Belize Permit Fishing
Permit are one of the most challenging and prized saltwater game fish to land on the fly. Even the most experienced anger still feels an adrenaline rush and accelerated heartbeat when the guide says “Permit! 50 feet, 11 o’clock moving to your right!” Belize is one of those special destinations that provides fly anglers with numerous opportunities to cast to tailing permit as the miles of salt water flats and healthy reef system keep the fish in country year round. Below are samples of our Belize permit fishing packages to give you ideas for your next fishing vacation. Trust our decades of local expertise and see why nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests!
Fly Fishing at El Pescador
Fly Fish Permit Alley
Fly Fish Turneffe Flats
Tarpon Caye Lodge
Fish ‘The Permit Capital’
Belize Permit Fishing Info
Permit are an inshore species that are typically found on shallow water flats or sandy beaches and the deep channels next to them. They can also be found in water as deep as 100 ft, typically in larger schools near reefs or shipwrecks. They range from the Northeastern Coast of the United States down to Brazil, but without any doubt their numbers are the best right here in Belize, the Yucatan, and the Florida Keys. Permit are easily recognizable with their tall, flat bodies and elongated dorsal and anal fins. Most feature a yellow patch on their bellies, but their silver colored sides makes them extremely hard to see when laid up. They also have deep forked tails which are black in color, which is often what betrays their camouflage on the flats and led to the nickname “black tailed devil”.
The habitat for permit in Belize is simply perfect as it offers shallow saltwater flats to feed on, deep water to flee to for safety, and the Mesoamerican Reef for spawning and access to the open ocean. Permit primarily feed on crabs, shrimp, crustaceans and mollusks, which they grind up and crush with the bony plates in their throats. The sand and mud bottoms of the lagoons and mangroves found all up and down the coast provide perfect habitat for permit to dig up their prey. When the tide comes in and the shallow flats fill with water the permit will get on top and start tailing as they look for their favorite meal, crabs. Belize is blessed to be home to some of the most abundant saltwater flats in the Caribbean so permit are always here no matter what time of year it is.
A plentiful food source is half of the equation, but easy access to deeper water makes the notoriously spooky permit feel safe as these water are also home to sharks and barracuda. Last but not least, Belize became the first country in the world to make into law the catch-and-release of all permit back in 2008, so the population density here is as good as anywhere on Earth. Few places in the world offer you so many chances at tailing permit day in and day out as Belize.
Fly Fishing for Permit
Permit present the ultimate challenge for fly anglers both pre and post hook up. Permit are blessed with incredible eye sight and are notorious for being easily spooked. Cast over top of them – no chance. If you make a cast that lands too close or too hard it can send them off the flats and into the deep water in a hurry. On calm clear days they can even spot you on the bow of the boat so too many false casts can give you away and send them running. At times the only way to get close enough is to wade the flats, but walk quietly or the coral and rocks crunching under your feet will send them packing. For this reason permit fishing isn’t about gaudy catch counts, it’s the intimate game of cat and mouse you engage in to even get an opportunity to cast to one.
Let’s say you have managed to get close enough to present your fly and you make the perfect cast, now it’s time to properly work the fly until you feel that bite. Your first strip should be long and slow to pick up the slack in the line and get tight to your fly after letting it sink. Permit can pick up and spit out your fly so quickly you might not even feel the tug. If the target fish turns away or doesn’t see your fly you can make a few short, quick strips to give it an erratic behavior, then let it sink again and act naturally. Assuming all that goes well, permit have developed mouths as tough as leather for rooting up their prey and crushing them so a firm strip is needed to set the hook. Once hooked they take off on lightning fast runs, usually towards the safety of deeper water, and they will rub their head against coral, rocks, and the bottom along the way to try and dislodge the hook. If there is a sea fan or large coral you can bet they will head towards it and try to snap the line. Keep the rod high to increase your chances and hope that you have a reel with a quality drag on it to slow these fish down.
Fly Rods: The ideal fly rod for permit fishing in Belize is a 9 wt. If you have an 8 wt rod you are using for bonefish that can be used in a pinch, but it can be a bit too light when casting in strong winds or when needing to place a crab fly 80-100 ft away. Some permit in Belize can reach 25-30+ lbs too, so you would never sleep again if you lost a fish like that using the wrong tackle. A 10 wt rod that doubles for tarpon also works, but if you are getting shots at 10-20 permit a day it can tire you out quicker than a 9 wt and might not have as much feel.
Fly Reels: We strongly recommend a large arbor, corrosion-resistant saltwater reel that will hold a fly line plus approximately 200 yards of 20 lb backing. Having a high quality, smooth drag system is essential to prevent break-offs or being spooled by a permit that is flying off the flats at warp speed to head for deeper water.
Lines & Leaders: A weight forward floating line is ideal for most of the stalking and sight fishing you will be doing on the flats. It’s also a good idea to have an intermediate sinking line because you can’t guarantee 100% of the permit you see will be tailing up on the flats. Sometimes you need to make a cast to laid up fish or a cruising pair along the mangroves and getting the fly right in front of them is imperative. Most guides prefer a 9 ft – 12 ft leader of 15#-20# fluorocarbon leader with 15# tippet.
Flies: Permit flies in Belize are all about crab patterns. It’s a good idea to have a variety of sizes and weights so you can adjust depending on the water depth and where you are fishing. Flies sizes should be #2 – #6, with #4 being the most used. The standard go-to fly every angler needs is the Del Brown’s Merkin crab in tan or olive, but the Raghead and Christmas Island Special are also popular. We will provide you with a full list of recommended permit flies for Belize once you book your trip with us as it can vary based on where you are fishing.
Additional Items: To stalk permit all week we highly recommend a quality pair of wading boots or Simms flats sneakers. These need to be firm soled shoes designed for flats wading to keep out the small, sharp pieces of coral you are guaranteed to encounter. Light tennis shoes, sandals, or booties will not work and can put a quick end to your wade fishing. Of course we recommend a light rain jacket for tropical showers, hat, sun lotion, and polarized sun glasses so you can spot your fish.
Spin Fishing for Permit
Without a doubt, the easier way to catch a permit is on spinning tackle – but even then it’s far from a guarantee! Permit are just as easily spooked and leader shy when you are using spinning gear, but it does make things a bit easier with casting to them and the bait we use. A 7’0″ – 7’6″ rod is ideal so it’s strong enough to battle a 30 lb fish but sensitive enough to feel the bite. You’ll want a quality spinning reel that can hold at least 200 yds of 10# monofilament line, which is generally a 4000 size reel. A reel with a quality, smooth drag is important so you can try and stop these fish before they head outside the reef after being hooked.
Since permit primarily feed on mollusks and crustaceans they are not typically caught by traditional swimbaits or popper. The most effective bait is a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce jig head capped with live bait like crabs or shrimp. Lots of local guides in Belize also love to find fresh conch shells and use the meat as bait, bonefish and permit alike have a hard time refusing that delicacy! Bucktail jigs and imitation crab patterns also can also work well, but realistic movement is key since permit have such keen eyesight.
When is the Best Permit Fishing in Belize?
Permit are available in Belize in healthy numbers throughout the entire year. The consistently warm weather, warm shallow water, and abundant flats create an environment they never need to leave. Unfortunately that doesn’t make them any easier to catch on the fly, but at least we know we’ll get our chances!
Permit fishing in Belize is affected more by day-to-day weather than by seasonal changes. Rain storms and big winds obviously aren’t fun to fish in, and overcast skies make it harder to spot fish. Some months tend to offer better conditions than others, but the weather on the Caribbean can be wildly unpredictable no matter when you visit. Below is our Belize fly fishing calendar to give you a general idea of the different species and fishing seasons. We customize all of our Belize fishing packages so once you contact us we’ll work with you personally to make sure you are in the right spot at the right time for the fishing you want to do.
Where is the Best Permit Fishing in Belize?
Permit are found all throughout Belize. Being a protected catch-and-release species, their population is strong and the habitat is perfect so they can be seen from border to border and even out at the atolls. They can be found in schools of 10 or more when feeding, but the really big adults tend to be seen swimming alone or in pairs. Permit can be spotted when they are feeding on top of the flats or cruising the mangroves looking for a meal, so there are specific spots in Belize that hold more fish and/or present better flats fishing opportunities:
1) Placencia & Hopkins
The shallow waters off of southern Belize offer one of the finest stretches of permit fishing in the entire world. This area, referred to as ‘Permit Alley’, offers shallow saltwater flats that stretch nearly 30 miles form Dangriga down to Placencia. Located inside the Mesoamerican Reef, the calm protected waters can be 50-100 ft deep in the channels which offer safety for schooling permit. When the tides change you can see tailing permit up on the flats searching for their next meal almost any day of the year. Some flats may be just a couple hundred feet long while others can be up to half a mile long, so there is no shortage of territory to stalk permit. Not coincidentally, this stretch of Belize is home to luxury beach resorts, a few fantastic island-based fishing lodges that put you right in the middle of the action, and some amazing flats guides.
2) Turneffe Atoll
The most remote fly fishing destination in Belize offers some of the best permit fishing for that very same reason. The Turneffe Atoll is located 20 miles off the coast and is one of Belize’s prized national treasures for fishing and diving. Changing from several thousand feet deep outside the atoll to just a few feet deep inside of it, this is one of the most unique marine environments to fish. It measures 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, making it the biggest atoll in the Western Hemisphere with acres and acres of pristine flats and mangroves to explore. Due to it’s isolated location it receives very little fishing pressure so these permit aren’t used to seeing flies like they are in more mainstream areas.
3) Ambergris Caye
Located in northern Belize, this is the most popular vacation destination in the country. The 400 sq mile fishery allows anglers to escape the crowds and fish all the way from the Mexican border to mainland Belize. This area doesn’t generally offer shallow flats like the southern part of the country, but instead offers sandy & mud bottoms covered in turtle grass. On one side of the island you have the Mesoamerican Reef which gives them easy access to deeper water and on the other side you have protected lagoons and mangroves.
4) Punta Gorda
The southernmost city in Belize is the self proclaimed ‘Permit Capital of the World’. In addition to several flats, this area has a massive lagoon that can be fished in almost any weather. There is only one fishing operation here, and they do an amazing job, so if you visit the remote southern end of Belize you might see more permit than people.
Other Species on the Flats
Believe me, we get it. You spend all evening thinking about the perfectly positioned tailing permit that you spooked. You go to bed resolute that tomorrow you will make the perfect cast and have a permit in your hands with an ear-to-ear grin on your face. Then you spend all night dreaming about the black-tailed devils. When you are on a permit fishing trip to Belize, chances are you have blinders on and nothing else matters to you. There are of course other fun species to fish for on the flats, so whether you are trying to complete the vaunted Inshore Grand Slam or just need a confidence boost from a fish that isn’t as spirit-crushing as the permit, keep your eyes peeled for the following:
Available Species on the Flats in Belize
Belize Fly Fishing Lodges & Accommodations
From ‘Permit Alley‘ to the ‘Permit Capital of the World‘, we can literally have you sleeping so close to the water you’ll be able to see tailing permit right from you room! Anglers have been coming to Belize to fish for permit for decades so there are some truly world class fly fishing lodges to enjoy. We have options from Northern Belize to Southern Belize, even on the Western Hemisphere’s largest atoll 20 miles out to sea, so wherever the permit are we can get you there. If you are traveling with family or non-anglers we also have boutique hotels, luxury beach resorts, and private condos & villas so that you can enjoy fishing and they can enjoy the beach and day tours. We only partner with the nicest 3, 4, and 5-star operations that meet our expectations for quality, reliability, and service. Being local experts, we have personally visited every single property we represent so we’ll use our personal experience to hand pick the perfect fit for your group.
Belize Day Tours & Excursions
Our Belize Permit fishing packages don’t need to be all fishing, all the time – but chances are if you are coming to Belize to fish for permit it probably will be! Belize is nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret” so while you are here you can enjoy a host of non-fishing activities like exploring Mayan ruins, cave tubing, hike into the rainforest to view wildlife, rappel or swim in waterfalls, and of course snorkeling and diving along the famous Mesoamerican Reef. Whether it’s an off day from permit fishing or for the non-anglers in your group, there are several great eco and adventure tours available. We can also customize your Belize fishing vacation so you spend a few nights inland before ending your trip out at the beach. The list includes:
- Mayan Ruins
- Cave Explorations
- Cave Tubing
- Horseback Riding
- Canopy zip-line tour
- Waterfall Rappelling
- Guided tours of national parks
- Bird Watching
- Catamaran cruises
- Manatee watching
- Chocolate making
- Cultural Immersion & cooking classes
Belize Permit Fishing FAQs
Do I need a fishing license to fish in Belize?
YES. All anglers between the ages of 16-65 need a fishing license to fish in Belize. These are sold by the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI). A one day license can be bought for $20 BZ ($10 USD), a one week license for $50 BZ ($25 USD). Some of our Belize fishing packages will include that in the price depnding on which lodge you stay at.
How many people will be on my fishing boat?
All fishing charters booked by Central America Fishing are private, so the boat is 100% yours. We do not set up any shared charters. A typical flats skiff in Belize can fish two anglers max.
What is the standard tip for my flats guide in Belize?
For most flats guides, a tip of $50-$100 USD per day works out to be a 10%-20% tip. Of course more is always appreciated, especially if you catch the fish of a lifetime. You can also leave behind flies, leader, and tippet as they are not as easy to get in Belize. Tipping in USD or Belize dollar (BZ) is fine.
Do I have to bring my own fly fishing gear?
This depends on where you stay. We always recommend that our fly anglers bring their own gear so they are familiar with their casts when the time comes to present your fly to a tailing permit. We will send you a fly fishing checklist after you book your trip with us so you know what size rods, fly patterns, leaders and tippet you’ll need.
If you don’t have all the saltwater fly tackle needed don’t worry, some lodges offer loaner rods or full tackle that you can rent by the day. If you stay at one of our beach resorts and fish on local charters most of the guides will provide all teh gear you need.
What if there is bad weather on our fishing day?
This is the great ‘X-factor’ with all our Belize permit fishing packages. Being on the Caribbean, the weather in Belize changes quickly and is much less predictable than the Pacific Coast of Central America. If your flats guide, the fishing lodge, or government deem the conditions are unsafe the trip will be cancelled. The first course of action is to try and reschedule you, but if that is not possible you will be refunded in full.
Keep in mind that rain and dark clouds are not considered bad weather, that can be a daily occurrence in Belize! Rain shower are more common in the Caribbean than the Pacific, but the good news is they typically don’t last long unless there is a storm system moving through. If the weather is bad we also have several lagoons and mangroves we can fish in to avoid the wind.
All Belize Permit Fishing Packages booked with Central America Fishing include the following:
- Free Vacation Planning (no fees + direct rates)
- Meet & Greet upon exiting the BZE Airport
- Private, air-conditioned transfers with English speaking driver.
- All in-country domestic flights
- Luxury accommodations in your choice of all inclusive fishing lodge, luxury beach resort, or a boutique hotel.
- Private fishing charters
- Day tours & excursions
- All Belizean taxes and service fees
- Free quotes on travel insurance
- Pre-arrival assistance with dinner reservations, tee times, pre-stocking your condo or villa, hiring a private chef, and special requests.
- 24/7 support once you are here in country