Placencia, Belize Report
Five of us fished Oct 31 to Nov 10 in Placencia, Belize. This was the 3rd trip here for most of us and once again it was excellent. This year after the first two days of wind and waves, we were really happy to see flat calm seas. It got so hot at times that we wished for some wind. Once again we stayed with George and Lisa Westby at the Westwind Hotel right on the beach and the sidewalk. They are great hosts and we really enjoy staying there. Since the tourist push had not really begun when we arrived, there were only a few (4) restaurants for us to eat dinner. However, they were all good and all offer various themes on the same food- fish, shrimp, chicken and Bilikin beer. Breakfast was something quick at the hotel in the morning along with a cup of coffee that Lisa had ready for us at 4:30 am. Most mornings the guides picked us up at 5:00 and we made the short run in the dark to where we fished.
As in previous years, we fished with Bruce Leslie, Benji Eiley, and Arthur Vernon. We book all of the guides through Bruce. All are very good and all offer just a bit different experience every day. We mainly focused on tarpon but we also spent considerable time chasing permit, bonefish, various jacks, barracuda, snook, and bonito. We spent very little time in the mangroves looking for baby tarpon and snook. Local fisherman are wiping out the snook for food and while a couple of other guys had pretty good baby tarpon (up to 30 pounds) fishing a few days before us, we could not connect on anything decent. We mostly had dozens of tiny tarpon and a few small snook and jacks. I did see a few really large snook- maybe 15 pounds (at least they looked large to me) on a single day with Bruce but did not connect.
The tarpon fishing was pretty good this year. We mainly fished Moho Caye which is a caye in the middle of the Victoria Channel. Each morning there were large schools of tarpon from 30 to 60 pounds busting bait. It is an incredible sight to be on the front of the panga as the sun comes up, seeing nervous bait, and green tracks in the bait as the tarpon cruise underneath and then have 20 to 40 tarpon explode in front of you. Sometimes, we would see dozens and dozens of tarpon rolling and feeding for several hundred yards along the bait line. We would either fish here for a few hours or all day depending on how well the tarpon were feeding. This is very frustrating and maddening fishing because the tarpon don’t often find your fly in all that bait. However, we hooked a good number of fish here and even landed a few. We mostly used gummy minnows, but chartreuse or olive clousers and my own Kiss-of-Death (named by Bruce) worked pretty well. One day all fish we caught on small pink clousers.
We also fished the drop-off at Moho where the water drops from 20 feet down to about 90. The guides would anchor the boat and we’d let the fly sink, sink, sink and then we’d strip it in. For this we used various lines (mine was a Teeny T-400) and big clousers. We’d frequently hook big bonita, kingfish and Spanish mackerel. We had lots of flies bitten off, presumably by kingfish. We hooked a good number of fish this way.
We also did some sight fishing for tarpon at Moho or many other cayes. I think we fished maybe 15 or 20 other cayes for tarpon and bonefish or permit. Some days there would be nothing at one and the next day 25 fish would be tight in the mangroves. There is absolutely nothing quite as exciting as seeing a fish slowly cruising, making a good cast, and having the fish follow and then hit. We had lots of follows and even caught a few fish this way. I had at least 6 fish miss the *&#@ fly right at the boat, which is pretty amazing since you see the whole thing. My most memorable fish was one I did not land. We were fishing some white sand flats and I had about 6 different fish follow the fly back to the boat and turn away. We were done with this spot when Benji saw a fish coming. I quickly stripped off 20 feet of line and flipped the Kiss-of Death in front of the fish. He turned and inhaled the fly, took off about 50 yards and jumped at which time he came off. I really never got a good set on this fish since the line was immediately on the reel. This fish was about 75 pounds and I will never forget that inhale, run and jump. It is burned into my memory.
I think we jumped about 40 or 45 tarpon and maybe landed 12 to 15. We had lots of misses and stupid mistakes. What is it about tarpon that makes us make stupid mistakes. Maybe its that with other fish you can recover but with tarpon there does not seem to be any second chances.
We also caught a zillion nice bonefish (up to 4 or 5 pounds), jacks, and barracuda. We had only one nice permit for the group but some of us cast to lots of fish. I really don’t care for permit too much but the stalk and cast is pretty exciting. Most afternoons we would see a dozen or more permit each. I saw 2 that were probably 25 pounds and I also saw a school of 15 fish that completely ignored what I had. When fishing for bonefish with either a Crazy Charlie or small clouser, I had numerous permit follow the fly but not hit. One of our group had shots at 17 different permit in about 3 hours one afternoon. Another of our group cast a size 6 charlie to a few bonefish using a 6 weight, only to have a 25 pound jack cravelle appear from nowhere, inhale the fly and take off for the deep. He got in the boat and fought the fish for about 1.5 hours only to have the 10 pound leader fray at the hook when the guide was landing the fish. Another of our group was almost spooled by a big tarpon which we never saw.
A few gear notes. We used all kinds of rods, reels, and lines. However, the TFOs were well represented in 10, 8, and 7 weight versions and we loved the 2 baby blues we had along. I had a Redington CPS 10 wt which I really like (my favorite of my 10s) and which the guides all used and commented about how well it cast. I also had 8 and 9 weight Targus rods and they also were very nice to fish. The 9 wt paired with a 330-gr Sage bassline worked really well in the mangroves. As always, we used HaberVision glasses with both copper/rose and amber lenses, and they work very well for seeing fish on the flats. The guides are all using them. We caught more fish on clousers of all sizes and colors than anything else. Oh yeah, I love the twisted leaders!
I am always amazed at the diverse fishing opportunities in Placencia, including the seemingly endless number of cayes and miles and miles of flats. We had a great time and I for one am looking forward to my next trip to Placencia.