Bonefishing Belize at Turneffe Flats

By Jim DiBerardinis

Turneffe Atoll has enjoyed a long-standing reputation for having some of the best bonefishing in the Western Hemisphere. It's a justified distinction—over the past three years I've been in the enviable position of fishing Turneffe on three separate occasions, and I must admit, the experience is about as good as it gets. Ten to twenty bonefish a day are a typical catch, and fish in the ten- to twelve-pound range are not uncommon. Add to that the ever-present opportunity for taking big permit, and it's easy to see why this idyllic site, just a quick boat ride from Belize City, has drawn me back year after year.

It was July, three years ago, when I first visited Turneffe Flats. July might seem like a hot and sticky season to be stalking the flats in search of bonefish, but the results were more than worth the effort. It turns out that though many anglers visit Belize in the winter and spring, July through November are about as good months as any to bag these exciting fish. On that three-day trip, my partner and I landed at least ten bones a day and hooked (and lost) a number of permit. Also on the maiden trip I caught an 11-pound bonefish, my first double digit gray ghost.

On my second trip, two years ago, I was accompanied by two friends, both named Peter, and one of who had never fished flats before. Novice Pete was paired off with Eddie, one of Turneffe Flats' most experienced guides, and when Eddie returned to the dock after the first afternoon fishing he was already raving about Pete's fishing prowess—12 bonefish had been landed.

The next day we explored the flats for tarpon, but after spotting a number of the large and cumbersome fish without coaxing a strike, we motored into the flats to find permit on the rising tide. Pops, our guide, immediately spotted two permit following a large ray. The threesome stopped to feed, and after approaching from behind I cast a Merken-pattern crab fly. The fly sank between the tailing twins and I jerked it once—then again. One of the permit was on my imitation like a lion to gazelle, but when I set the hook the line went slack.

"You pull it out his mouth, mon!" said the ever-encouraging Pops. But the hungry permit seemed unperturbed by the encounter, and returned to his feeding position behind the ray.

"OK," I thought, "let's try this again." On my second delivery, the fly again landed between the two permit. I jerked once—jerked twice—the voracious fish charged, and again the line went limp.

Believe it or not, this happened a third time, and as the fish moved on to new feeding grounds, I retrieved the fly for closer inspection. Pops picked up the Merken and chuckled—the hook was bent over from the powerful bite of the permit, leaving little chance for catching anything but sunstroke.

My last testimonial to the excellent fishing at Turneffe Flats was during my last trip, with Mark Bressler and my son Marcello during August of last year. Mark and I decided to fish together and let Marcello have the only guide. The day was sunny and the wind was blowing hard—tough conditions, even for experienced flats fishermen. But when Marcello returned to the lodge that evening he was absolutely beaming—on his first day fishing the flats he had landed 11 bonefish, the biggest one an eight-pounder.

It seems that nothing shy of a bent hook can hamper productive fly-fishing in the bountiful waters of Turneffe Flats.

© Story copyright by Jim Berardinis

Thanks to Jim Berardinis of Adventures for sharing his experiences about Bonefishing in Belize.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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