Best fishing in Belize

Belize is a fisherman’s paradise. In fact, it’s a paradise for all types of flathead anglers, where bonefish, permit and tarpon can be caught with real potential in a single day.
Bill Doster

Located in the southeastern corner of the Yucatan Peninsula, this small Central American country (about the size of Massachusetts) was known as British Honduras until 1973. Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) with dozens of islands. Small and small islands. The country’s 174 miles of coastline offers vast expanses of sand flats dotted with patches of turtle grass—ideal habitat for bony fish and perch.

Among fishermen, Belize is known for its prolific year-round catches of both valuable inshore species. Add tarpon to the mix, and it’s understandable that Belize ranks near the top places in the world where anglers can accomplish one of the coveted four shallow-water slams: permit, bonefish, and tarpon in one day. But don’t limit yourself! Belize boasts a large population of snook in its mangrove-lined rivers and bays. Add Snook to the other three types and join the ranks of premium players. Whether it is or not, fishing in Belize is especially popular with fly fishermen.

Mangroves, water and coral reefs underneath
Clear, shallow waters surrounded by mangroves are what anglers in Belize can expect. Close to shore, the world’s second largest coral reef system is home to world-class bottom fishing.
Bill Doster

Unique among Central American countries, at least 40 percent of the country’s mainland and coast are protected. The barrier reef system has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The reef extends over 180 miles, in places just 1,000 feet from shore but in others as far as 25 miles.

Some popular areas include Turnife Atoll, the country’s largest atoll, located about 20 miles off the coast, near Belize City. It is known for its large schools of bony fish, but also for its numbers of permits. Turneffe remains a marine reserve, with vast areas of mangroves and seagrass around the island. Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize, famous for its white sand beaches and turquoise shallow waters. It is very popular with tourists, as it is only a 15-minute small plane ride from Belize City. However, it is still a solid place for inshore fishing, especially for tarpon on its wide flats. Some other prime spots for anglers in Belize include the Placencia Peninsula and the Hopkins and Glover Reefs to the south.

Tarpon are caught in Belize
Larger tarpon appear in Belize from late spring to summer, but smaller fish can be caught at any time on the flats, in channels, creeks and bays.
Courtesy Adobe Stock/Jan Orr

Planning a trip

when are you going

As mentioned above, this is truly year-round fishing. Larger tarpon tend to be more seasonal, due to their migratory nature; Late spring and summer are prime time but smallmouth bass can be caught anytime on the flats, in channels, creeks and bays. Winter can be harder on bones, while fall is peak growth time. Since the fishing can be good year-round, the timing of your trip may depend on the weather more than anything else. Spring tends to be a little windier (the prevailing trade winds are usually from the eastern quadrant). Late February to May is the dry season, and June through most of the fall, is the rainy season. It is worth noting that the northern part of Belize receives much less rain than the south. Also consider the possibility of hurricanes in the summer and fall. Direct strikes on Belize are rare, but tropical winds and rain from large storms can hamper fishing.

Where to go and how to get there

Major airlines offer regular flights from several US cities to Belize City International Airport. Once in Belize, there are regular flights and ferry service to Ambergris Caye, but access to more remote resorts is mainly via charter flights provided or arranged by the resorts.

The beautiful Grand Caribe Belize Resort is located in San Pedro Belize, 2 miles north of the city on the island of Ambergris Caye. The apartment-style accommodations cater to fishermen and families, plus the barrier reef is only half a mile from their beaches. This year the resort hosted the seventh annual Deep Sea Classic fishing tournament in July.

Flats fishing in Belize
Spot that tail? Flats anglers have the opportunity to complete one of the four major slams (tarpon, permit, and bonefish) on Belize’s crystal clear flats.
Bill Doster

what are you expecting

English, for one thing: While you’ll hear Spanish and Creole, English is the primary official language, making Belize the only country in Central America where this applies. You will find a lot of hotels in Belize City. Most resorts provide fishing tackle, although serious anglers often bring their own (and fly fishing is especially popular in Belize’s shallow waters). Although largely overlooked, reef fishing and blue waters await just outside the flats. Besides fishing, in Belize’s forested interior you can plan a visit to the country’s stunning Mayan ruins, remnants of the great ancient Mayan empire. Note: Upon departure, you will need to pay departure tax (unless included in the airline fare), and only cash is accepted.

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