Dec 11

Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve – Worth Supporting

The good folks at the Turneffe Atoll Trust are trying to get signatures for a proposed Tuneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.  It’s a good idea. (You can go to this site to express your support)

Belize in general has really come a long way toward embracing conservation… as they should.  Tourism is an important part of the Belizean economy and that only works if they have wonderful places to show people.  TAT is pretty new to the scene, but they are already engaged in some pretty exciting work.

So, spend a little time to do what they are asking you to do.  I’ll be doing it myself as well.

Dear Bonefish on the Brain readers,

I am going to ask for a moment of your time regarding something that is incredibly important for the future of our industry and the future of saltwater marine environments in the Caribbean.

We aren’t asking for any money, but we need your voice of support!  As an esteemed member of the fly fishing community, you are no doubt concerned by the mounting threats against coastal ecosystems around the globe.  The future of saltwater angling depends on the integrity of places such as Turneffe Atoll, Belize – the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere.  

Nearly a decade ago, Turneffe Atoll Trust was formed to help implement an environmental success story, one in which a globally significant ecosystem gained protection before an environmental crisis hit.  Turneffe Atoll is currently healthy and as of yet, does not need to be fixed. What it urgently needs, however, is protection and management so it doesn’t fall victim to further improper development, unsustainable commercial activities, and environmental degradation.

The great news is that this goal is within reach because the Government of Belize has recently indicated it is prepared to formally designate a new Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.  An achievement of this magnitude bodes well not only for the future of Belize, but also for all who have a stake in marine conservation and saltwater fisheries throughout the Caribbean basin.  This is why I am asking you to help with a final push towards making this dream a reality.  

Send an email to Paul (paul@turneffeatoll.org), with the following three (3) quick and simple pieces of information, you will be added as an endorser to a letter asking the Belizean Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture for the creation of a Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (see the letter below):

1.      Name of your business / organization

2.      Name and title of individual signing on behalf of business / organization

3.      Your City, State, and Country

If all goes as planned, our goal is to celebrate this victory by the end of January 2012.   Your support is key to making this happen, and we very much appreciate your time and your endorsement!

Best regards,        

Paul D. Robertson

Executive Director

Here is the letter you’ll be added to…

Honorable Rene Montero

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

P.O. Box 146

Belize City, Belize

Honorable Minister Montero:

We, the undersigned, wish to formally express our complete and total support for the creation of a Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.  By taking this historic step, the Government of Belize will not only secure benefits for all future generations of Belizeans, but it will also make a major contribution in the global effort to conserve the marine environment.

As the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere, Turneffe Atoll encompasses all aspects of an intact coastal marine ecosystem; including deep ocean, fringe reef, patch reef, back-reef flats, extensive sea grass beds, extensive mangrove stands, creeks, littoral forest and two large lagoon systems.  It is home to populations of several threatened species including Antillean manatees, Hawksbill turtles, goliath groupers, Nassau grouper and American crocodiles.  Six spawning aggregation sites are known at Turneffe.  With this rich diversity of coastal marine habitats, Turneffe is also an ideal location to conduct critical coastal marine research.

Additionally, the health of Turneffe Atoll is vital to the Belizean economy.   A traditional fishing ground since the Mayan era, Turneffe is one of Belize’s largest producers of spiny lobster, conch and finfish.   It is an increasingly popular tourism destination and the diving, fly fishing, and eco-tourism opportunities are world-renowned.  These commercial activities provide significant employment for Belizeans and sustainable management of these resources is essential to ensuring a continuous source of stable jobs.

By all measures Turneffe Atoll is an irreplaceable asset to the cultural heritage of Belize.  By taking this huge step forward, Belize will further solidify its position as a global leader in environmental stewardship and forward thinking.  We urge you to make this landmark achievement a reality by designating a Marine Reserve at Turneffe Atoll.


(this is where your name will show up)

Again, thank you for replying to this email with these 3 pieces of information and voicing your support for a Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve:

1.      Name of your business / organization

2.      Name and title of individual signing on behalf of business / organization

Your City, State, and Country

Aug 11


Ya know what… the Turneffe Atoll Trust has some real fly fishing cred on their board.  Like… A lot (that was two ellipses, if anyone is counting).

One of those guys is Jim Klug of Yellow Dog.  Another is Craig Matthews of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone.  That a group.

They are working hard to keep Turneffe as beautiful a place as it seems to be.  A place with bones and permit and tarpon and lots and lots of space for those fish to roam and feed and breed.

This is a bit of what they are up to:

TAT continues to lead the way in instituting a Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. The process is moving ahead at a rapid pace with half of the required stakeholder meetings completed and a first draft of the Turneffe Atoll Management Plan forthcoming.  This past week, the Belize Minister of Fisheries was presented with a proposal to establish the reserve.  It was warmly received and it is expected to move on to the Belize Cabinet. (read on)

Check them out.

May 11

Enforcement for Turneffe Atoll

Every once in a while there is a bit of good news… this is one of those times.

It is relatively easy to pass laws. It is a harder thing to get laws enforced.  Enforcement is what is now going to happen on Turneffe Atoll.  Good stuff.

Thanks to a joint agreement between Turneffe Atoll Trust, the Belize Fisheries Department and Coast Guard, enforcement has finally come to Turneffe. Protecting the fishery from illegal poaching and other unsustainable activities, patrols will be conducted on a daily basis and cover the entire atoll. Most importantly, this is a giant step forward in our effort to create a Marine Reserve.

via News from Turneffe Atoll Trust.

Mar 11

Interview with Jim Klug, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures

It isn’t often that I actually sit down with someone to do an interview, but in this case, it just made good sense.  I planned to attend The Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton this past weekend and Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures was going to be there with co-owner Jim Klug.  I had seen that Jim Klug was also on the board of the Turneffe Atoll Trust, which is an organization I’m just learning more about (and I like what I am hearing).  Jim took a bit of time on Sunday at the show to sit down with me for this interview.

Jim, at the show

Yellow Dog, as an outfitter, has been around for about 11 years. How did you get started with that?

It started, I don’t want to say as an accident, but it wasn’t the game plan at the time. At the time I was working at Scientific Anglers as their National Sales Manager and I was spending an awful lot of time down south in Belize. Pretty much every chance I got and some pretty good chunks of time. Ever time I’d make these trips I’d either bring friends with me or meet people down there who had questions about fishing other places in Belize and it really started taking on a life of its own. I’d have buddies calling me up saying “Hey, I understand you go down quite a bit. Where do you think I should go? What can you recommend? They’d have friends that would call and someone’s dad would call and you’d have a group of four people and we started helping people and directing them throughout Belize. One trip trip I had a good friend down there named Logan Gentry, who had just bought El Pescador at that time. Logan sat me down at one point and he said “I’ve been going through the numbers for the past year and you’ve really sent us a lot of people. You ought to think about formalizing this thing and starting a booking company.” My thoughts were, immediately, “Hell no… the fly fishing industry needs another booking company like it needs another reel manufacturer… just a horrible idea.” But, the more I started thinking about it and the more I started looking at it, I realized that while there were a lot of people doing it, I didn’t see a lot of people that were doing it to the level that I thought it could be done. There are certainly some good players in the game, no doubt about it, and there were some players that had been in it a long time, but I saw some opportunity and some room for improvement, just as anybody who starts a business arrives at it from that angle. I made the decision that I wanted to go full bore on this thing and I left my job at SA and started Yellow Dog and about two months after I left what was a really phenomenal job working for 3M Corp and making quite a bit of money for the fly fishing industry and hung out the shingle with Yellow Dog, all we did was Belize. The first year we did four destinations all in Belize. Two months after we started this thing the planes hit the buildings and everyone decided not to travel for a year. I was thinking “Well, that might be a really big mistake.” The good thing about it is that during that time it allowed me to really put things together and build the infrastructure over that first year so that when things did ramp back up, we were ready for it and had our act together, so it ended up working out just fine. Since then, we’ve grown Yellow Dog and expanded it. We have a philosophy that we try to stay very true to in that we won’t book something that we don’t know. If we have something in our line-up it is because we’ve been there, it is because someone from Yellow Dog has made those visits and normally we’ll go there on a regular basis. For instance, we don’t book Christmas Island because we don’t know Christmas Island. We don’t want to try and BS people and pretend that we do. So, over the years, as our staff has grown and we’ve built the company, we’ve brought on people that typically come in to manage a particular region. John Hudgens, who you met in there (referring to The Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton), is our South America Program Manager and he comes from that background. He’s managed lodges in that area and he’s spent 5-6 years guiding down in Chile, so we bring him on to run and direct that program down there and it allows us to grow and expand but still stay true to the philosophies we have about how we do business.

You are on the Board for the Turneffe Atoll Trust and it seems like there are some opportunities on the horizon. What are the prospects for Turneffe Atoll right now?

I think one of the neat things about Turneffe Atoll is that it is a massive marine ecosystem in a very prime part of the Caribbean that is still untouched, untapped and undeveloped. It is getting harder and harder to find places like that. They are pretty much still off the charts and have been left alone. Frankly, I’m surprised the Four Seasons hasn’t come in and bought up the atoll and made it into their next mega resort. The neatest thing about the opportunities out at Turneffe Atoll is that right now we have a chance to address this in the near future and moving things forward to be in the preservations realm instead of 10 years from now being in the restoration and recovery realm. So we can spend the time and the energy now to protect it, or we can wait until everything has been abused, over-developed, over-built and then try and figure out a way to restore it to what it was. We are still very much out in front on this thing, but the clock is ticking, as it is for a lot of places in the Caribbean. Turneffe is incredibly important for being one of the largest nurseries in the Caribbean for bonefish and permit and possibly tarpon, but certainly bonefish and permit. It is such a crucial area that has such an impact from the Keys to probably the Bahamas and certainly the rest of the Central American coastline down there. It is an important place and once that needs to be protected now as opposed to recovered in 10 or 20 years.

Turneffe... looks kind of nice

So many times in our fishing lives there are people we come into contact with who are particularly influential to advancing our proficiency or understanding. Is there someone like that in your bonefishing life?

I was really fortunate in that back when I first discovered saltwater fishing, it was about 20 years ago, down on Andros Island and we were young and we were broke and we were basically tying all winter and guiding all summer and saving up all of our tip money so we could go down there and basically dirtbag it on Andros for four week stints. We had a buddy who lived down there and worked at the AUTEC base, he’s still there, actually, almost 20 years later. He’d find us a little rental house down there and we’d go to the AUTEC base and he’d get us passes to get on the base and we’d go to the chow hall and eat meals for like a buck and we’d go to the beach house and have $.50 beers, it was just perfect for the dirtbag lifestyle. We were really fortunate in that Andy Smith and Charlie Neymour, who are two of the really well established guides down in Andros we weren’t just fishing with these guys but they were also young and just getting going and we became great friends. Over the years, that relationship has continued and it is kind of fun that we’ve all remained in the business and kind of grown up together in the business and to see them at the top of their game and really at the forefront with Prescott and the issues he’s dealing with down in the Bahamas. Ian Davis, my business partner, was there in those early Andros days and now he’s co-owner of Yellow Dog. To see everyone still working together and being successful is pretty neat. I’d say definitely Andy Smith, Charlie Neymour, Prescott Smith, that Andros contingent of guides had a real influence in my formative saltwater years.

Jim down in Andros

When you spend time on the water you see things that other folks just don’t see. Is there something that you’ve seen out there on the flats that is particularly odd or fascinating?

There’s a phenomenon that happens sometimes down in the Bahamas where you’ll get hundreds, sometimes thousands of bonefish up on the surface, feeding on, as I understand it, it is jellyfish larva. The guides down there call it “bibbling.” It can be a massive area, the size of half a football field, and you just quietly pole right through them. That’s a pretty phenomenal sight.

Connect” is coming out, the follow-on to the great fly fishing films “Rise” and “Drift.” Are there any bonefish in there?

Yeah, we have a pretty fantastic segment we are going to have in there that we’ll be filming in May in Cuba. We are going down for about 20 days and fishing with the Avalon Crew. Going to be a phenomenal bonefish segment and something we really get excited about filming, one because it’s a pretty easy place to go and fish and secondly because it is just so beautiful down there. It should be a great segment and we are excited about the whole movie. The premier is October 7th and the release is November 4th. In the past, we made the movie available to all kinds of nonprofits for them to do screenings, but we also had the dvd out at that time. This year we are creating a one month period where the only way to see the movie is to go to one of these conservation screenings. We are making the film available to any groups that are legitimate and want to do this.

What’s your favorite rod and reel at the moment?

I’ve grown up as a Scott guy. I’m pretty enamored with the S4S. I think that’s a phenomenal saltwater rod, although I’m still a disciple of the HP’s, the 888 3. I think that is just the sweetest bonefish rod ever made. I love it. The don’t even really make it anymore. Sometimes they’ll re-release the classics. I’ve got a quiver of them and I love them. For the reel… I’d say Hatch. I’ve been fishing Hatch since the company evolved and we are good friends with the owners. Love their products in the saltwater and love their drag.

Is there one bonefish in your memory that stands out?

I remember some of my early fish when I was down in Andros and I was just getting into it. You’d just get so excited when you’d be able to get that cast out there and they’d eat just like they were supposed to. Everything would just fall into place. It was probably some of the most enjoyable fishing I’ve ever done, some of those early saltwater trips. You just couldn’t believe how hard these fish fought and how often you got in your backing, and ya know, growing up as a trout fisherman, it was just a whole new world. It redefined everything for me. One particular fish, fishing with Andy Smith in the North Bight we tracked and poled for it must have been a half hour as this fish worked down a flat and Andy just followed it, working it and working it until I got the shot and we got the fish. It was probably about a 7 pound fish, but still one of my favorite bonefish of all time.

Jim down in Andros with his Hatch

Thanks Jim. By the way, all photos here were taken (with permission) from Jim’s photo site,

Jan 11

Turneffe Atoll Trust – Looking for your help

“The present social and political climate in Belize offers a very promising window of opportunity. For the first time, all relevant stakeholder groups are at the table and have expressed interest in facilitating a Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. Equally as important, permitting agencies in Belize have unofficially indicated their support” said Craig Hayes, owner of Turneffe Flats Resort and founder of TAT.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  A Marine Reserve for Turneffe… I like it.  It’s a great idea. Ideas are the currency of the activist world, but money is oxygen. This stuff just doesn’t happen because you sign an on-line petition. No one reads on-line petitions… ever.  To have folks in the meetings and plotting a course toward success, it takes people who think about it all the time… it takes organization and it takes money.

The Turneffe Atoll Trust is asking for your support. Do it.

Jan 11

Turneffe Atoll Trust – Worth Supporting

If you love Belize, show some love to this org.

With 450 cayes and two lagoons spanning 250 square miles, Turneffe Atoll is one of the most productive marine ecosystems on earth and the best preserved portion of the Mesoamerican Reef.

via Turneffe Atoll Trust.

The Turneffe Atoll Trust is doing some good work.  They are trying to figure out a way to preserve the flats and the mangroves in the Turneffe Atoll, a place they see as the next probable target of over-development when the world economy recovers.  They are trying to get all the stakeholders together… the commercial fisherman, the community leaders, the government leaders, the anglers and other interested parties.  Everyone has to be on the same page if this place is going to be spared and that’s exactly what they are trying to do.  Check it out.