Sports Fishing in Belize
Belize has world-class game fishing that is only now being discovered by anglers. Belize fishing offers the anglers’ ultimate dream of the Grand Slam, which is tarpon, bonefish, and permit. The shallow waters of Belize contain the only classic tarpon flats beside South Florida. These flats are renowned for providing the chance to catch tarpon 12 months a year. You can fish in the lagoons for snook and ladyfish, cast the reef for barracuda and kingfish, go beyond the reef for wahoo and tuna or troll the bottom for grouper and snapper. The option is yours.
Belize Fishing Pricing (USD)
Prices include tour guide and your boat ride.
Half Day (4 hours)
Full Day (8 hours)
Belize Fishing Seasons
Bonefish have been the main target of flats’ fishermen for over 30 years. The coveted bonefish are here in equal numbers throughout the year with no clearly preferable season for bone fishing. Belize bonefishing season is from April through October. While wading through the open flats, you will typically see large schools of bonefish giving a unique opportunity for new anglers to learn the basics of the sport. Bonefish populate the flats and mangrove-lined lagoons on the interior of the Belize Atolls. They are frequently larger and take flies more willingly than most ocean side fish; while they tend to be on the move, which makes casting accuracy more compelling. Belize has ocean-side flats that are some of the most scenic flats in the world.
Permit are the main target of many saltwater sportsmen and Belize has gained a distinction as the permit capital of the world. Permit are here throughout the year, albeit permit fishing tends to be more likely when the principal winds are consistent – ordinarily in the spring, winter and summer. Still, some of the best permit fishing can occur in the fall if the weather is right. Considered hunting as much as it is fishing, permit offer a novel challenge and many anglers have rejoiced in their first-ever permit catch here in Belize.
Permit are usually found solo or in small groups on the flats and throughout the atolls and the Reefs, although you may also see schools of permit in shallow waters. Permit fishing is often done in a poled skiff or in the wadeable ocean-side flats. Fly Fishing in Saltwater magazine named Belize one of the 10 best permit destinations on Earth, in 2007.
Tarpon are considered by many to be the ultimate challenge of saltwater fly fishing. Resident Tarpon can be found year round and Belize’s migratory tarpon season occurs from April to October. The prime tarpon catching months are June through August. Tarpon occupy the channels, creeks, and lagoons with most tarpon caught weighing 60-90 pounds, some come in the 100-150 pound range and there are a few monsters at close to 200 pounds.
Grand Slam Season
May through early September are regarded as the best fishing months in Belize as there are large numbers of all three fish. Summer temperatures hover in the mid-90s and there is a uniform trade wind that ordinarily makes the weather comfortable.
Another popular sports fish is the snook, which can often be found in the mangrove creeks or the several atolls. Barracuda, an acrobatic and underrated game fish, are another favorite sports fish that is present throughout the year. Some fishermen prefer to troll a fly for them, can be seen casting on the flats for them or may cast poppers into some of the deeper holes in the reef. There are also some local reef fish such as grouper, snapper, and jacks that are also plentiful year-long. This is often exciting saltwater fishing with either spinning gear or a fly rod. Wading sportsmen can catch jacks and snappers by casting deceiver patterns or poppers into the reef surf. Spending a few hours pursuing other fish can be fun and often very rewarding.
- Rods: 7 or 8 weight
- Reel: Saltwater reel holding at least 200 yards of 20-pound backing
- Fly Line: Weight forward floating line
- Leader: 9-14 feet – depending on the fishing situation
- Tippet: 2X-0X – Fluorocarbon offers an advantage
- Flies: size 6-10, with bead chain eyes or no weight
- Rods: 9 or 10 weight
- Reel: Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 200 yards of 20-pound backing
- Fly Line: Weight Forward Floating
- Leader: 9-12 feet
- Tippet: 1X – 0X
- Flies: #4 to 1/0
- Rods: 11 or 12 weight
- Reel: Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 200 yards of 30-pound backing
- Fly Line: Intermediate or sink tip
- Leader: 4 – 6 ft. butt section, 16 – 20-pound class tippet and 60 – 100-pound shock tippet
- Flies: Size 3/0 to 4/0
- Rod: 8 to 10 weight
- Reel: Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 200 yards of 20-pound backing
- Fly Line: Weight forward floating
- Leader: 20-30 pound wire shock tippet (8 to 12 inches in length)
- Flies: Size 1/0 to 3/0
A variety of bonefish flies work well and the best patterns differ somewhat day to day. Small flies (#6’s, 8’s, and some 10’s) work best in the wadeable, shallow flats.
Bonefish flies should be unweighted or very lightly weighted. Bonefish are frequently in only a few inches of water so weighted flies can easily get hung up. Some fishermen favor weed guards, which can be useful but, most of the Belize fly fishing guides think that the difficulty in hooking the bonefish outweigh the advantages.
Some of the better Bonefish patterns are the following:
- Pops’ Bonefish Bitters, #6 and #8 (Olive and Amber)
- Pops’ Egghead Bitters, #6 and #8 (Olive and Amber)
- To-Dy-For, (a small unweighted shrimp pattern in white and olive)
- Crazy Charlies – chartreuse, white, pink & brown (unweighted for outer flats)
- Gotcha, #6 and #8
- Horror, #6 and #8
- Baited Breath, #6 and #8
- Various small crab patterns and several other unweighted shrimp patterns
Del Brown’s Permit Fly is usually “the crab of choice,” although a wide assortment of other crab patterns works just as well. Ordinarily, larger, heavier crab patterns (#2 to 1/0) are favored for the deeper flats and smaller, lighter flies work well on the shallow or wadeable flats.
Popular permit patterns include:
- Del Brown’s Permit Fly (Merkin), Size #2 to 1/0
- Enrico Puglisi’s EP Crab (#2 to 1/0)
- Various other Crab patterns (#2 and 1/0)
- Smaller, lighter variations for the shallow flats
Apte-style tarpon flies in multiple color combinations. Dark colors serve better in the early morning and brighter colors act best when the sun is bright.
- Deceiver patterns – various colors
- Abel Anchovy
- All tarpon flies in sizes 3/0 to 4/0
- Barracuda Flies
Various barracuda patterns with 2/0 tandem hooks and wire leaders
- Saltwater Poppers (#2 to 2/0)
- Clouser Minnows (#4 to #2)
- Saltwater Poppers (#2 to 1/0)
Belize Fishing License
If you fish in Belize, you need a license. Even if you’re fishing from shore, you need a license. Even if you’re just sitting in the boat not fishing but with someone who is fishing, you need a license.
The law is being re-written to eliminate the need for a license for children or senior citizens, for fishing from shore and for everybody in a fishing boat.
Obtain a fishing license online at CoastalZoneBelize.org or call 223-0719.
Belize Fishing Regulations
Your compliance with Belize’s Fishery Laws will help to preserve commercial fish for generations to come.
Complete Ban – Coral – Blue Tang – All Parrotfish – Permit – Surgeon Fish – Tarpon – Marine Turtle (all species) -Bone Fish – Whale Shark – Diced Conch – All Marine Mammals –Diced Lobster
Closed Seasons – Conch July 1st to Sept 30th – Lobster February 15th to June 14th – Nassau Grouper – December 1st to March 31 Wild Shrimp (trawler sources; farm shrimp is legal all year around) July 14 – March 14th – Hickatee May 1st to May 31st
Size limits – Lobster cape length > 3 inches tail weight 2.75 oz – Conch shell length > 7 inches market clean > 2.5oz – Nassau Grouper must be 20 – 30 inches only and landed whole (no fillet).
Special Laws and Permits – All anglers must have a license. You must be a Belizean Citizen or permanent resident to obtain a fisheries permit. Sea Cucumber needs a special permit. Fish Fillet must have skin patch left on 2 inch by 1 inch. No fishing while on SCUBA. In Marine Protected areas you may not use nets, longlines or traps.
Catch and release are essential to protect the sports fishing industry, which provides a living to many Belizeans including Belize fishing guides as well as employees at the hotel, restaurant, transportation, agriculture, communications and other industries.
The Belize Fisheries Act was originally enacted in 1948 with a minor revision in 1989 and unfortunately does not address the many complicated issues that have emerged over the last 70 years.