The Best Anglers: Saltwater Sport Fishing in Belize

by Larry Waight
fishing with Ray Caye

Anyone with a passion for sport fishing will be in love with Belize. This goes double for anyone who plans on casting a line into the depths of the Caribbean Sea. Between the large array of game fish and mild climate, you can pursue saltwater fishing throughout the year, either along the coastline or from the country’s lagoons, rivers and other internal waterways. However, there are three notable catches when it comes to dedicated fishers in Belize: bonefish, permit and tarpon. These three sport fish may be around throughout the year but are most frequently encountered between the months of May through September. Jacks, snooks and tarpons live within inland Belize’s waters; the record for largest tarpon was last set at 350 pounds of weight and over 8 feet in length.

If you would prefer to fish along coastal grass flats, you are likely to run into barracuda, bonefish and permit. Head off into the reefs and islands for grouper, jacks and snapper, in addition to barracuda and permit. These options drastically change if you eye fishing in the deep, where bonito, the rare blue marlin, and even sailfish dwell. The great variety of marine life in Belize means that the season and your location will greatly influence what you can catch. There is more than enough to satisfy day trippers and those sportsmen in for a long fishing voyage.

General Information Regarding Fishing in Belize

belize fishing

Take a picture over the side of the boat with the fish still in the water – or the best technique, get in the water to take the picture. Photo via Blue Horizon Lodge

Sport fishing licenses are either good for one day ($20 BZD) or one week ($50 BZD). While most fishing tours include a license as part of a fishing excursion, you can also make the purchase online or through a travel agentWhile sport fishing means catch-and-release, some spots allow you to dine on your catch. These “dining allowed” spots will state which species are fine to put on the menu.

Best Times to Catch Belize’s Big Game Species 


Image Courtesy, Belize Game Fishing Association

  • Blue/White Marlin: Best chances are November through June. 
  • Sailfish: April and May. 
  • Tuna: All year. 
  • King Mackerel: April through June. 
  • Wahoo: November through March. 
  • Amberjack: September through March. 
  • Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi or Dolphin): June and July. 
  • Great Barracuda: All year. 
  • Snapper: All year. 
  • Grouper: February and March. 
  • Bonefish: All year. 
  • Permit: March through May. 
  • Tarpon: July and August. 
  • Atlantic Snook: December through February. 
  • Jack Crevalle: Any month but January. 

Types of Fishing Experiences

  • Inter-tidal Zone. Belize has 450 islands for fly and spin-cast fishermen to fish from. This inshore inter-tidal zone, also known as a littoral zone, is where the Big Three dwell. The littoral zone is a diverse ecosystem where earth and sea meet, leading to a salinity that changes just as much as the tides. This sort of skiff-based fishing entails mangroves, jungle waters, sandbars, tidal flats and many bats and inlets. This sort of fishing experience is great for those who like fishing in calm water. 
  • Flats. This is littoral zone fishing across sandbars, grassy tidal flats and shallows. While flats are great for fishing in warm, calm water, you can also cast from a skiff, ideally kitted out for saltwater fly fishing. 
  • Reef. The Belize Barrier Reef‘s many outcroppings and hideaways ensure that both amateurs and pros will be satisfied. This is the perfect experience for first-time anglers as you are free to chill your catch and enjoy it for dinner at the end of the tour. This is also great if you favor barracuda, grouper, jacks or snapper. 
Similar: Chase a Grand Slam in Belize  
  • Deep Sea. This is where you go to catch dorado, kingfish, marlin, sailfish and even shark, to name a few. As some of these fish require involved equipment, your excursion’s guide will help you to pull in something truly impressive. 
  • Trolling. If you are more interested in a fun ride than dueling with the seas, trolling is a fine choice. This sort of deep sea fishing entails setting up multiple rods with tackle, all suspended from the back of a slow-going boat. This allows you to just bask in the ocean and treat the fishing aspect as a happy accident to be checked every so often. Come ashore once you have caught enough to fill everyone’s bellies. 
  • Night Fishing. The hours of 4-8 p.m. are said to be the best time to catch large fish in the shallows. Grouper, snapper, tarpon and even big reef sharks are all exceptionally prized catches that can be encountered at these times in that environment. Just remember to include a wind-breaker with your fishing gear. 

Where to Cast Your Line

Photo via Roeming Belize

Whether you fancy yourself a sportsman or just a hobbyist, you should try your hand at fishing while visiting Belize; it certainly augments any prior experience with swimming or kayaking through her waters. While Belize has a lot of great spots for fishing, here are some of the more notable locales. 

  • Turneffe Atoll. This is the country’s biggest coral atoll, found just 20 miles away from Belize City’s coast. Not only was it where a battle with Blackeard occurred but may have also inspired Scottish author J. M. Barrie to create Peter Pan’s Neverland. 
  • Ambergris Caye. The largest island in Belize used to be settled by the ancient Maya and was immortalized in song with Madonna’s “Isla Bonita.” This is a place of sugar-white sands and turquoise shallows and often becomes the launching point for many fishing, scuba and snorkeling trips. San Pedro, the largest town on the island, is also reputed to have a charming atmosphere with plenty of food and nightlife to enjoy. 
Similar: Ambergris Caye is Belize’s Top Travel Destination: Here’s Why
  • Placencia. While the Placencia peninsula is the ideal launching point for any sort of reef activity, including fishing, it also happens to have some of the finest beaches in the country. Luxury meets the common man here, with multiple luxury boutiques contrasting against the laid-back fishing culture of the region and numerous eateries, bars and even art galleries sandwiched in the middle. 
  • Dangriga. This southern town is known as the “Cultural Capital of Belize” and is where many can be exposed to the culture of the Garifuna. The fact that you can fish from rivers, estuaries, shallows and even the deep sea certainly does not hurt its attractiveness to anglers. 
  • Glover’s Reef. Found off Dangriga’s coast, this partly-submerged coral atoll is one of the best spots in the country for flats, reef and deep sea fishing trips. 

Belize: A World-Class Leader for Fishing

Reward yourself with an ice-cold Belikin beer after chasing tails in Belize – fishing, that is. Photo via Blue Horizon Lodge

Over 40% of this fine Central American country consists of protected lands that serve as parks for wildlife, nature sanctuaries and marine reserves, meaning that plenty of gorgeous creatures of the land, waters and winds can find safety. Even after you finish taking in all of the gorgeous natural wonders, breathtaking vistas exploding with color, lush and vibrant wildlife and the many, distinct fishing adventures available, the hospitality and culture of Belize’s people will ground you like you were back home. 

Header photo courtesy IG @themeghanjones. This article was originally published in October 2020.

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