Fishing in Belize

A Guide to Fishing in Belize

Blogger Kenneth Reaves talks about fishing in Belize and why this Central American country offers some of the best angling opportunities in the Caribbean. This article contains some affiliate links, where we will make a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you.

Belize is a tropical paradise, well-known as a sport fishing destination. With almost 300 kilometers of Caribbean coastline and islands galore, Belize offers a wonderful challenge to anglers of all levels.

If you’re looking for something new, exciting, and adrenaline-pumping, fishing in Belize fits the bill.

Whatever type of fishing experience you’re after, there’s something for you here.

Belize is home to all the “Big Three” sport fish; tarpon, bonefish, and permit. Each of these fish put up a serious fight, making them the most prized catches an angler can make. They’re all catch-and-release in Belize, but it’s the fight and the photo most anglers seek.

I love fishing in Belize, and I hope anglers of all abilities will find this guide helpful for preparing the fishing trip of a lifetime!

What kind of fish can you catch in Belize?

Bonefish

Also known as the gray ghost, bonefish are fast and elusive. If you fish long enough in Belizean waters, however, you’re likely to reel one in at some point.

You can find bonefish all over Belize. They like congregating in light-sand flats dotted with turtle grass, although you can also catch them in river mouths.

If you want to target bonefish, an 8-weight rod the best. You should stock your tackle box with shrimp imitation lures and ¼ or ⅛-ounce skimmer jigs.

Tarpon

Tarpon can grow up to 200 pounds, and they’re famous for putting up a real fight once you’ve chased them down.

They feed on small baitfish, crabs, and shrimp. Make sure you have appropriate flies, like cockroaches and tarpon toads, or use live bait. You’ll find them feeding in the flats and juveniles tend to seek out the shelter of the mangroves.

Because of their size and strength, you’ll have the best success with an 11- or 12-weight rod and a floating line.

Permit

Permit are one of the most sought-after fish in Belize.

They feed on shrimp and crab, so if you’re fishing for them, you need to be able to imitate their prey well. Bring along appropriate flies, like raghead or Merkin.

A 10-weight rod is ideal for these big fellows, with a floating line and a 15-pound tippet. They congregate in flats and shallow waters, in small groups for the most part.

So that’s your big three out the way. Let’s look at other fish to catch in Belize.

Snook

Snook are active fish that put up an excellent fight, often with exciting acrobatics. With a tendency to wrap your line around structures in the water once they’re hooked, you’ll need to keep them away from the bottom if you can.

They prefer to feed in low light conditions, making dawn and dusk the best times to target them. Use top water lures in these cases; sinking ones if you fish during lighter hours.

Brightly-colored surface poppers often bring success with snook. A 9- or 10-weight rod would be ideal.

Snapper

There are many different species of snapper, including mutton snapper, gray snapper, yellowtail snapper, dog snapper, and the infamous Cubera snapper.

You can use an 8- or 9-weight rod and a spinning reel with 10- to 15-pound line. Poppers and rapalas are good lure options, or live bait like sardines and other baitfish.

Snappers are excellent fish to cook. There are no catch-and-release laws for snappers in Belize, so if you catch a good-sized one, you’re set for dinner.

Wahoo

Wahoo are aggressive fish who will give you a good run for your money. Be prepared to fight when you hook one of these… they’ll run with your line and can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour!

In Belize, the average wahoo weighs between 20 and 40 pounds, but you can sometimes find them at 100 pounds plus. They’re also amazing fish to eat.

What types of fishing in Belize are available?

One of the best things about fishing in Belize is the wide array of different types of fishing to choose from.

Whether you specialize in one type, or you want to get in a bit of everything, Belize has plenty to offer.

Deep Sea/Reef Fishing

What you can catch:

Belize houses the second largest barrier reef in the world, and it’s a haven for anglers.

The Belize Barrier Reef itself is home to many smaller baitfish, which attract coveted game fish like snappers, groupers, barracudas, tarpon, and amberjacks.

In the deep waters past the reef, you can reel in sailfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, tuna, kingfish, dorado, mackerel, wahoo, amberjack, snook, and pompano.

It’s a sport fishing heaven, and anglers can look forward to challenging fishing, excellent fights, and ultimately, pulling a trophy fish out of Belizean waters.

Where to fish:

Because of the vast number of species around the reef, catching fish here is almost a certainty. It’s best to take a charter boat, as the captains always know the best spots around the reef.

Anywhere close to the Caribbean, where you can hire a charter, is where you should be for deep sea/reef fishing in Belize. This sounds a little vague, true. But the fact is, there’s no town or community on Belize’s coast or islands that doesn’t offer access to world class deep sea or reef fishing.

Best time to go:

Thanks to the huge variety of species in the reef and deep seas of Belize, you have excellent year-round chances of catching monster fish. If you’re targeting something specific, you can narrow it down a little.

  • Wahoo: November to January
  • Blue marlin: January to June
  • Sailfish: June to August
  • Dorado: April to October
  • Snappers: Variety of types year-round

Fly-Fishing

What you can catch:

Next to reef and deep sea fishing, fly-fishing is the most popular type of fishing in Belizean waters. This is where you can target the Belize Big 3—permit (Belize is the permit capital of the world), tarpon, and bonefish—as well as snook.

If tarpon is your catch of choice, you’re in luck. They’re widespread and can grow as big as 200 pounds, although on average they’re between 60 and 90 pounds in weight. Bonefish like to lie in wait in mangrove flats.

Where to fish:

There are miles of flats in Belize, and plenty of rivers, so fly-fishing spots are many. You can also fish from the shore with a fly-fishing rod and reel.

If you’re fishing in the flats, it’s best done by boat if you aren’t well acquainted with them as they can have very soft bottoms.

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island and excellent spot to fish for snook and tarpon.

Tarpon Caye is a top-notch spot with a solid, sandy bottom that always yields sizable tarpon. Dangriga, close to Tarpon Caye, features exceptional bonefish fishing.

Turneffe Atoll also features a good bottom for wading, and is arguably the best fly-fishing spot in Belize. With both mangroves and salt flats, you’ll have high chances of reeling in both tarpon and monster snappers.

Best time to go:

Permit is fishable all year round, although they like wind and warmer weather. Winter (as far as “winter” exists in Belize) is the hardest time, but the rest of the year they’re fair game. Tarpon is best targeted between May and September.

Bonefish are present in Belize all year, but you can only fish for them between April and October.

June and July is when you have an excellent chance of catching the Big Three in one trip as they’ll be feeding vociferously due to the rains at that time.

Spearfishing

If you want a hands-on, exciting, and unique experience, we recommend spearfishing in Belize.

The reef is an amazing spot for spearfishing. Not only will you get to see the reef and its inhabitants up close, but you’ll also be able to help the environment.

One of the Belize government’s initiatives is to remove lionfish from the reef, which are an invasive, predatory species. They also make a wonderful tasty dinner, so spearing a lionfish or two should be on your agenda!

Where to stay when fishing in Belize

If Ambergris Caye is your fishing spot of choice, El Pescador Lodge is a great place to stay. It’s right on the water, so you don’t need to go far to cast your line for tarpon, bonefish, and permit.

They offer a variety of accommodation choices, from single rooms to 3-bedroom villas. Whatever you choose, the views are amazing, and the fishing is world-class. The lodge also offers eco-adventures, so there’s something else for the family to do or if you want a break from reeling in monster fish.

Anglers looking to fish in the Turneffe Atolls should consider staying at Turneffe Flats. Stay in a stunning beachside cabana when you’re not fishing, within easy reach of the reef and flats teeming with bonefish.

They place an emphasis on eco-friendliness and host a variety of adventures—fishing included—for their guests to partake in.

Belize River Lodge is another brilliant choice of accommodation.

It’s been around since the late 50s, with a history reaching back even further than that, to the Florida Keys and Cuba. Located on the Belize River, it’s a flats fishing paradise, where fly-fishing for snook is always productive. Beyond the river you’ll find saltwater flats where jacks, barracuda, and kingfish live.

Interestingly, this was the first ever fishing lodge in Belize, so you’ll be staying at a piece of history.

Best for individuals or couples, you’ll receive world-class service, have the use of knowledgeable fishing guides, and go home with wonderful memories.

These are by no means the only places to stay in Belize for a fishing vacation. Fishing lodges are many and varied, but they all have one thing in common – they’re surrounded by beautiful nature and you’re a step or two away from the water.

Rules and regulations

Don’t forget that you’ll need a sport fishing license. You can apply for one online at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.

There are strict rules and regulations for fishing in Belize. For example, you can’t fish while scuba diving and some species are protected during certain times of year.

The Big Three are all catch-and-release. It’s also important to note that there are stern rules against interfering with turtles and their nests.

What’s not to love about fishing in Belize?

Not only do you get a chance to fight with some of the fastest and strongest fish in the world, but you also have a chance of reeling in a personal-best lunker.

The fishing is world-class and so are the surroundings. Next time you’re planning a fishing trip, why not consider Belize? It’s a fishing mecca and you haven’t quite lived until you’ve fished in these crystal waters.

Kenneth Reaves has been a professional angler and fishing writer for over two decades. He shares his knowledge and passion for the sport of fishing at his Perfect Captain fishing blog.