Belize Tarpon Fishing
Tarpon remain at the top of the wish list for fly anglers and inshore anglers alike. The ‘silver king’ is the biggest and strongest inshore species in Belize, likewise it is also the most acrobatic when hooked. Found cruising the flats, in lagoons and near river mouths, tarpon can be fished with flies, jigs, trolling lures, or live bait. Whether you are after baby ‘poon or the mature adults that migrate through, Belize offers incredible opportunities to sight cast to tarpon. Below are samples of our Belize tarpon 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
Best of Belize
Tarpon Fishing at T-Flats
Tarpon Caye Lodge
Grand Slam Placencia
Belize Tarpon Fishing Info
Tarpon are one of the most unique and beloved game fish across the globe. Typically found in warm coastal waters, they will also head offshore into the Gulf Stream to spawn in the summer months and do just fine in freshwater too. Their range is as far north as Virginia on the East Coast of the United States all the way down to Brazil and across the Atlantic along the west coast of Africa. Tarpon are living dinosaurs as their current design (megalops atlanticus) dates back almost 20 millions years. Whether it’s the spirited juveniles in mangroves or the full grown adult behemoths, few species can claim to be a prized game fish at every stage of their lives like tarpon.
Belize is a special tarpon fishery because it offers perfect habitat for tarpon of all sizes and different venues for us to fish for them. Tarpon feed on crabs, shrimp, sardines, mullet and just about any other fish small enough to fit into their giant bucket mouths – all of which are readily available in Belize. The mangrove-lined coastline and various lagoons are the perfect place for younger juvenile tarpon to grow and hone their craft without as much danger from predators like sharks. The biggest adult tarpon are migratory and pass through between April and September every year, and Belize is a perfect pit stop for them because they can easily go from swimming in the open ocean, cruising along the reef, or patrolling the shallow flats for a meal with a few flicks of their tail. Few places on Earth offer you the ability to fly fish and sight cast to tarpon on the flats as well as fish deeper water for 100+ lb adults in the same week. Because Belize made into law the catch-and-release of all tarpon back in 2008, the year round tarpon fishery in Belize is as good as anywhere in the world.
Fly Fishing for Tarpon
Tarpon present the ultimate challenge for fly anglers. Tarpon don’t have teeth but instead powerful, boney jaws that are hard like concrete. Their complex mouth structure consists of three different bones which allows them to flare them open and inhale their prey whole. The way they feed can make it hard to feel the bite even if it’s a 100+ lb fish on the other end, and then trying to find a soft spot to actually set the hook is an entirely different challenge. Once hooked, tarpon will use their large forked tails to propel themselves out of the water two to three times in an effort to throw your hook. This is where you learn to “bow to the king“, in which you lower the rod top to give the line slack so their sharp gill plates don’t slice through your tippet and so they don’t land on a tight leader and snap it. If you’re still on after that, the real fight begins as they posses both great power and stamina so a battle with an adult tarpon can last what feels like an eternity.
When sight casting to tarpon cruising along the flats and sandy cayes it’s important to get ahead of them and to lead them with your cast. Quick strips to mimic fleeing baitfish or crab are key because you want them to simply react, not think about your fly. It’s a similar game plan if you come across a school of the migratory tarpon that are rolling at the surface as they are almost always in the mood to eat. If you are fishing in a river mouth, a deep hole in one of the lagoons, or even a channel along the reef this will mainly be blind casting so an intermediate fly line is best to get you more into their strike zone. Here tarpon are typically feeding on shrimp being washed out of the river or baitfish in the lagoons and along the reef so match your fly accordingly.
Fly Rods: If you are fishing for smaller juvenile tarpon a 10 wt rod will do the trick as these fish tend to be in the 30-75 lb range. If you are visiting Belize between April and September and are specifically targeting the larger, migratory adult tarpon you’ll want an 11 wt or even 12 wt rod as these fish can be 100-150 lbs or more.
Fly Reels: When fly fishing for tarpon you’ll need a large arbor, corrosion-resistant saltwater reel that will hold a fly line plus approximately 200 yards of 20 lb backing. Surviving the first five minutes of a fight with a tarpon is key, so being able to slow a fish down with a quality drag system before it runs outside the reef or into a tangled mangrove is key
Lines & Leaders: A weight forward floating line is the standard for most saltwater flats fishing you’ll be doing, but if you are specifically after tarpon you’ll most likely want an intermediate sinking line as well. Some days tarpon can be seen cruising in shallow water along the flats or around the sandy cayes, but other days you’ll simply need to blind cast to them near river mouths or lagoons where they are known to frequent. A tarpon leader typically consists of a 60#-100# shock tippet with a 16#-20# tippet.
Flies: Tarpon have such a varied diet there are several fly patterns that work well in Belize. Some of the most productive flies year after year are the cockroach, tarpon toad, black death, and various deceivers. Sizes range from 1/0 – to 4/0 depending on the size of the fish you are targeting. We will provide you with a full list of recommended tarpon flies for Belize once you book your trip with us as it can vary based on where you are fishing and what time of year you visit.
Spin Fishing for Tarpon
Throughout much of Atlantic Ocean, anglers will spend a lifetime chasing tarpon on spinning gear and have a blast doing it. Belize is no different as just as many anglers come here to fish for tarpon on spinning tackle as they do fly tackle. A 6’0″-7’0″ rod is what you’ll want to battle tarpon in Belize, a shorter rod for the larger migratory adults and a longer rod for the smaller resident tarpon. You’ll of course need a quality spinning reel in the 5500-6500 class that can hold at least 200 yds of 30# braid for smaller tarpon or 50# braid for the bigger fish. Smaller tarpon typically need a 60# monofilament leader while the bigger migratory tarpon should be fished with 80# or even 100# mono.
The most effective way to catch a tarpon in Belize is a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook with live bait, which can be sardines or crabs. If that isn’t available, or if you simply prefer lure fishing, plenty of tarpon are jumped on artificials as well. The most popular are Rapala CD 11-18, Yo Zuri-Crystal Minnows, and Mirrolures 52m-77M in any combo of reds, white, orange, yellow, or chartreuse. Bucktail jigs are also a favorite, often in whites, greens, and yellows.
When is the Best Tarpon Fishing in Belize?
Tarpon are available in Belize throughout the entire year. Belize’s entire 240 mile long coastline is lined with mangroves, river mouths and lagoons which are the perfect habitat for juvenile tarpon to grow before they move on to bigger and better things. The consistently warm shallow water that is full of bait and access to the open ocean outside the reef for spawning and migration is a perfect combination for larger adult tarpon. The resident tarpon tend to be juveniles between 30-75 lbs, but the mature adults that migrate through can be 100-150 lbs.
Even though the resident tarpon are available throughout the year, there is clear uptick in numbers in Belize when the migratory tarpon roll through. This ‘tarpon season’ starts in April and continues through September most years, so if you want a shot at a 100+ lb tarpon that is the window you should aim for. Below is our Belize fly fishing calendar to give you an idea of the different seasons for all the flats species in addition to tarpon. We customize all of our Belize tarpon fishing packages so once we know what kind of experience you are looking for we will make sure you are in the right spot at the right time for the fishing you want to do.
Where is the Best Tarpon Fishing in Belize?
Tarpon are found all up and down Belize’s 240 mile coastline. Being a protected catch-and-release species, there is a healthy resident population of smaller juvenile tarpon as well as spots where the bigger migratory tarpon are seen in bigger numbers. The resident tarpon can be found in the river mouths, lagoons, and mangroves that line the coast, cruising along the flats looking for a meal, or out among the cayes. The larger migratory tarpon can go anywhere but are most often seen at spots farther out near the reef and it’s deep channels as they come and go as they please. Below are our favorite spots for tarpon fishing in Belize.
The shallow waters off of the Placencia Peninslua in Southern Belize offer some of the best flats fishing in the entire world. This area is dotted with sandy cayes and shallow saltwater flats that stretch nearly 30 miles form Dangriga down to Placencia. Located inside the Mesoamerican Reef and surrounded by deeper 50-100 ft water, tarpon can often be seen cruising the flats looking for a meal or crashing sardines hiding in a shallow bay. There is even one island named “Tarpon Caye”, so that tells you tarpon have been there for quite some time! On the back side of the peninsula you’ll find the Placencia Lagoon, which is 4 miles long and 2 miles wide at it’s widest point. This area can be great for juvenile tarpon who aren’t quite ready for the open ocean yet. Just a short run south is Monkey River and another big lagoon, and tarpon are often seen rolling here.
2) Turneffe Atoll
The most remote and unique fishing destination in Belize offers great tarpon fishing throughout the year. The Turneffe Atoll measures 30 miles long and 10 miles wide and the middle is a massive lagoon lined with mangroves which many resident tarpon are happy to call home throughout the year. Due to the fact it’s 20 miles out to sea it also receives a lot of visits from the large migratory tarpon between April and September as they come and go on their annual spawning rituals.
3) Ambergris Caye
The most popular vacation destination in Belize also offers 400 sq mile fishery all the way to the Mexican border and over to mainland Belize. The Mesoamerican Reef is just half a mile away which gives them easy access to deeper water and on the other side you have protected lagoons and mangroves. This is a great spot for both resident juvenile tarpon and the larger migratory adult fish.
4) Punta Gorda
The southern end of Belize may not receive much foot traffic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of fish here! Here you’ll find several flats, a massive lagoon that can be fished in almost any weather and the Rio Grande river mouth which are all regular spots for the silver king. Located on the north side of Amatique Bay which it shares with Guatemala, this spot if perfect for tarpon and snook.
Available Species on the Flats
Tarpon may dominate the inshore scene in Belize, but they are far from the only game in town. Sometimes they can play hard to get, so if you are having a day where you simply can’t locate them the trip won’t be a total bust as you can switch over to other species like bonefish, permit and snook to complete your Grand Slam. Other fun species on the flats are jacks and barracuda.
Available Species on the Flats in Belize
Belize Fly Fishing Lodges & Accommodations
Anglers have been traveling to Belize to tarpon fish since the 80’s so there are some truly world class fly fishing lodges to enjoy. We have options from northern border to the southern border, even 20 miles out to sea at the Turneffe Atoll. 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 tarpon fishing while knowing they are having a great time without you. We’ll hand pick the right fit for you based on your group dynamics and the type of tarpon fishing you want to experience. Rest assured we only partner with the nicest 3, 4, and 5-star operations that meet our expectations for quality, reliability, and service so no matter where you stay you’ll have a great vacation.
Belize Day Tours & Excursions
Our Belize tarpon fishing packages don’t need to be all fishing for the duration of your trip. Belize is called “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 tarpon 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 Tarpon 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 depending 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 when fly fishing. If spin fishing other boats can fit three anglers.
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 a trophy tarpon. 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 do recommend that our fly anglers bring their own tackle so they are familiar with it once you are ready to cast to a cruising tarpon. Big tarpon have been known to snap fly rods with ease, so lodges don’t typically loan out tarpon rods without deposits or guarantees. 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 fly tackle needed for tarpon fishing 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 our guides will provide all the gear you need.
What if there is bad weather on our fishing day?
This is the great unknown with all our Belize tarpon fishing packages. The weather in Belize changes quickly and varies more from day to day then the time of the year. 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 can be a daily occurrence in Belize, so getting wet doesn’t mean you won’t fish! If the wind is strong we have several lagoons and mangroves that hold tarpon while blocking the wind at the same time.
All Belize Tarpon 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