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Nada, Nada! The tarpon win again...

Tarpon and bonefish plus a host of other species can be caught in Belize


As I enter the water I am again surprised how extremely hot it is. Not only body temperature, but probably well beyond. The feeling is quite different, not least because I am wearing shoes, socks and long legged trousers. Strange but actually very comfortable.
I have seen fish right in front of me -- a school of shadows moving over the light coral sand and mud. Definitely bonefish. The distance is probably less than 15 meters or about 45 feet, but still I have to be extremely cautious. These fish are spooky like nothing else.

Story by Martin Joergensen

Cool, clear water - Well, maybe not that cool, but certainly clear. The water over some of the more sandy bonefish flats on Ambergris Caye ais stunningly clear.
Cool, clear water
My feet in the warm water - As I enter the water I am again surprised how extremely hot it is. Not only body temperature but probably well beyond. The feeling is quite different, not least because I am wearing shoes, socks and long legged trousers. Strange but actually very comfortable.
My feet in the warm water
Bounty land - On some stretches the beaches are completely undisturbed and extremely beautiful.
Bounty land

Good angle, bad distance
I prepare for a cast working out line in a couple quick blind casts, estimating the distance, shooting line and letting go. The fish are travelling from left to right and while my angle is great, my distance is not. The fly falls more than a meter or almost four feet short of the fishes' projected path. Surprisingly they are not spooked, but continue their travel towards deeper water. I carefully retrieve and make another cast.
This time I am right on! The fly is light and sinks slowly towards the bottom about 30 centimeters or 1 foot down. One fish turns. Then two. Then a last one. I strip carefully and they increase their pace, obviously competing for this snack that literally dropped from heaven in front of them.
I take three or four short, rapid strips and let the fly sink again. I cannot see the fly, but see the first fish stopping and feel the contact. I slowly raise my rod. Now the fish obviously feels it too. My line is on the water, but only for a few seconds. Once again the force and speed surprises and thrills me. All my casting line is gone in seconds. Not much later the rest of the fly line is gone, and I hear the knot clicking through the guides as the backing starts leaving the reel. The discrete sound of my Waldron reel is soothing to the ears. And the fish still keeps on...

Early morning bonefish - This fish is about ready to swim off. Notice the long shadow. Bonefishing is very good early morning. The fish are actively tailing and quite easy to see.
Early morning bonefish
A decent bone - An absolutely decent bonefish struggeling on the sand just prior to its release.
A decent bone

Turbo charged
Bonefish are turbo charged! They burst into speed and steadily accelerate into an amazing jolt of power and velocity. It is equally pleasing every time, and I keep on finding myself wishing for such fish in my home waters. Carp maybe, mullet perhaps, but bonefish definitely!
The fish stops about 40-50 meters away. That is close to 150 feet for the non-metric audience. And this is a small fish! I gain some line, get it on the fly line and into about half of that before it takes a typical second run for freedom. Not as long, but still frightfully strong and fast.
I gain line again. This time I get almost to the leader before the fish makes a few quick bucks, each time pulling off a bit of line. It is wearing itself out. Within a minute I have it in my hand.
Ghost of the flats it is, the bonefish.
A slender, silver, soft-mouthed creature of great beauty. I tuck the rod under my arm, unhook it and hold it for a few seconds before it slowly swims off to join its brethren in the deeper water beyond.
The only substantial evidence left is the slime on my stripping glove. No one was around to see or photograph me. I am alone in what seems to be a tropical paradise.

Mangrove spruce - The mangrove trees are fascinating, able to not only survive, but also thrive in this strange environment of salt water, sun and coral sand or mud.
Mangrove spruce
Mini mangrove tree - My fascination with mangrove trees is not over right away. They are indeed amazing survivors, perfectly adapted to a harsh environment.
Mini mangrove tree
Ambergris Caye, Belize
I have been here for about a week, and can look forward to one more week. The past days have been spent fishing from a boat for tarpon and bonefish, but today we have chartered a boat to bring us to a small peninsula close to the town San Pedro, and have been wadefishing all day. The temperature is steadily rising, and now - around 1 in the afternoon - it is as warm as it gets. If I look down, all I see is the shadow of my Global FlyFisher cap.
Opposite most of the area and the locations where we have fished bonefish the latest days, this place is wadable, which feels great after having been limited to the narrow space of a boat for days.
The peninsula is a part of Ambergris Caye and island behind the barrier reef in Central American Belize. Ambergris Caye is a paradise for those who want to enjoy diving and fishing, and even though the tourism has definitely marked the island and its only town, San Pedro, the ambience is still very Caribbean and laid back. We were there in May, which is off season regarding general tourism, but in the high season for fishing. The weather is agreeable, sunny but not extremely warm and usually fairly calm.

Palm - Palm, sea, sail. The essence of the tropical sea.

Happy me - I seem more than happy this morning where we managed to hook several nice bones while waiting for the tarpon to appear. The areas closer to the tarpon flats held larger bonefish that were less spooky and more willing to take a fly.
Happy me
Kneeling - Kneeling down to prepare for landing a bonefish that has taken its runs. The last minute these fish are tired, and only able to seek to the bottom in the shallow water.

Arial view - This view from the plane between Ambergris Caye and Belize City shows a typical mangrove island: little dry land, lots of central mud flats (potential bones) and extensive deeper flats to the right (potential tarpon).
Arial view

Next section - Tarpon >>>

User comments
From: Richard Winter · rkw47·at·  Link
Submitted July 6th 2009

Hi Martin
I love San Pedro. I stayed twice at El Pescador, but it's getting too expensive for me to stay there by myself. I usually bring a friend with me, but he cannot make this trip, so I will have to travel alone.I fished with guides and also shoreline fished North of the resort. Which side of the bridge is better, North or South? What is the best way to go? By Bike, Kayak or Go cart? I have a hard time catching bones from the shoreline on a fly. What is the secret? The fish can't see the fly because the Tyrtle Grass is too dense.What resorts do you recommend to stay? I emailed many resorts. and narrowed it down to three (3). Reef Condos and Villas Resort right next to Coco Locos are North of the bridge. Xanadu Resort and Carribbean Villas are located South of the bridge. If you have something in mind let me know.Some of these resorts offer Bikes and Kayaks for free.Martin, great article, "On Your Own".

Tight Lines

From: John Cartwright · john·at·  Link
Submitted August 7th 2007

Martin, found this article by accident!!
Anyway it is great to know what opportunities there are from the shore and i'm looking forward to following your advice.

Any info on Placentia in the south would be great as we will be spending 7/9 days there after San Pedro.



GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted May 20th 2007


Check out the chapter "On you own" in this article. It tries to cover your options when moving around along the beaches without a guide.


From: John Cartwright · john·at·  Link
Submitted May 20th 2007

My wife and I are visitng Belize in November for 3 weeks. She likes to fish but NOT from boats - only the shore!! is this possible on an 'ad hoc' basis along the coastline of Belize even is not staying in the area.?

Thanks for your help.

John Cartwright (UK)

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