I’ve been thinking about Belize lately. I was talking to my 6 year old about Belize, thinking about how much he would dig on experiencing the place, getting him to tell his mom that’s a place he wants to go (smart). I was talking to a friend who wants to catch a bonefish about why Belize is a good option for a first timer.
Then, I see this come through my inbox. Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation has been keeping on keeping on in the fight to preserve the fishing and fly fishing economy of Belize. Good stuff. Below is their press release.
Permanent Ban on Gillnets in Belize
One Step Closer
August 21st, 2020
On August 20th, 2020, an agreement between the Government of Belize and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries was signed by Dr. Hon. Omar Figueora, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development. This long-awaited agreement is a major step in the process of completely phasing out the use of gillnets in Belize, protecting important game species such as permit, tarpon, and bonefish along with other critical marine species such as sharks, turtles, and manatees. The Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation (YDCCF) is proud to have been a part of this initiative from the beginning, as well as serving as a coalition partner. In addition, we would like to express gratitude and thank all of our donors who helped to make this possible.
With this agreement in place, we will begin the second phase addressing ‘alternative livelihoods’ for the gillnet fishermen in Belize. This next phase of the project will be overseen by a committee appointed by the Minister of Fisheries with support and guidance by the Government of Belize, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and support from Oceana, in order to have a long-lasting and sustainable option that keep gillnets from being used in the future.
The work to permanently ban gillnets in Belize is a great example of the angling community coming together to help local communities in the places we fish while also building support for and maintaining sustainable sport fishing resources.
YDCCF strives to identify local community needs and provide support to solve their concerns and to this end, we are pleased to be a part of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries. The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries includes the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Game Fish Association, the National Sports Fishing Association, the Belize Federation of Fishers, Turneffe Atoll Trust, MAR Alliance, Yellow Dog Community, and Conservation Foundation.
If you would like more information about the project and how you can support the gillnet ban and alternative livelihoods project in Belize, or to order a Belize Gillnet Ban Sticker, please contact email@example.com
Saw this in an email from Yellow Dog, promoting the conservation efforts going on in Belize. Kudos to the folks at Yellow Dog for including that in their email marketing… a step they don’t have to take, but are.
The folks behind this could use a bit of a financial bump. Consider donating.
I love Belize and I’ll be clicking a few dollars their way for sure.
You may have seen the story… a fly fishing trip that ends in a double murder. If you had told me that happened in the Keys, I would have thought it was a matter of time. Tell me that happened in Belize and I’d call you a liar.
A 53-year old cardiologist on vacation with his wife and three kids gets caught up in some crazy gangster/drug BS and ends up dead, along with the intended target, his guide.
Another year is in the books. Let’s see how it went.
I got three distinct chances to chase bonefish in 2018.
Spring Break in Caye Caulker, Belize.
Family trip to Oahu.
Week at East End Lodge.
Spring Break turned out VERY different than planned. I caught bonefish off the dock and managed one with Heywood before I got sick. Sick I stayed for 2.5 days. It wasn’t how I wanted my daughter to spend her Spring Break, but… ya know… things happen. My girl got her first snook… so, there was that. I love Caye Caulker and I’ll be back.
Heywood with my daughter’s snook
Oahu and I managed to get another day with Captain Kenny. He’s a great guide and I enjoyed my day. Managed another Hawaiian bonefish, which is a feat that haunted me until Capt. Kenny banished those demons in 2017.
A nice o’io on a cloudy day in Oahu.
The trip to East End Lodge was, in a word, fantastic. The weather in July, the last week they were open, was hot, but the winds were low. The fishing was first class and the guide was brilliant. Food was on point. Rooms were comfortable. Ya know… I kind of liked it there. I have a real fondness for that part of the Bahamas. It is where I caught my first bone a decade ago. It is where I caught my first DIY bone. I love it there and I love it more now.
That’s a pretty good year. I have to say. With family and job and lots of adulting going on, getting in the salt three times is damn fine work.
I didn’t get camping this year. Smoke and fires kept that from happening, and so my son and daughter didn’t catch a trout this year. I’ll fix that in 2019.
I didn’t fish the McCloud this year. I only fished the Upper Sacramento for about an hour. I didn’t fish the Truckee or the Carson or the Walker. I didn’t fish Montana. I didn’t fish Oregon.
I didn’t fish Florida. I didn’t fish Mexico.
The list is nearly endless of places I didn’t fish… but I’m happy with where I managed to wet a line in 2018.
I almost never remember my dreams. Maybe once every couple of months I’l wake up with a vague notion of what passed through my brain in the middle of the night or a random comment during the day will unlock some stored and normally inaccessible memory. There is, however, one way I get a little glimpse into what’s flowing through my head in the slumbering hours.
I have an almost 5 year old.
He’ll walk into our bedroom at very odd hours and interrupt his parents’ sleep because…
His music has turned off.
His sheets are messed up.
A book has fallen off his bed.
He has to pee.
He’s had a bad dream.
Usually, it is 1-4, rarely 5. You can get an idea from the list that these are not exactly 3:00 AM emergencies, but, he’s a good boy, so… we allow it.
Last night he came in and not only did he interrupt our sleep, but he caught me in the middle of a bit of a nightmare of my own.
I was either in Belize or on my way to Belize. I had WAY under-packed. I found myself with a simple backpack and a rod tube. One rod. I had brought an 8 wt (probably my favorite, my Helios 2). But… where was my 10 wt? Where was the tarpon stick? Where was the cuda rod?
You can see what a nightmare that would be, right?
Now… because I tend to believe dreams actually do relate to the real world, I have traced back that particular dream to two places.
First… I saw this pick on good ole’ Facebook:
The final piece, the tarpon.
That’s a tarpon caught out of El Pescador in Ambergris. It happens to be the lodge where I spent my honeymoon and where I got my Grand Slam.
Second source, I believe, for this dream/nightmare is that I’m going to Christmas Island in about 2 months and I am WAYYYYYYY behind on my tying (I’m about a dozen flies into what should be about 5 or 6 dozen flies tied).
That which is left undone is one of those underlying reasons for many a nightmare or sense of anxiety (or so I believe). When you feel like something isn’t totally right, it usually has roots in some task or job you haven’t taken to 100%.
I kind of love Caye Caulker, Belize. This year was Year #2 for Spring Break and if I can avoid any legal trouble stemming from this trip, next year will be #3.
We booked this trip through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and stayed, for the second year in a row, at Sea Dreams, near the northern tip of Caye Caulker just shy of “The Split.” We even stayed in the same room, #5, a modest courtyard room with two single beds. The travelers were just myself and my 11 year old daughter.
Caye Caulker sits off the mainland, about a 40 minutes water taxi ride from Belize City. This year the taxi driver at the airport took it as his personal mission to get us on the boat set to depart in just a few minutes. He did. It was Indy 500 stuff. I tipped him well, but won’t seek him out in the future. We got to the port and walked on the boat and it took off. The kind of timing you see in the movies when no one is ever sitting around waiting for anything.
When you get to the island it is just another world. Shoes optional. 2-3 cars on the whole island. Kids, families and tourists walking, biking or golf-carting around. It is intimate. It is tight. It feels safe in the way the mythical 50’s sound safe.
We got to Sea Dreams, got our room, went to get dinner and then I went back to catch a bonefish off the dock… which I did almost immediately. That’s my kind of place.
The next day was a chillax day. We arranged for a snorkel trip later in the week and I strung up all the rods (a total of four). We fed the tarpon… man I love that… we went through three bags of bait. We had a day of guided fishing set up the next day with Haywood, owner of Sea Dreams.
Haywood is, to be totally clear on things, a damn fine person. His whole family is pretty awesome, as we’d find out later in the week. Haywood is pretty much the perfect age (read the same age I am) and he has an 11 year old daughter, in addition to another younger daughter. His wife co-founded the local high-school and he gushes about her very much in the same way I gush about my own wife, who I think is amazing. I like Haywood. I’d even be friends with him in real life.
Our fishing day on Tuesday started off with me on the deck, but nursing a bit of a headache that didn’t come from booze. In the back of my mind I was starting to say “Man… something is off here.” One bonefish down and my daughter got a chance to be up on deck. I relished the opportunity to sit down a bit, which is very, very out of character. I was feeling achey. My head was pounding and I needed a rest. Haywood got my daughter a snook on some live bait, which was nice, and I had to admit to the boat that I was not feeling very good and maybe she could take more time on the bow.
Me… giving up bow time. Whaaa???
A couple Tylenol, lunch and a bit of a break and I did get up and try things again for a bit, missing one or two snook grabs, breaking off a cuda and landing a couple other small cudas. But, by the time we got back to the dock all I wanted was bed. I laid down and didn’t get back up. My daughter actually got us dinner. I ate some rice, but that was all I could manage.
Haywood with my daughter’s snook
I woke up at 4:00 AM wondering if I was going to be ill. At 6:00 AM I found out that, yes, I was in fact going to be ill. Vomiting ensued and kept up until about 10:30, the tanks empty… scoured out in fact. I was not going anywhere. I was not capable of going anywhere. We were not going snorkeling. We were not doing Mayan Ruins. We were going to be lucky, super lucky, if my daughter didn’t catch whatever it was I had. The trip kicked into survival mode.
My daughter took care of me, our roles flipped. She went out and got me gatorade. She went out and bought me bananas after watching a YouTube video about what to do when you have a GI bug. She entertained herself around Sea Dreams, at the little dock, walking about the streets near the hotel. She stepped up. I was super proud of her.
A view of my bedside table shows I was on the Fluids train.
Fluids… it is all about the fluids.
Later in the afternoon she told me she was going to take a bike out. It was a comment over her shoulder as she walked out. I wasn’t in shape to chase after her to talk more about it. She’s not a hugely experienced bike rider, but the streets are sand, everyone’s out, there aren’t cars… seemed OK. A while later Haywood came in to tell me she’d fallen off a bike and she was OK, but did I want to take her to get checked out by a Dr? I put some clothes on and went with Haywood and my daughter to the private Dr. She checked out pretty quickly and we went back to Sea Dreams and I went back to bed. Haywood stepped up there. He was huge.
Later that night Anna even ate dinner with him and his family. I wasn’t going anywhere. They took her in for the evening. It was pretty much pure awesome, just a family helping my family out when we needed some help.
The next day my stomach was still off, but I was feeling, oh, let’s call it 50%. I could at least go out and get breakfast and lunch with my girl. Her bike fall had injured her shoulder a bit and so there were some activities that were just not going to be workable. Our vacation options were pretty much down to walking around, eating and watching island life go by.
There was some fishing in the evening… thank the fates for dock lights, and that was pretty much it.
The last night we were out on the dock and I set Anna up with a fly rod and a heavy shrimp fly. The fish were eating the fly without it being moved, but she wasn’t connecting. I hooked her some fish and she got to land them and we got to enjoy a little bit of what the trip could have been. It was a really nice few moments.
The island is just a wonderful place. There are activities a plenty to sign up for, even if we didn’t get to participate in much of it this year. It is just a great place to be, even if you are puking your guts out.
Watching Buccaneers and Bones just now and they are having a Bahamas vs. Belize comparison.
I’ll be heading to Belize for the 4th time on Sunday. That’s going to be great.
Later this summer I’ll be heading to the Bahamas for trip #8.
They are just different places. It isn’t really fair to compare the two, but, let’s do that anyway.
Bonefish – The Bahamas wins this one. There may very well be 5 pound bones in Belize, but there are many, many more 1 pound bones. There are Bahamian islands with small average sized bones, but the Bahamas also features monsters, ten-plusers. The Bahamas is just such a pure bonefish fishery, it isn’t really a comparison. So many flats, so many islands and the bones are just THE species to chase.
fat backed bonefish
Tarpon – There ARE tarpon in the Bahamas, but you don’t head to the Bahamas to go tarpon fishing. Belize is going to win on that front. That’s where I caught my first tarpon and where I lost my first larger tarpon. Tarpon are what make Savannah Caye a well known spot and there are other known tarpon spots in Belize as well.
The final piece, the tarpon.
Permit – Ya know… I don’t know. I’ve heard some great stories of permit fishing in the Bahamas, but if you want to catch your first permit, you are more likely to go and have success in Belize, so, I’m going to say Belize. Belize is where I caught my first (only) permit, although I certainly have seen some in the Bahamas as well (big ones too).
I’m at the point where I’m excited, but I also know high expectations are a killer.
Not great weather
As fantastic as last year’s Caye Caulker trip were, the day of fly fishing was mostly washed out. I got one nice snook to hand before the storm enveloped us in it’s dark and watery embrace. We spent at least an hour in a hut trying to stay out of the rain. It was not, in pure fishing terms, a super day, although it was still a wonderful day in terms of being on the water with my daughter.
This year should be easier with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and taking care of many of the getting-there logistics. With the airport on Caye Caulker out of service for repairs, they are making sure I’m getting met at the airport and taken to the water taxi and getting picked up at the dock. Nice service.
I have one day of fly fishing coming up in Belize. Other days will be ruin tours and snorkeling and hanging out. I have just the one day with a guide and we’ll have to keep my daughter happy at the same time.
It could rain hard again.
There could be thick cloud cover and the fish could be hard to see.
Wrong tides… that happens when you don’t have a week of fishing.
My daughter might not be feeling well.
I could get stung by something in the turtle grass and have agonizing nerve pain that keeps my from sleeping at all the night before (as happened during my honeymoon to Belize 5.5 years ago).
There are a million (ok, a few dozen) things that could go wrong.
So… I won’t get too excited.
Need to mentally slow play this.
But still. I’m excited. Jittery (and only on my first cup of coffee).
Can’t wait to get down there and I don’t have to wait long.
I guess they are bigger out in NJ and the one in Atlanta? Maybe others too? We have one out here in Pleasanton, not too far away from where I call home. I have been to that show more often than not over the past decade. I have worked that show a few times… once for BTT, twice for Friends of the River, maybe once for Clearwater, back when it was Clearwater House.
I love the show. I see old friends and seem to have interesting conversations every year. I don’t really go to buy anything and I didn’t eve cast a rod this year (fewer and fewer ron makers seem to be showing up). But there are still lots of people I like at the show, people I generally only see there.
This year I brought my 11 year old daughter and she didn’t want to leave. I heard her on the phone with a friend later say “I spent the day at a fly fishing show… it was actually pretty fun.”
I’m going to put that in the parenting win column.
I got to introduce my daughter to Camille Egdorf, of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and from the movie Providence. It was funny because my daughter kind of fan-girled her, although I’m not sure she knew who she was. I made her watch Providence when we got home. Now she knows.