Fishing in Belize
Belize may well be the ultimate angler’s paradise. The perfect weather, a variety of game to pursue, and knowledgeable, experienced guides all point to your best fishing vacation ever. Not all anglers have to agree on their favorite fish to catch. Indeed, the variety of fish (and methods for luring them) is what makes fishing a siren song for so many. Belize can truly boast a world-class fishing experience to anyone eager to experience all types of fishing environments. From those who want to try their hand at landing a fighter on an inland river to those whose idea of a perfect afternoon is wading in shallow coastal flats fly casting for elusive game fish, including the big three: Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit.
More than 40 percent of Belize has been set aside and protected as marine reserves, nationally protected parks or wildlife sanctuaries, which means the environment for fishing in Belize is about as idyllic and rewarding as they come.
Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, located from 300 meters to 40 kilometers off the coast of Belize. The series of coral reefs and atolls are the perfect environment for discovering the wonders of the Caribbean Sea—and also create a unique intertidal zone where fresh and saltwater mix and continuously change due to the tides.
Together, both the government and the friendly people of Belize have created this fishing paradise. By protecting both the fish and the environment where fish can thrive, everyone in Belize wins. The weather in Belize, on Central America’s Caribbean coast, is postcard-perfect nearly all year round, with beautiful blue, sunny skies, and cooling trade winds. English is spoken in Belize, making for an easy transition to your relaxing vacation—and the people of Belize are known for their warmth, welcome, and genuine hospitality.
What Fish Can You Catch in Belize?
With river fishing, coastal and reef fishing, and even deepwater fishing in the Caribbean, visitors to Belize’s fishing paradise can catch bonefish, barracuda, permit, tarpon in the saltwater sand flats or estuaries or mackerel and jack on the reef. You could even target marlin, bonito, shark, or dorado in deepwater. There is truly no better place to fish the inland rivers, coastal estuaries, barrier islands, and reefs or deep blue sea waters than from your comfortable base in Belize.
Many people come to Belize to fish for three shallow saltwater species present in Belizean coastal waters. Here’s an overview of some of the remarkable fish you’ll encounter during your angling excursions:
Caribbean Bonefish patrol the shallow waters in endless abundance off Belize’s coast looking for their next meal. Look for a glint of silver slicing through the turtle grass. They weigh in around thirteen pounds and reach about seventeen inches in length. Bonefish are fast, forty miles per hour, so get ready. Bonefish are a catch and release species.
Tarpon is sought after for its size and its fight. Tarpon are known as the silver kings for the flashes of silver anglers see as the tarpon thrashes and leaps. Tarpon can grow to monster size, eight feet and hundreds of pounds. Tarpon are a protected species and must be released after an ecstatic photo.
Permit can reach up to 48 inches and nearly eighty pounds. They are easily recognizable by their snub nose, forked tail, and scythe-shaped dorsal fin, which protrudes from the water in the shallows. Permit are considered one of the most elusive and most satisfying saltwater gamefish because of their fight. Permit are catch and release.
On the reef, be on the lookout for mackerel, which is a favorite seafood dish worldwide due to the high oil content in its flesh. Mackerel are a group of fish in the same family as tuna. They have forked tails and dark stripes or markings on their body.
Jack are a species related to tuna, sometimes called ahi, and always delicious with a similar fatty, tender flesh.
Grouper are similar in taste to sea bass with a mild flavor and firm texture. Red Grouper are slightly sweeter and therefore more sought after as catch-of-the-day. Grouper feed along the bottom and have prominent and distinctive protruding lower jaw.
On the deep water, live your sportfishing fantasies by strapping into the boat and pulling in a sailfish, whose dorsal fin runs the length of the back and looks like a sail. Sailfish are one of the fastest swimmers of the deep. Hemingway fished for the mighty blue marlin in the Caribbean. This near-mythical fighter can range from the hundreds to thousands of pounds. Both have firm, meaty flesh.
Swordfish are another popular target for deep sea trolling or casting. They are characterized by their long, sword-like bill and can grow to ten feet or more and one thousand pounds. Swordfish steaks are dense, meaty, and delicious.
Dorado, dolphin fish (not the mammal), and mahi-mahi are common names for a sought-after fish present in Caribbean deepwater. Males are characterized by a large, prominent forehead and colorful blue, yellow, and white body. They are an acrobatic fighter, prized by anglers and diners. Their flesh is lean and mildly sweet.
When is the Best Time to Fish in Belize?
There is no off-season for fishing in Belize. Any time of year is a great time to plan an angling trip! The best time to go fishing in Belize is any time you can get here. Our weather cooperates with vacationers and anglers year-round, and there are always fish in the rivers. The high season for bonefish, tarpon, and permit is June to September. However, if you wish to escape winter in the north, reef fish (including snapper, grouper, jacks, and barracuda) are seen in good numbers all year round. Saltwater gamefish are present in the coastal waters of Belize throughout the year as well. The prime summer season sees the highest density of permit, bonefish, and tarpon.
Belize River Fishing
While many anglers come to Belize to target the big three saltwater gamefish: tarpon, bonefish, and permit, a river fishing experience should not be overlooked during your stay in Belize. The rivers in Belize vary from brackish and meandering to swift-flowing spawning grounds for saltwater species.
Fishing the rivers of Belize can be a way to try something new, a down day for the angler who can’t go an entire day without putting a line in the water while on vacation, or the perfect place to catch dinner. The rivers of Belize harbor snapper, bonefish, snook, jacks, tarpon, and even the Cubera snapper—a rare and impressive river monster. Beginners and seasoned anglers, kids, adults, and families alike will enjoy river fishing.
If you’re coming to Belize to fish, make sure to set aside a day or more to head inland. There’s nothing quite like fishing in a lush tropical jungle with flora and fauna pressing in from both banks. In river fishing, the land is wide and the water just a ribbon running through it; a reversal of the expansive blue vistas of ocean fishing with the coast a mere smudge on the distant horizon.
Coastal Fishing in Belize
If you’re coming to Belize to fish, you’re probably coming to fish the intertidal zone near the coast. This mix of salt flats, mangrove lagoons, estuaries, and barrier islands makes Belize a fishing paradise of world renown.
Coastal Punta Gorda may be the best place to catch permit in the world, and many anglers will reel in their first permit within sight of the Belizean coast. The elusive permit might be reason enough to draw sport fishing diehards, but there are so many more species swimming in Belize’s coastal waters.
Take a shot at your saltwater gamefish bucket list: tarpon, bonefish, and permit, then spend another day near the reefs and atolls fishing for dinner. Enjoy grouper, snapper, and jack perfectly prepared by a chef at Cotton Tree Lodge and served to you and your travel companions. Or have your catch cleaned, packed, and shipped to your home so you can regale friends with your fish tales—and enjoy a delicious dinner and memories of Belize after your vacation.
Fishing near the coast is often done from a flat-bottom skiff, with your guide putting you on the fish with an experienced eye. Fly casting bait that imitates prey (such as crabs) is the usual method to lure these shallow-water species. Like all fly fishing and fishing since the dawn of time, everyone has their favorite fly, but a guide will let you in on the secret to success on these waters.
Reef Fishing in Belize
The Barrier Reef off the coast of Belize is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest reef complex in the western hemisphere. It is also home to your wildest game fishing dreams come true. Spend a day wading the shallow waters in and around the atolls and the barrier reef casting for a variety of species. Take some time to fish cast for other shallow-water coastal species such as grouper, jacks, snapper, and barracuda. People without the singular drive to land elusive game, such as the permit, will find the more relaxed wading and casting of the reef fishing experience to be immensely rewarding—and an unquestionably great way to spend a day.
Deepwater Fishing in Belize
While the intertidal zone between the coast and the barrier reef makes Belize a unique and truly rewarding fishing destination, don’t forget the deep blue Caribbean Sea is just beyond the reef. Whether you want to strap in for the fight of your life against a marlin or a shark, or desire a day-long Caribbean boat ride with fishing thrown in, Belize will not disappoint.
There is truly nothing to compare to the experience of battling a deep water fish and coming up victorious. These are the pictures you will show to your friends and family for years to come. Fishing in deep water for saltwater game fish takes specialized equipment and the kind of know-how that is a good guide’s stock-in-trade. Book a deepwater fishing excursion to experience the exhilaration of landing a worthy adversary such as marlin, sailfish, kingfish, dorado, or shark. The exhaustion and exhilaration of pulling one of these fish into the boat will stay with you forever.
If your perfect day fishing in the Caribbean involves a relaxing boat ride on the bluest water you’ve ever seen and some low-maintenance fishing, deep-sea trolling is precisely what you’re looking for. Trolling can be a great introduction to saltwater fishing or a perfect compromise for a group of novice and more eager anglers. Keep some lines in the water as the boat cruises at a
comfortably relaxing pace, and you still have a pretty good chance of reeling in some fish.
Go Fishing in Belize with Cotton Tree Lodge
Fly fishing in the sand flats or the reef or spin casting on the Moho River—your ideal fishing excursion awaits from the tropical oasis of Cotton Tree Lodge. We are proud to work with some of the best guides in Belize to put you on fish. In addition to excellent fishing, we will prepare your catch in our restaurant to enjoy as you tell your tale at dinner.
We offer two types of fishing trips. Ocean fishing is $550 a day for up to four people and includes guide fees, tackle, lunch, boat rental, and fuel. Bring your own equipment or purchase locally if you choose to go fly fishing.
Cotton Tree Lodge also offers fishing expeditions on the Moho River right at our doorstep. Our in-house guide knows the Moho River and wants you to experience the unique experience of fishing this serene jungle waterway. How often can you say you’ve fished to the soundtrack of howler monkeys? River fishing departs the lodge at 6 a.m., so you’ll be sure to hear the jungle awaken, and we’ll have you back to your cabana at 10 a.m. so you can spend the rest of your day kayaking, napping in a hammock, or getting a massage.
The Cotton Tree Lodge offers something for everyone in your travel group, anglers, and those who prefer to eat fish instead of reeling them in. Base your family at Cotton Tree Lodge for your Belize fishing adventure and keep everyone happy. While you head off to fly cast in the mangrove estuaries, your family can take advantage of daily excursions from Cotton Tree Lodge. Everyone can enjoy incredibly fresh, small-batch organic meals prepared in house daily and a drink by the Moho River at night before falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle.