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Pocono 04-11-2010 09:50 AM

Bonefishing in Belize
 
Marty and I just got back from a Bonefishing trip to Belize.

We fished at a place called Turneffe Flats; part of the Turneffe Island atoll; the largest of the 4 coral atolls in the Western hemisphere (two of the other 3 also happen to be off the coast of Belize). It's a huge atoll; over 10 miles long and 5 miles wide; with a barrier reef all the way around and a lagoon that's as large as a good sized bay, with water depths of 1-20 ft. It's 35 miles off the coast of Belize and it takes about an hour and a half to get there by boat out of the port of Belize City.

Turneffe Flats is owned by a very nice couple who started their business in 1981; the same year that Belize declared its independence from the British Empire and changed its name from British Honduras to Belize. Since that time, they've come from a one bedroom fishing shack with no running water to a site that can accommodate 18 anglers; two per boat, for a week's time; with hot and cold fresh water. Two hurricanes have completely demolished their buildings, but they've built them back and, each time, with improvements. It's a nice spot to spend some time.

And the fishing...............probably the best I've seen for Bonefish. When we arrived, I asked one of the guides how the fishing had been over the past week. He smiled and said it had been pretty good. Then he pointed just offshore and said: "there a nice school of about 150 tailing Bonefish just off the beach right now, if you want to try your luck at them." That did it - I smiled at Marty, gabbed my rod and knew that I was set for a great week! :)

Bonefish are plentiful at Turneffe atoll. Whereas I'm used to hearing people in the Bahamas say: "there's a Bonefish", and people in the Yucatan say: "there a nice school of a dozen Bonefish". when you're at Turneffe, all they say is" "Bonefish!". What that means is a school of anywhere from twenty to over a hundred fish; usually feeding and creating a mud that you could lob a tarpon fly into without scattering the school. So, the fishing is good!

We hooked a lot of Bonefish, some Grunts, Snappers and a small Barracuda.

What eluded both of us for a week were the Permit. In 4 days of hunting, we only saw 3 small schools of fish. We cast to them many times, some of the casts weren't great, but some were spot on. And each one was unceremoniously refused by the fish; they'd just swim over our crab patterns and move on around the boat. Frustrating. But, some of the other anglers scored nicely; one guy got 2 Permit, both in the 20+ lb. range. So, they were out there, but not for us. Maybe next time. We still have yet to land a Permit and we're getting the feeling that it's more than time to get one. ;)

Here are some pics of the trip.

Entering the atoll from the West. This is one of the local fishing shacks on a point overlooking the lagoon:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410001.jpg

Climb off the boat and this is Turneffe Flats:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410051.jpg

And in the morning, here's the fleet of 14 ft. flats boats that are ready to get you to your destination:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410052.jpg

Armed and ready!:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410056.jpg

Pocono out on the flats; you can see the barrier reef in the background. The gear that they fish for Bonefish is primarily 8 wts., overlined with 9 wt. line. For Permit, it's 9 wts., overlined with 10 wt. line. I know, a lot of you don't think much about overlining a rod. But, the fact is that the rod weights suit the size of the fish, while the line weights deal with the wind. Yup, it blows a steady 20 knots out at Turneffe, all day and all night. Overlining worked well for us. Unfortunately, I only brought one 8 wt. rod; a Redington CPS, which is a great saltwater rod. What I did bring was a Sage TCX in a 7 wt. and that turned out to be the perfect rod for me for the situation. Yes, I did overline it by two weights; probably not the ideal situation, but the TCX is such a stiff rod that it handled it very well, while allowing for long casts into a lot of wind. I don't think that Sage knows what a good saltwater rod they have there in the TCX:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410042.jpg

They were hungry fish! A lot of them swallowed the flies; which made us glad that we were both fishing with pinched down barbs. In a week's fishing we only lost one fish; all of the others swam away after the release:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410046.jpg

The Bonefish in Belize are plentiful, but they're not large. Average sized fish are in the 15-17" range, large ones can go 25+", but they're not the big fish that you'll find in the Bahamas. However, a school of over 100 tailing Bonefish is a good thing; a very good thing! :) Here's Marty with one of the little ones:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410002.jpg

And, a little Barracuda; caught, by the way on one of the Gotcha patterns that I tied up for the trip. By far, the most successful flies that I took with me were the Root Beer Gotchas and Crazy Charlies; perfect for the speckled flats bottom that you find at Turneffe. In fact, the same Root Beer Crazy Charlie caught, Bonefish, Snapper, Sargent Majors and Barracuda; all in the same day; all on the same fly! So, next time I go to Turneffe, I'll tie up more of just one or two patterns; all Root Beer Crystal Flash-based.

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410044.jpg

And what's fishing without fish stories at the end of the day? We had lots of them. One of the real pluses about Belize is that they brew their own local beer, called "Belican". Good stuff in moderation of course (chuckle) :rolleyes:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410025.jpg

This is a shot taken right outside our door; 5:30 AM and a lot of people were getting in some practice on the flats. One of them was Chris Santella. If you've ever seen the book entitled: "Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die", then you're looking at Chris' first book. He gets paid to travel around the globe, fly fish and then write about the places he likes. I asked him how I could get his job and he just smiled. Really nice guy. He's working on a second book of the same kind now; should be out in about 6 months. The guy that he fished with, Geoff, scored a grant slam on the very last day (Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon all in the same day). So, he was a very happy camper! ;)

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410011.jpg

Here's the boat that gets you to and from Turneffe, the Ms. Ellie:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410028.jpg

We had a great time! We're already talking about going back and it's only been 24 hours since we left! :rolleyes:

http://i632.photobucket.com/albums/u...rip0410030.jpg


Pocono

Hardyreels 04-11-2010 12:34 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Nice place Allen and a good report. Sounds like you and your wife enjoyed yourselves.

MoscaPescador 04-11-2010 12:49 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Excellent post. It reads that you and Marty had a great time. There aren't too many places that you can step out of your room, walk 150 feet, and cast at a Bonefish. I bet those fish were educated.

Better luck next time at the Permit.

MP

jpbfly 04-11-2010 01:48 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
That's a pro report Allan:thumbsup: Glad Marty and you enjoyed your trip...I've tested a TCX 4wt once and found it....rather fast....I imagine how a 7wt can be:eek:

Frank Whiton 04-11-2010 02:50 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Hi Pocono,

Thanks for a great report and the pictures are excellent. The lodge has a nice setup and good boats. How far were most of your cast? With schools like you describe I assume you can get pretty close.

Frank

mcnerney 04-11-2010 06:43 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Allan: Great fishing report and photos! Glad you and Marty had a great time. I've heard that the Permit are a hard fish to hook into. Turneffe Flats looks like a great destination for fishing!

Larry

Pocono 04-11-2010 07:26 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Ard,

Yup, we had a great time!

MP,

Yes, the fish were educated, but hungry. I never saw fewer than 6-8 schools on any of the flats that we fished. Most of the flats are between small islands that are just in from the barrier reef. The best spots to fish were where there was a small break in the reef; just deep enough to allow the Bones to migrate in easily from the deep water to feed on the flats. I have to admit, I did "pig" one of these honey hole open spots for almost 2 hours. I just stood there and cast to school after school of fish as they came into the flats to feed. Not quite like shooting fish in a barrel; but not that far off either. The best times to fish these reef-breaks was just before to just after high tide. Although the tides in Belize are only on the order of 1 1/2 ft., it made a difference in terms of allowing the Bones to easily access the flats.

J-P,

Yes, the TCX is a fast rod; but nowhere near as clubby as the TCR was. It's designed to get the line out there in a hurry with good accuracy and it does that very well. Overlining will slow down the action of any rod, since the rod has to deal with the extra weight of the line and the flex action as well as the recovery time is changed in the process. For me the overlined 7wt. was definitely not too fast. I fish it for smallmouth bass all the time; with a WF7F line, and it gets me some nice casts.

I did order a Scott S4S from a local Orvis dealer who also carries Scott rods, but when the rod came in (although I was ready to love it), it was too fast for my casting style. So, back it went to Montrose, CO. Instead, I took my trusty Scott A3 9 wt., which turned out to be a good rod for Permit. Marty fished a Sage Xi-3 9 wt., which she liked; I liked it, too.

Frank,

Average casts on the flats into the teeth of wind were about 40 ft. They weren't the kind of casts that you make videos of, but they got the job done for us. Side to the wind the casts were longer and with the wind at our backs, the casts were probably on the order of 60+ ft. When fishing from the deck of the boat, I was getting the line out there pretty close to 80 ft. off the wind; which made for some nice fishing as you could strip back the line over various underwater terrain.

The most effective technique that I use for Bonefish (I think everybody uses it) is to cast about 10 ft. in front of where the school is heading, let the fly sink and then start the strip just when they're within a foot or so of it. I got to do that a lot on downwind casts to schools that were coming in onto the flats from the ocean. The results were pretty good.


Here's a point that I found interesting and that I'd never picked up on before. When you hook a Bonefish on the flats, you get the "flats rocket" effect; into your backing in short order; sometimes multiple times. But when you hook them in the deeper water, although they put up a strong fight, it's more like hooking into a trout. The feel is completely different. I'm not sure if others have noticed this, but I assume that they have. I asked our guide; Eddie, what the difference was. He said that Bonefish are naturally warey when they're on the flats in skinny water; unless they're feeding, and when hooked on the flats, their first instinct is to try to get to the safety of the deeper water; to return to the ocean. Hence, the panicked, rocket effect. When you hook them in the deeper water, they're already in the ocean, so to speak, so the fight to free themselves is not as dramatic. I'm not kidding, it's like hooking two different species; at least it was for me.

---------- Post added at 08:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:18 PM ----------

Larry,

I'd like to think that's the case with Permit, because I don't want to have to live too long with the alternative. :rolleyes:

We'll get one someday; soon I hope. The record for Permit down there is 55 lbs.; a good sized fish! But, most of the ones that are landed are on the order of 15-25 lbs.

By the last day, I would have settled for a 5 pounder! ;)

macabi 04-14-2010 02:07 AM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
nice trip !! , that is my future destination.
I just got back a couple of weeks ago ,,but went further north "punta allen" mexico
first thing I thought when I hooked the first bonefish was "now I know why they make antireverse reels" :D I was very close to hitting my nuckles and happy I didnt.

Luis ,
Laredo Texas

here is a little video


YouTube- bonefish on the fly

..

gbanker 04-14-2010 08:34 PM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
thanks for the reports, guys.

wjc 04-16-2010 08:00 AM

Re: Bonefishing in Belize
 
Sounds like a great trip, Pocono. Did you get a chance to try out your new 11 wt xi3?

Cheers,
Jim


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