Belize is a tarpon fishing paradise.
With 200+ miles of coastline, a network of complex system of barrier reef, offshore atolls, hundreds of patch reefs, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and over 1,000 cayes and coupled with a rich habitat of year round temperatures of 75° to 80° F – it’s an Angler’s paradise.
Anglers from around the world flock to Belize to complete the Grand Slam, which for those of you who don’t know – is catching a bonefish, permit, and tarpon all in one day. Throw in a snook for good measure to achieve what’s known as the Super Slam.
But the largest and perhaps most prized fish of the Grand Slam trio is the elusive tarpon — a fish that can live up to 75 years and grow up to 250 pounds. Tarpon can even breathe air — the only fully marine species of fish able to do so.
With a huge migratory population of tarpon, Belize is the place to hook one of these beasts.
And with a huge migratory population of tarpon, Belize is the place to hook one of these beasts yourself. Get ready for some spectacular aerobatics and a challenging fight in the process.
When to Fish:
With temperatures that vary little year round, juvenile and resident tarpon can be found pretty much any day of the year. However, if it’s large tarpon you are after, we’re talking 100 pounds plus, the late summer months of July, August, and September are your best bet. This is the height of the tarpon migratory season and summer – so you’ll want to be prepared with the right GEAR.
The height of migratory season, July, August, and September are your best bet for landing a tarpon.
What Tarpon Eat:
The fish eat crabs, worms, shrimp, as well as bait fish. For fly fishing, the “Black Death” tarpon fly is one of the most productive in Belize according to El Pescador. However, there may be times and locations where other flies will do the job such as Green Hornet, Sardine (Sardina) and the White Angel — all with plenty of flash.
Most Belize fishing guides recommend bringing 11-12 weight fly rods for tarpon along with both a floating and an intermediate fly line. They also recommend 16-20 pound class tippet and 60-80 pound shock tippet.
Where to Find Them:
While you can land a tarpon almost anywhere in Belize, some of the more popular places include Ambergris Caye with over 50 miles of shallow, white sand bottom flats that make ideal feeding grounds for vast numbers of tarpon.
Stay at El Pescador Lodge and Villas to take advantage of the El Pescador fishing guides, some of the most experienced in Belize. Technical fishermen, their deep knowledge of fish behavior and the surrounding habitat will go a long way to helping you land that prize tarpon you have always dreamed about.
While you can land a tarpon almost anywhere in Belize, some of the more popular places include Ambergris Caye.
Try your luck on Turneffe Flats, located on the coral Turneffe Atoll, offers 250 square miles of rich marine habitat. And just south of Ambergris Caye sits Caye Caulker — a five-mile long island teaming with undeveloped mangroves that tarpon like to explore.
It’s All Catch and Release:
All bonefish, tarpon and permit that you catch in Belize must by law be released. Local guides are great at raising preservation awareness to the point where catch and release is routinely practiced for almost all species. We all love to take photos of our catch, but to put less stress on the fish and help reduce mortality rates, take a photo with the fish still in the water — either over the side of the boat or with you in the water with the fish if necessary.
All bonefish, tarpon and permit that you catch in Belize must by law be released.
And don’t forget you need a fishing license before you can ever cast a line — or even ride in a boat with someone who plans to fish, even if you just plan to sip beverages and soak up the sun.