A Lure Like No Other: Fishing Belize's Turneffe Atoll

Gorp.com

Tourists have long since discovered Belize's flagship aquatic destinations like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. But for travelers more interested in casting into the salt water than frolicking in it, the Turneffe Atoll remains pristine and remote, even with Belize City just 25 miles away. Its small dots of sand, mangrove clusters, and swamps are rife with protected creeks, flatwaters, and legions of hard-fighting fish. Stellar bonefish and permit crowd this fertile marine ecosystem, along with marlin, sailfish, wahoo, groupers, blackfin tuna, snapper, and jacks.
The allure of netting a "Grand Slam"—landing a tarpon, bonefish, and permit in the same day—is an attainable goal along Turneffe's sparkling lagoons and sandy flats. Wade into the cool waters on the shallow ocean side and cast away, or navigate the atoll's interior on a skiff or poled boat. Oceanside fish have grown accustomed to a rich diet of shrimp and crabs, but the correct tackle and flies, whether of your own design or from your guide's vast stock, will allow you to return home and tell tales of the ones that didn't get away. The fish on the interior are larger and respond to flies more readily; they are also more mobile, so skilled and accurate casting is key.
Choose at least a seven- to nine-weight rod for your Belize excursion. The bonefish average out at four to five pounds, while the abundant permit average 15 pounds (but have weighed in up to a whopping 40) and require a nine- or ten-weight rod. June, July, and August are the peak months for tarpon fishing. Most saltwater fishermen reel in 60- to 90-pound catches, although the occasional lucky fly brings in a 100- to 150-pound beauty. Your best bet is an 11- or 12-weight rod for tarpon; a saltwater reel is a necessity. Grand Slam season also runs from June to August, and the summer months see balmy weather and a steady, refreshing breeze.

Published: 15 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 5 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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