WEATHER - - - The weather in our area was about as normal as could be expected with the exception of a few unusually rainy days in March. About a week of winds in excess of 20 knots prevented fishing the flats but the Belize and Sibun Rivers provided very productive fishing for tarpon and snook. Temperatures were also a bit lower than normal with more days in the 70s and low 80s. No fishing time was lost because of weather.
BIG TARPON ranging from 60 to 150 pounds arrived just outside the Belize River right on schedule in late February. As usual they were escorted in by some really nice sized hungry Triple Tails. Diving pelicans and swooping frigate birds gave away their feeding times and exact location from one day to another. Daily they roamed from just north of Belize City across the bay to the river mouth and over into Tarpon Cove by our marina. These big fish were a real challenge to those anglers able to cast 10, 11 and 12 weight lines with a variety of 3/0 and 4/0 flies. The most successful were the big black Tarpon Snake, Black Death, red and white and orange grizzly tarpon flies. There are few fish more exciting than these big silver kings. Anglers were excited just to see these fish within casting distance and were thrilled to get a strike or just a few jumps.
Even those who were never able to land one of these giants were left with memories that can only be replaced with more tarpon fishing experiences. One lady assured us that she had a black and blue belly in addition to sore muscles and vivid memories. A hundred pound tarpon on a 10 weight will surely leave a lasting impression on anyone, just ask Dee, especially when it is your very first tarpon and you have the pictures to prove it.
SMALL TARPON from 8 to 50 pounds were also fished for and caught in very good numbers. They were always found laid up or cruising the shorelines of mangrove cayes or rolling on the open flats and in the rivers. Getting them to take a fly or a spin cast popper sometimes required patience and perseverance but when they were ready to eat the effort was rewarded by acrobatic jumps and a great fight, especially on light tackle and 8 or 9 weight fly rods. Flies that worked best were 2/0 Orange Grizzly, blue and white and green and white Deceivers, red and white Clouser Deep Minnows. Best plugs were the Storm 3-1/2 inch Ratlin Chug Bug and the Rebel Pop-Rs.
SNOOK in the rivers were caught with sinking or sink tip lines with red and white and chartreuse and white Clouser Deep Minnows. Bomber fire tiger deep diving plugs as usual worked best with spin casters.
Sight fishing for SNOOK in the clear salt waters along the mangrove cayes was most effective using bend back blue and white and green and white half and halfs, size 2/0. Rebel Pop-Rs and Excalibur Pop-Rs were best with spin cast gear. Most snook caught were about 6-8 pounds but many landed were over 12 pounds. Of course only the 18 pounders always broke off in the mangrove roots.
PERMIT fishing seems to get better in this area every year. Are there more fish here these days, are we fishing for them more, are we getting better at finding and catching them? All the above are true. On any given day that an angler is willing to put in some dedicated permit fishing time he will have opportunities to cast to permit whether fishing from the Lodge or from the mother-ship.
A good example is the Costley group of four returning for their fourth time. Being most interested in permit they booked a mother-ship trip which gave them the opportunity to be nearest the permit flats for the best tides. Though a great number of permit were seen, and many permit were cast to, only four were actually landed. However the highlight of this trip was two catches not even counted as landed. The following episode was related and backed up. A permit took the crab, ran away from its school, and fought for about 2-3 minutes before coming off. Seeing that the school was still feeding another cast was quickly made. Again a permit was hooked for another great fight, run and escape. Someone said, "check the fly"! Sure enough, the hook had been crushed closed, probably by the first fish. But it was still great fun!
And two lessons learned. One, always check your hook. Two, permit really do have very powerful crushers.
Also, like on most mother-ship trips tarpon and bonefish were also caught to complete everyone?s grand slam for the week.
BONEFISH as usual were the most predictable species. On windy days they were found in clear waters inside the lagoons and on the lee sides of the larger mangrove cayes. Gotchas and blind Charlies and Mike?s Custom Wiggle Jigs continue to do the job. Anglers fishing from the mother-ships were able to enjoy late evening fishing during and for a few minutes after some spectacular sunsets. Golden tails quietly sailing about on the calm liquid gold flats are memorable experiences sometimes recorded on film or digital to be shared with those not personally able to experience late evening bonefishing. Medium to long lenses are sometimes substituted for fly rods on these dramatic scenes.
OTHER fish caught during this time included a big jack that broke a 10 weight rod, Triple Tails to 20 pounds, Barracudas to 45 inches, a river turtle that actually took a Clouser, Jew fish, Grouper, Cubera and other snappers, and a bat fish.