Belize River Lodge has a unique and varied history. While Mike & Marguerite have been the owners and operators at the Lodge for the longest period of time (approximately 25 years), and with their time frame of management prior to ownership, they have a well rounded knowledge of fishing in Belize. But the story starts back in Walhalla, Michigan. Victor Barothy Sr. and his family (father, mother and brother), started a fishing and hunting camp on the Pere Merquette River. In the 1930’s, they expanded this camp to include a spa style resort, which was the first Barothy Lodge.
In the 1940’s, while in Florida, Vic Sr. found and purchased land in the Florida Keys, and opened the next lodge – Barothy’s Lodge, Islamorada which catered to angling enthusiasts. In the late 40’s, Vic Sr. met and married Betty (a once famous silent movie starlet), who travelled and enjoyed her time fishing, as well. In the early 1950’s, Vic Sr. and Betty relocated to the Isle of Pines in Cuba, opening another Barothy’s lodge – Barothy’s Caribbean Lodge, Isle of Pines, offering fishing and tours to some of American celebrities and well known businessmen.
After the Cuban Revolution, Vic got along with Fidel Castro and the new government, however, seeing how things were progressing in Cuba, in 1960, Vic Sr. convinced Cuban authorities to allow a fishing trip aboard two of their live-aboards outside of Cuba; and with this, the Barothy’s moved to British Honduras, now Belize. Almost immediately, some of their more famous guests visited and stayed aboard their live-aboards, the “Tarpon” & “Vickie”. Vic Sr. and Betty were not happy unless they had a lodge, so building immediately started on the Belize Olde River, and another Barothy lodge was started in 1960 – Barothy’s Caribbean Lodge, Ltd (presently Belize River Lodge).
Ole Vic was either very smart or very lucky but his fishing explorations from Yucatan to Honduras led him to build his new lodge right where it stands today; conveniently located on the Belize Olde River, near the international airport and just 3½ miles from the sea coast. All factors considered, including many distinctive fishing environments, the great variety of fish species available, yet just ten miles from Belize City, the lodge is ideally situated in the Central Coast of Belize and encompasses the extensive Hicks Cayes, Long Caye, Drowned Cayes, Robinson Point, Belize River, Black Creek, Sibun River, and southwards along the coast, cayes, reefs and flats to the Manatee River and out to Alligator Caye, an area of some 500 square miles.
A few years later Vic & Betty Barothy also built Turneffe Island Lodge, which was used as an outpost for longer trips from his lodge on the Belize Olde River and also opened Barothy’s Spanish Creek Lodge. Again, Vic Sr and Betty did what they did best, catering to some of the biggest names in fishing. Vic Sr. trained guides and ran the fishing end of the businesses and Betty ran the lodges, provisioning the live-aboards and managing kitchens. Vic and Betty had a partnership that dominated the sport-fishing industry for over 25 years.
As Barothy’s Caribbean Lodge, Ltd was the first organized fishing lodge in Belize, Vic Barothy Sr. trained local guides who became world famous. Their names are living and historic Belizean legends of times past and present. Family names such as Evans, Westby, Andrewin, Eiley, McCord, Baptist, Leslie and many others are now into a second and third generation of guiding fly fishermen throughout all of Belize.
After a few years, by the mid 60’s, the Barothy’s sold Turneffe lodge to Bill and Dolly Haerr and closed down Spanish Bay. After 7 years on the Belize Olde River and a long history in the fishing world, in 1968, Vic Sr. sold the lodge to Fred Keller who named it Keller Caribbean Sports, better known as KCS. In 1980, Keller sold to a group from Southern California and Mike and Marguerite were hired to manage the lodge for the Californians in 1980 and 1981. In late 1986, present owners, Mike and Marguerite bought the lodge and named it Belize River Lodge.
The Barothy’s were pioneers of light tackle and fly-fishing in Belize and the ones who put Belize on the international map of sport fishing. Well preserved guest registers chronicle the very interesting historical records of all of Barothy’s, Keller’s, KCS and BELIZE RIVER LODGE’s guests from 1951 in Cuba until the present time. Except for a three month interruption after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, Belize River Lodge has been in continuous operation and has never been closed. In the early 1960’s, Vic Sr. & Betty catered to celebrities such as Joe Brooks, Ted Williams and many others.
On February 21, 1951 Barothy’s first guests in Cuba signed the guest register. Those names are: Eddie and Evelyn Gersonde of Toledo, Ohio, Frank Meulenberg, Earl Newton, R.A. Williams, Harry Moffitt, golf pro. That original old palmetto bound guest register, still in good condition, can still be seen at Belize River Lodge. Fifty one years later, the well preserved guest registers and photo albums chronicle the historic visits of world famous anglers from 1951 to 2011. Mike and Marguerite are continuing the Barothy’s traditions, still catering to angling guests and hosting celebrities; and people just looking to get in some good fishing time with great guides. Every year, they are still training guides and hosted a sport-fishing guide training seminar in 2007 for the BTB (Belize Tourist Board). Current guides such as Raul, Jose, Pedro, Dirk, and John carry on the traditions of great skill and excellent service started so many years ago by Vic & Betty Barothy.
Mike and Marguerite continue to run a historic fishing Lodge, offering the best fishing in Belize for Bonefish, Tarpon, Snook & Permit; but do so with the old world hospitality that was taught to them while growing up in British Honduras. Both Mike & Marguerite’s families were prominent citizens in Belize City, and helped many people on the way to making Belize, what it is today.
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