Florida Sportsman Magazine – May 2021 Issue – Reprint

     The only English-speaking mainland country in the Americas south of the u.s. border, Belize boasts some 400 coastal islands with numerous lagoons and river mouths. Here lies the home of the world’s second longest barrier reef, and three of the four atolls in the entire western hemisphere.
     Does all of this add up to superior fishing? You bet.
     John Smith has been running Action Belize for around a quarter of a century, and the resort itself has been serving guests for over 40 years from the same location. Safe to say, John has seen it all when it comes to fishing in Belize, and he was eager to share a sliver of his knowledge. “This time of year, May and into early summer, is a great time to tarpon fish here because you’ll see a very dense population of 20 – 30 pound fish. The snook and cubera bite is very solid as well.” May also catches the tail end of a solid bonefish bite, and there is a finicky but year-round permit fishery to keep in mind, too. “We catch many of our fish bumping a jig out in the middle of the rivers,” John says, nothing beats the locals favorite “green sassy shad,” on on a 3/4 ounce jig head.
     Trolling the rivers is another method popular with many of John’s clients. “We primarily use a freshwater 8AFT Bomber 4” lure that we modify with new hooks. A lot of lure companies send things down for us to try, and many guests like to bring their own tackle to try out, but when we need to put fish in the boat, our go-to is tough to beat.”
     John’s main takeaway is that the fishing styles that work best here allow novice anglers to catch just as many fish as the skilled pros. Or at least hook into them – you still have to fight the fish. “You might hook that big snook in the middle of the river, but as soon as you do, you know exactly where it is trying to go. Straight into the mangroves.” His team of guides is used to giving some gentle tips throughout the day to increase the catch rates of all customers. “We teach novice anglers to keep the rod tip right in the water throughout most of the fight, which helps keep pressure on the fish and reduces thrown hooks during jumps.”
     The airport in Belize City, right on the coast and very close to the Biltmore hotel, the preferred hotel of Action Belize and their guests. “The hotel is about a 5-minute shuttle ride from the airport. If a client just has to fish before we get to the hotel, we do have a little spot about halfway from the airport where they can catch our boat,” John sort of jokes. Hey, it happens. When you gotta fish now, you gotta fish. Now.
     When asked if the year of slowed travel improved the fishing, John said he didn’t think so, but the fishing has still improved in the Belize City area. “The sportfishing community has never really had much of an impact on the fish populations here because we mostly catch and release. The bigger threat has been illegal netting,” much of which comes from their southern neighbor Honduras. “We’ve been unhappy with the lack of response from the Belize government to stop this practice, but they seem to be taking enforcement much more seriously over the past couple of years.” Belize does not have any snook regulations, but many companies that run charters mimic Florida’s size and season rules, which has helped maintain a bumper population of linesiders.
     If you wait until fall to book your trip, expect lower numbers of tarpon overall but shots at some monsters.  “We like to post those 150-plus-pound pictures on our Facebook page, but the best chance to hook up isn’t until fall,” which also brings maybe the best bonefish and cubera bite.
     Weather is always a factor when fishing, John points out, but with the protection of the barrier reef, wind is almost never a deterrent. “We’re lucky here. Between the reef, the islands and the many lagoons and cuts – there are always protected waters that are accessible.”
     A true family-friendly destination, there is more than fishing to offer. Waterbugs will find superior snorkeling and diving adventures, plus unique cave tubing adventures. Upland jungles offer birding tours and zipline adventures, and there are many ancient Mayan ruins to explore.
     Outside the reef, there is offshore fishing to be had as well-but that is a story for another time. Next month, to be exact. FS

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