Almost anyone who fly-fishes in salt water eventually wants to go to Belize – and for good reason. It’s easy to get to, the locals are friendly and the fishing remains excellent year round. Fishing in Belize during winter, however, has advantages – pleasant temperatures and ideal conditions. Turneffe Island, which lies 30 miles southeast of Belize City, offers quick access to a wide variety of species, including tarpon, bonefish, snook and even permit. There are two places to stay on the island, Turneffe Island Lodge down south and Turneffe Flats on the upper east side. Both provide excellent opportunities for anglers and top-notch amenities for nonfishermen, making it a perfect choice for a family getaway. Admittedly, winter brings fewer chances for permit and large tarpon, but the massive schools of bonefish and resident baby tarpon will keep even the most ardent angler busy. It’s also peak season for snook and you can target several kinds of jacks and snappers. A short run to the edge of the nearby barrier reef allows you shots at kingfish, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and an assortment of nearshore pelagics like bonito and skipjacks.
Because of the large array of quarries here, anglers should prepare for almost anything, but 7-, 9- and 10-weight outfits will likely work for most of the fish you’ll encounter in the late fall and early winter. Floating lines work best in shallow water, but if you want to head offshore or fish in the deeper channels, you’ll need sinking lines. Simple 8- to 10-foot tapered leaders will suffice, and your choice of flies will vary, depending on what you are chasing. Bonefish readily eat Puffs, Gotchas, Crazy Charlies and the like, while baitfish patterns in blue and white or green and white work best in the mangroves for snook and smaller tarpon. Bring some flies tied with weed guards, too. If you’re planning on going offshore or want to chase jacks and snapper, bring some Deceivers and Clousers. You may want to rig a shock tippet for the tarpon and snook and use a short wire tippet for mackerel.
For more information on fishing at Turneffe Flats, call 888-512-8812 or log on to www.tflats.com. For information on fishing and staying down the island at Turneffe Island Lodge, call 800-874-0118 or log on to www.turneffelodge.com. You can also contact Yellow Dog Outfitters at 888-777-5060 or visit www.yellowdogflyfishing.com; or Frontiers at 800-245-1950 or visit www.frontierstravel.com.