It doesn’t get much better than saltwater fly fishing in Belize, it is almost as though the country was meant for fly anglers. Located on the northeastern coast of Central America between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world spanning the whole coastline providing endless fishing flats for fly anglers. These grounds are home to some of the most common flats species including tarpon, permit, and bonefish. Fly anglers can expect encounters with these three species daily. First-time anglers, honeymooners, families, hardcore permit anglers all can enjoy the diverse fishery that Belize offers. The country’s international airport offers nonstop flights from numerous North American cities and the primary language is English. It seems like a no-brainer for fly anglers that Belize should be a must-visit destination. So what should you know about fly fishing in Belize?
Belize Fly Fishing Species:
Belize might be most well known for anglers chasing to get a fly fishing grand slam, catching a permit, bonefish, and tarpon in one day. These are the main three target species and thanks to some grassroots efforts bonefish, tarpon, and permit are all catch and release only. While these three species gain the most attention there are also a variety of other species to fly fish for in Belize. Populations of snook inhibit the mangrove areas and coastal rivers of Belize. Other species that anglers may encounter when fly fishing Belize includes barracuda, jacks, sharks, snappers, mahi-mahi, and triggerfish. It is important to be prepared for these other species when fly fishing in Belize.
Bonefish are the most popular saltwater fishing species in the world and for a good reason! Their lightning-fast speed and pound for pound fighting power set them apart from many other sport fish. In Belize, the bonefish are plentiful. They can usually be found in the shallow flats or around the cayes (islands) feeding on crabs, shrimp, and baitfish in the sand and coral. A well-presented fly will almost be always taken down in a hurry by a hungry bonefish. Be sure to check out our article 8 Tips for Catching Bonefish on Fly to brush up on your bonefishing skills.
The bonefishing in Belize is great for first-time saltwater anglers, as you can almost guarantee a hook up with a guided outing. They can be targetted year-round in Belize and range in size from 2-5 pounds. They are best targetted with a 9 foot 7 or 8 weight fly rod with a tropical floating line with 8-12 pound fluorocarbon tippet.
Tarpon are known across the world for their sheer size and power. In Belize, tarpon are a popular target species for many fly anglers. The tarpon in Belize can be fished for year-round. There are resident tarpon as well as the migratory tarpon. The migratory tarpon move through Belize typically starting around April and stick around until late August. These migratory fish can top the scales at over 200 pounds but are more commonly found in the 80-150 pound range.
The resident tarpon can range in size from very small baby tarpon (that can be found in the rivers and mangroves) to larger sized residents in the 80-100 pound class. The tarpon’s diet consists of mainly baitfish, so where there is bait is where you are going to find the tarpon! Tarpon are best fished for with an 11 or 12 weight rod on an intermediate tropical fly line.
The permit are the holy grail of the flats species for fly anglers. As permit can be one of the toughest fish to catch on a fly rod. In Belize, the chances of encountering permit on the flats is very high. The permit range in size from 2-30 pounds, with the most common being in the 8-10 pound range. The permit in Belize can be concentrated in schools as well as some of the larger ones will be on there own. They can be fished for year-round but the tides can play an important part in having the success of catching a permit on the fly. The permit prefer a little deeper flats than the bonefish but can be found pushing up onto these flats to feed on the crabs, shrimp, and other small marine life.
Belize is also known for having tailing permit. Meaning a permit that is feeding and the black tail is sticking out of the water. This makes sight fishing very much more enjoyable. Fly fishing for permit in Belize can take proper presentation, fly selection, and some luck. Permit can be very spooky and finicky at times. But for many anglers, this is what drives them to chase this species. Permit are best targeted with a 9 or 10 weight rod on a tropical floating line with 16 or 20 pound fluorocarbon tippet.
Best Places to Fish Belize:
The country of Belize is no bigger than the state of Massachusetts, the coastline spans 240 miles and there is over 1,000 square miles of protected flats that can be fished year-round. The northern part of the country is more populated and developed while the southern end is less developed and populated. Most fly anglers will stay out on cayes (islands) as this means the fishery will be right at your footstep as for the most part if you are on the mainland you will need a boat to get to productive fishing flats.
The northern part of Belize seems to have a more diverse fishery with more opportunities of tarpon, larger bonefish, and snook. While the south is a permit anglers paradise and is less busy and more spread out. Many anglers will fly fish Belize at multiple locations in one trip as it can be very easy to travel from one area to another.
Best Time of Year to Fish Belize:
The climate in Belize supports a year-round fishery, the average temperature year-round is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season in Belize is from June 1st to November 30th. The rainy season usually doesn’t mean rain every day or all the time, being in a tropical climate small monsoon cycle systems move through quickly. While the dry season also called the tourist season is from December 1st to May 30th. Typically December through February are cooler and the April and May can be the hottest months with minimal wind, pretty prime for fly fishing.
In the dry season or tourist season, most resorts and hotels will be at full capacity and rates will be high and the fishery will have the most pressure, while in the rainy season the rates of lodging can be lower and the pressure from other anglers on the water will be minimal. So you need to assess what you prefer as you can fish year-round in Belize…
One important aspect to think about when fly fishing in Belize is the specific tides. You should plan your trip around good tides, this means that you want the correct tides to be during the day so you are able to fish them. The tide tables are changing all the time so it is best to consult a professional like an outfitter, lodge, or booking agent about when the tides will be good for fly fishing. As a rule of thumb fishing around a new or full moon can be good tides to fish. If you are planning purely a fly fishing trip to Belize, it is recommended to really choose your dates wisely. But if you are just going to be doing a day or two of guided fishing on a family vacation, the specific dates can be less important.
One last aspect to note is that if you are very interested in tarpon, the migratory tarpon move through from late spring into late summer. So to improve your chances of tarpon fishing, it is recommended to go this time of year.
Best Flies for Belize:
Having the right flies for your trip to Belize can be very important to the success of your trip. While the fly selection does vary from northern to southern Belize here is a general list of the flies for fly fishing Belize.
Belize Bonefish Fly Recommendations:
- Christmas Island Special – tan/pink, tan/orange
- Bonefish Bitters – Tan, olive
- Squimp – Tan
- Gotcha – Tan, Pink, Orange
- EP Spawning Shrimp – Tan/orange
- Mantis Shrimp – Tan
- Bonefish Clouser – Tan/white
- Crazy Charlies – white, pink, tan
Belize Permit Fly Recommendations:
- SS Merkin
- Bauer Crab – tan
- EP Spawning Shrimp – tan
- EP Crab
- SS permit Crab
- SS B-Turd
- Mantis Shrimp
- Strong Arm Crab
Belize Tarpon Fly Recommendations:
- Tarpon Toad – chartreuse, white, purple/black, black/red
- Black Death
- EP Minnow – white, tan/white, chartreuse/white
- Tarpon Bunny – purple/black, black/red, white
There is something for everyone in Belize, from the high priced all-inclusive lodges to budget hostels. One recommendation is to spend some money on a fly fishing guide as the DIY fly fishing in Belize can be tough to access. By hiring a guide it gives you the ability to get to the fishing grounds. Fly fishing Belize is a must for all fly anglers due to the easy travel, robust fishery, and knowledgeable and friendly guides.