are not protected. If you have a source, we’ll gladly revise!

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  • Patrick Knight

    May 18, 2016

    Hello I’m coming to Belize Feb 22:2017 I’m looking for a deep jungle river guide ,I’m very experienced fisherman,,would be me fishing,my wife along for the fun,,I’m bringing my rods,artifical baits,,needs to be affordable of I can’t do it at all. Thanks so much. Patrick Knight

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      Cat

      May 19, 2016

      Hi Patrick,

      That sounds like an amazing trip! We will take a look into the options and see what we can do for you. We’ll be in touch!

      Thanks, Catherine

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  • Mike Bingham

    Jun 11, 2016

    I’m 63, an avid, experienced fisherman who has guided some in the U.S. I’m looking to retire in Belize. Is there a possibility of me being able to guide there? I’m more interested in inshore and river fishing. Thanks.

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      Cat

      Jun 17, 2016

      Hi Mike,

      That sounds like a great plan! Starting a business in Belize isn’t as easy as just turning up and offering fishing trips – you will have to get a trade license and a work permit, then register your company with social security and tax. You should definitely look into working with a local lawyer to make sure everything goes ahead smoothly. It will take some time and effort but it is important to follow your dreams! Good luck. You can find more information here.

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  • Steve Skevington

    Oct 7, 2016

    My wife and I are seriously considering moving to Belize and moving our fishing charter business there as well…
    That being said what credentials does a offshore Capt/guide need to operate there??

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      Cat

      Oct 21, 2016

      Hi Steve,

      I’ve looked into this, and you need to either own property in Belize or be a resident there to become a licensed captain. You would then need to register as self employed and pay duty on your boat, environmental tax and GST which comes to 30% of the value of the vessel as determined by customs. You would also need a BTB Tour Operator’s license and full liability insurance, as well as having a licensed tour guide on board during all trips.

      I hope this helps!

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  • Steven Paglierani

    Mar 26, 2017

    I’ll be in San Pedro the last 2 weeks of May. Should I get my license before I get there? Also, can I legally keep reef fish for personal consumption other than the catch and release species (bones, tarpon and permit)?

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      Cat

      Mar 28, 2017

      Hi Steven,

      It is very easy to purchase a sport fishing license online – you can do so here. If you would rather purchase your license in person, you can do so at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute in Belize City, Go Fish Belize in Boca del Rio San Pedro, the Placencia Tourism Center, or the Sittee River Marina at Sittee Point, Dangriga. Licenses cost $20 BZD for a day or $50 BZD for a week ($10 or $25 USD respectively).

      Reef fish such as Snappers are not subject to the strict catch-and-release policy that affects Bonefish etc.

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  • Forest

    Sep 19, 2017

    Can someone help me? I would like to go to Belize for an extended stay and fish , saltwater , marlin, snook, tuna….. can anyone direct me to an area in the country where I can rent a house for a month or more? I am very flexible with a timeframe ,

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  • Joe Rap

    Nov 11, 2017

    After reading these posts, I am changing my plans and will go to Belize. I am an experienced fisherman but since I do not know the lay of the land, I am looking for a guide for surf fishing.

    Where can I locate them?
    Thanks
    Joe

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  • Andrew cooper

    Aug 5, 2018

    Looking at next Feb, I will be with my girlfriend. So, I need a nice hotel or more than one and wish to fish every other day for 2 weeks.

    Would like to try it all: reef, inshore, inshore flats, river and deep water for the big game, also shark fishing over reefs.

    Can you suggest a couple of hotels and guides that can accommodate this? We will bring some gear but won’t be equipped for heavy stuff.

    Many thanks
    Andy

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    • Reply icon

      Stefan

      Aug 10, 2018

      Hi, Andy, thanks for reading the blog.

      February is a great time to fish these waters. You will find big Wahoo over the reefs and numerous fish on the flats.

      There are several guides in the area who offer a variety of fishing techniques and types:

      Waata Daag Fishing Adventures. Captain Grayson fishes for game fish such as Mahi and Wahoo, and he also offers flats fishing.
      Freedom Tours – Trolling Passion. The crew specializes in offshore and reef fishing trips.

      If you would like some more help about a specific place, or type of fishing, just let me know.
      Most of the local charters and guides provide all the gear, but you can always check that with them.

      If you’d like to talk to a captain, you can do that via the ‘Contact the Captain’ button.
      Once you open a page of a charter you like, just scroll down and click on the blue button.

      Hope this helps.

      Feel free to reach out if you need any more help.

      Tight lines,
      Stefan

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  • T Clark Wood

    Apr 22, 2019

    Been down the last 3 years to the Placencia area. Do you know the best places to catch snook? I catch them in Florida all the time and I’ve seen 1 or 2 but have not seen very many at all. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Apr 25, 2019

      Hello Clark,

      Thanks for reading.

      The best snook fishing off Placencia would be along “Permit Alley”. These flats are should give you a good variety of other species as well, and local captains often say that this is their favorite spot.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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