© 2014 Grace Baldwin

Fly Fishing in Belize: Supplies and Research

Sources:

Orvis Saltwater Flies: http://www.orvis.com/saltwater-flies

Belize.com: Sport Fishing: http://www.belize.com/sport-fishing

 

During January I will be traveling to Belize to take a Biology course during which we will complete a 20 day field study. In our last location we will be at a beach where I am hoping to do some bone fishing.

 

SUPPLIES

In order to bone fish I will need a much larger fly rod then I am used to. My friend Tyler has a 9 weight stream light series LL Bean rod with matching real and floating line that he kindly is going to let me bring with me on my trip. Additionally I purchased 10 ft 10 lb Abrasion Resistant Nylon Knotless Tapered Leader from Orvis and a variety of saltwater flies to bring down with me (listed below).

Christmas Island Bonefish Orange Shallow
  • In most tropical flats, shrimp are an important part of the food chain. A sparse and colorful imitation of a coral shrimp, this Orange Christmas Island Bonefish fly is tied with a weighted eye, to be fished from a flats boat when the water is a bit to deep to wade. Deep-42, Shallow-43. Size: 4, 6, 8.
Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi
  • A very good Charlie type bonefish fly, tied by Henry Cowen. Henry is responsible for some great patterns in a number of fisheries and this one is one of his best. The secret of this fly is the pink in the wing. In sizes: 6, 8.

Crazy Charlie

  • This is the grandfather of bonefish flies and of all the designs that ride hook up with a wing covering the hook point. Chances are, if your guide asks what you have tied on and it’s not a Charlie, he’ll bite it off and tie on a Charlie or some form thereof. Don’t go bonefishing without a box of Charlies. In white, yellow, tan, pink.
    Flies available in sizes: 4, 6, 8.
  • Shallow: Plastic bead eyes, slowest sink rate.
  • Tailing: Metal bead chain eyes, medium sink rate.
  • Deep: Non toxic metal dumbbell eyes, fast sink rate.
Grand Slam Crab
  • Excellent saltwater crab fly fishing pattern for permit or bonefish. Great for stripers on the flats as well. tan. Sizes: 4, 6.

Clouser Minow

  • The Clouser Minnow ranks with the Deceiver as the two most prolific and popular fly patterns in saltwater and warm water fishing. No box should be without a significant collection of Clouser flies in all colors and sizes. These two fly patterns should be the foundation patterns of any predator box. In black; sizes 6, 2. Length 2½”, 3″. chartreuse/white, chartreuse/yellow, red/white, olive/white, gray/white; sizes 6, 2, 2/0. Length 2½”, 3″, 4″.
Predator Pounder
  • Originally designed as a Golden Dorado fly, this pattern will work for all toothy critters whether in salt or fresh water. Tied with a muddler head for sub-surface water disturbance, this is a great choice when fishing in murky water. Size 2/0.

 

The Christmas Island, Cowen’s Scampi, and Crazy Charlie are all specific to Bonefish while the Predator Pounder, Clouser Minnow, and Grand Slam Crab are more general salt water flies that the man at Orvis (who had gone fly fishing in Belize) said I could try to use to catch other fish that may be down there.

Lastly, I also purchased a book titled “Fly Fishing for Bonefish” by Dick Brown which is one of the most recent books about Bonefishing. I am hoping to read the book within the next couple weeks and also plan to watch a bunch of Bonefishing videos. I am also planning to practice casting with the 9 weight rod since I have never cast with anything of that size and weight.

RESEARCH

  1. Types of Fish: Due to the ecological diversity in Belize there are tons of amazing fish and lots of different fishing opportunities. Additionally, because these fish are saltwater and may originate or migrate from the open ocean they can get much bigger than any other fish I have caught or seen before.

Bonefish

Bonefish are the most prized fish in Belize and luckily are present in equal numbers throughout the year so there is really no preferable season for bonefishing. The bonefish in flats and lagoons tend to be larger and take flies more readily as opposed to bonefish in the ocean: good news for me as we will be by the shore and in flats during the last week.

Permit

Permit fishing tends to be the best in the fall. Belize has become the permit capital of the world and is a very popular fish for anglers. These fish also are found in flats and bars throughout the Reef and Atolls (ring shaped reef).

Tarpon

Tarpon fishing is more seasonal since Tarpon are migratory species. Tarpon fishing is best in April and May and then drops off in September or October. Since I am going in January the Tarpon fishing will not be its best. Tarpon are regarded as the ultimate saltwater fly fishing challenge. Tarpon inhabit the rivers, creeks, channels, and lagoons off Belize. Tarpon can range in size from 60-90 lbs to 100-150 lbs to a whopping 200 lbs!

Snook

Snook can be found in small mangrove creeks around the Belize atolls.

Barracuda

Barracuda are present throughout the year.

Reef Fish

Snapper

whole-snapper-belize

Grouper

belize_large_grouper

Jack

black-jack

Summary of Fishing Seasons

belize-sport-fishing-calendar

F = Fair, G= Good, E= Excellent: May, June, July, August, and early September are considered the best fishing months.

2. License and Catch & Release

A fishing license is needed for Belize, and apparently Belize Fisheries Department has become stricter as the fishing has continued to become increasingly popular in Belize. I will need to purchase a license from the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute. Additionally, while Belize is not as strict about Catch & Release as other places I have fished, Catch & Release is definitely important for majority of the catch but it is okay to keep 1 or 2.

 

3. All About Bonefish

Scientific name: Albula vulpes

  • Members of “bony” fish class: Osteichthyes, of which members of Elopiformes order which includes ladyfish family and tarpon family

Evolutionary Significance of Bonefish

One of my favorite aspects of biology is understanding all of the complex phylogenetic trees. It is very humbling and helps to gain perspective to see how far evolution has taken us in a relatively short period of time.

To begin it is important to look at the big picture, the phylogenetic tree of life that shows that the common ancestor that resulted in the two branches of Archaea and Bacteria and then Eukarya branched off from Archaea.

Below shows importance progressions in the evolution of Eukarya. After multicellularity increasing progressions were able to be made to allow for more specificity and diversity among living creatures. Most of the animals we know today evolved from the very last branch: Chordata.

Finally, below is a phylogenetic tree of the chordates which had continued evolution and specificity. After the development of lungs you see our Bony fish or the Osteichthyes. What many people do not realize is that shark are actually are actually more primitive than bonyfish as shown by the image below.

Overall the trees show that relatively speaking Bonefish are fairly “primitive” creatures who from a relatively early point in evolutionary history became incredibly adapted to their environment and have evolved little since they first appeared 419 million years ago.

 

Facts continued…

  • Average speed of 25 mph (Salmon = 12 mph, Trout = 5 mph)
  • Run length: max. 500 ft
  • Fly rods better than spin rods because easier to recast, change direction, change fly based on depth and more delicate/less spooky
  • Bonefishing contributes over a billion dollars per year / total bonefish about 300,000 = each fish adds $3,500 annually and $75,000 in lifetime to economy > commercial fishing value
  • Inhabit warm, shallow coastal waters
  • Best places to Bonefish are Bahamas, Florida Keys, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Los Roques area of Venezuela, the seychelles atoll of east coast of Africa in Indian Ocean, Christmas Island in mid-Pacific, and areas in South Pacific
  • Max life = 12 years
  • Max size = 20 lbs

Feeding patterns

  • Bonefish dig for clams, shrimp, crab, and worms
    • Particuarly Common shrimp, Snapping shrimp, Swimming crabs, and Mud crabs
    • Mantis shrimp is not eaten often because hard to catch but Bonefish like them a lot because they are very calorie-rich
  • Come onto flats on rising tides, feeding in shallows between the reefline and shoreline in progressively shallower areas as tide rises
  • When tide falls, they hold up in deep-water holes on the flats or head back to deep water off the flats and wait for tide to rise again
  • Fish will continue to feed regardless of tide cycle if there is lots of food
  • Bonefish feed at night sometimes more than at day, but in general feed all the time
  • Most active feeding occurs at 75 – 85 degrees temp.
  • Bonefish decrease at highest and lowest temperature seasons; but areas near the equator have the least seasonal variation
  • Winter: Bonefish prefer common shrimp and clams on grass flats and clams, mantis shrimp, and snapping shrimp on sand flats
  • Summer: Bonefish prefer clams, swimming crabs, and mantis shrimp on grass flats and clams and worms on sand flats

 

4. Bonefishing techniques

  • Crimp barbs and sharpen hooks often
  • Avoid bright clothing, unnecessary movements: wear pale neutral colors like khaki and light blue
  • Crouch when getting in close to avoid spooking
  • Bonefish can detect odors like sunblock, repellant, and gasoline; keep these away from your box of flies and make sure they don’t leak onto your gear
  • Bring a thermometer to flats and measure water temp.; want between 75 – 85 degrees
  • Best place to fish is inshore side of windward reefs with shallow sandy bottom

 

Click Here to Read the Next Post about Fly Fishing in Belize: Outcome and Reflection.

 

belize-bonefishing