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Yeow! 17" Catfish by the Jefferson Memorial! Learn to Fish in 30 Seconds!

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Travels in Fishing

- Belize -

Fish the Grand Slam!
Permit Alley!

January 5, 2006

The purpose of visiting Belize was to see if it was a place to retire to. I can see myself fishing everyday, just not all day; also the idea of fishing on the flats, in wheelchair if it ever came to that, was a step up from having the expense of a boat.

With nothing more than Belize websites (including the forums), Rough Guide and Lonely Planet to go by, I sketched a plan of seeing Belize City, one of the Northern Cayes (Ambergris, San Pedro, Caye Caulker), Palencia, and to get a quick idea of the jungle, the Belize Zoo.

Unfortunately, I had only the period January 1-5 available. Unfortunately, because January 1 was a Sunday, making the 2nd ANOTHER holiday Monday; the city was effectively closed. According to one of the guide books, the Zoo would be closed; a taxi driver promised he would not charge us if it was closed, but I balked at the $100 fare for the 45 minute ride, thinking I might be able to take the bus later in the week.

On a whim, I decided to go to Caye Caulker or San Pedro. Decisions, decisions. Went with Caye Caulker. Paid the $20BZ ($10US) for the water taxi. Had totally forgotten what a boat ride was like once outside the reef on open water with a 30-knot breeze. Took about 10 minutes to get used to the bouncing, but thought it was going to be the longest 45 minutes I have endured.

On Caye Caulker, the guide books recommended 3 dive centers – more than any other place – so my objective was to see if I could finish my PADI certification. Lot of walking, missing the one center that seemed to be able to meet my schedule. I can say nothing but good about Belize Diving Services. I had my certificate by 5p the next day – after 2 60-foot dives off Turneffe Atoll.

Now I am supposed to be writing about fishing. So my choice was now to try to fly to Placencia – or stay on Caye Caulker, and herein the lesson lies. First, not all fishing places are worth fishing. The week was averaging 20-30 knot breezes, which, I was told, is not good for permit fishing; worse, Palencia could be experiencing the same weather. Second, whatever a fisherman may say about what he has caught or seen caught, it really doesn’t count unless he can rub your nose in it to smell it. So to be told the Split was a good place to fish was a load of rubbish; it now is a channel between North & South Caye, with speed boats running through it, people swimming off it, and wind.

Someone was catching fish though. I walked to the Back Dock and found a lovely lady sitting on the dock, with a hand-line and cut bait. Every now and again she would pull up a fish and throw it away. Uh, bonefish.

Third lesson: if you think bonefish on the flats is sport, how is it a woman, pulling these things in like crappy, could find it a total nuisance? Only one passerby wanted to take one back to roast.

Fourth lesson: despite what a website might say or recommend for lures, ALWAYS take as much small stuff. I drew a complete boo-boo by bringing the 3-5” Rapalas, only to hear that bonefish and permit don’t hit on anything bigger than a #4 hook; in other words, I should have brought jig heads with plastic bodies. The closest I came was a bonefish chasing my Husky Jerk, but thinking better of it.

The good news was I was finally PADI certified; the bad news was I had lost all sense of reality in my dream of permit fishing – or, hey, second best, might be bonefish then tarpon. Almost any piece of advice in a strange world sounds worth thinking about, maybe even trying – unless it is about fishing. How could the BEST place to catch every major sportfish draw a dud? We are talking about a 12-month season here, not a couple of months (yes, tarpon are migratory but not quite so much here). I am so embarrassed.

Oh, and it rained ALL day on Wednesday. Full tropical wet rain. No Palencia, not even the zoo.

Lessons to be carried on a card in my wallet:

  1. All advice is worth taking once – unless it is from another fisherman; or unless it is an unhappy fisherman (“We were catching jacks, but we can catch those all the time in Nagadoches …”)
  2. Go with instincts in putting together a lure kit, especially variety; nothing is too small
  3. Reality and a dream are but a gust of wind apart
  4. Always have a backup objective (phew on PADI!)

Contact: Buzz Andrews
Savannah, GA


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