Journey to El Pescador Lodge and Villas
By Jan S. Maizler
Photography By Jan S. Maizler
El Pescador Lodge is located in a very special part of Belize, which is Ambergris Caye. The “caye” lies on the northern offshore fringes of mainland Belize. While Ambergris Caye looks like an island, it is not entirely so, but really an extension of a land mass which begins in Mexico and ends in a peninsula in the same fashion as does Miami Beach. The size of the bay between the caye and the mainland is absolutely immense and has some of the finest flats and shallow water fishing in the world.
The east side of Ambergris Caye fronts the Caribbean Sea. The good news is that there is a bountiful barrier reef which starts north of the Caye and runs -with some breaks- along the entire coast of Belize. This provides superb reef and drop-off blue water fishing for anglers so inclined. And on Ambergris Caye, the reef is quite close and accessible to all the resorts which typically are on the east side of the peninsula as well.
The main town is San Pedro which lies at the southern tip of the caye. San Pedro is an incredibly laid back, hip, and yet trendy town which is a blend of Isla Holbox, Key West, and Green Turtle Cay. Which is to say, that while you’ll find every amenity, restaurants, and great lodgings, the place is set off by a plethora of bare feet, mostly golf carts, a few cars and vans, and travel-by-boat. It’s a hard place not to love, and most interestingly has a small plane runway which literally ends in the middle of downtown San Pedro. El Pescador Lodge lies conveniently only two miles north of San Pedro, which means a very short boat ride from downtown.
A seamless four-step process got me from Miami to alongside the pier that juts out from El Pescador. Firstly, I took American Airlines to Belize City, which is the hub for that country. (Of course on your first leg of the journey, you can choose any major carrier from the “hub city” near you.) The next step was a scenic seventeen minute transfer flight to San Pedro by Tropic Air. While I could have arranged for the transfer flight myself, I opted to have El Pescador do it for me. I had been blessed with clear weather on that flight and happily took in the eye-popping sights of the green and blue water world below the plane.
Once I arrived in San Pedro, I gathered my bags and had a cab driver (who the Lodge had waiting for me) take me to the boat transfer dock. The cab ride to the water was literally two minutes but certainly could be done on foot by folks with very little luggage. The Lodge boat was waiting for me and my belongings were stowed on board. Since El Pescador is so close to San Pedro, I had just the right amount of time to enjoy and finish an ice-cold Belikin beer.
I was greeted at the dock by a staff member, quickly checked in, and escorted to my second floor balcony room. Besides the spectacular view of the beach, the room was decorated with Mayan and Caribbean touches and I was welcomed by crisp air conditioning started up well in anticipation of my arrival.
After settling in, I had lunch on the patio amongst the palms and nearby the pool. The shrimp quesadillas were superb and introduced me to the food and beverages of El Pescador- which was second to none. My breakfasts were to be huevos rancheros and fresh fruits, lunches on the panga during fishing days would be rolled sandwiches, snacks and cold beverages. The dinners would prove to be memorable and included stone crabs and fresh-caught grouper. My favorite drinks at El Pescador would be a good wine and during the days, lots of fresh limeade. After I tried a margarita after a days’ fishing, this item went on the libation list-immediately!
El Pescador Programs and Offerings-
After the lunch, I went down to the office to get more information about my specific schedule as well as to learn additional general resort offerings. I spoke with one of the directors of the Fishing Program, Ed Blank. He confirmed that I would have three days of flats fishing: two days on poled pangas with captains Emir and Cesar and one day working the backcountry behind the lodge by canoe with Ed himself. Ed told me that El Pescador has full services and guides for all manner of tackle preferences and skill levels. Though I’d brought four, six, and twelve pound spinners with lures for each local species, I learned that the Lodge-as well as their guides-had all kinds of tackle as well. Ed also told me that the Lodge can utilize the services of over fifteen guides each day!
El Pescador has a family-run operation that insists on offerings for everyone, which includes non-angling visitors, friends and family. The Lodge has a comprehensive snorkel and diving program in these clear bountiful waters. Inn addition, they offer tours to nearby cayes as well as mainland ruins. There are even well-tailored itineraries such as Family Adventures and Couple Getaways. And of course, this does not include chilling out on the beach and do it yourself explorations of hip San Pedro town.
My first fishing day begun with captain Emir, whose obvious passion for fishing and expertise would somehow mitigate the brisk northwest frontal winds and cloudy skies we were facing.
On our way south, Emir said that today would be terrible for fly or lure casting to sighted fish. His strategy would be to “work” known hotspots and blind cast with live bait or lures. When we made our first stop, he baited my eight-pound rod with a live crab. He told me to cast upcurrent, let the bait drift until the line got straight off the bow, and then retrieve it slowly. It is without exaggeration that I report that I had a huge “take” on the third cast and struck hard. Because my line was smoking off the reel, Emir was sure it was a permit. One half-hour later after much reeling and pursuing, I had a twenty-pound permit alongside the panga, a large specimen for this region. After photos, we released him.
Emir’s next move was to idle south under these cloudy skies, looking for big schools of predator jacks breaking the surface. In twenty minutes, we spotted a huge school waking towards us. I picked up my six-pound spinner rigged with a forty-pound leader and Money Minnow swimbait and made a perfect cast. I was instantly hooked up to a jack of at least fifteen pounds but during the battle it was cut in half by a shark. But, soon enough, we found another school and with a perfect cast leading the fish, I was hooked up again. I must say the jack fought harder than the permit and appeared to be less than twenty pounds- but not much. After we took photos, we released it to resume its’ hunting life.
My mind was on tarpon, so I asked Emir to spend the rest of the day looking for sabalos. Though it was too rough to cross the bay to the prime tarpon grounds, Emir probed the island creeks and we did cast to a few with only one strike.
On the second day, I joined Ed for a guided canoe trip into the maze of lagoons behind the lodge. The weather had cleared and featured sunny skies. We eventually found plenty of bonefish in the smallest calmest lagunas, but they were quite hesitant to take my jig. After four hours, we paddled back to the lodge.
My last day was to be with captain Cesar and an apprentice. I told them I wanted to fish for bonefish. After a half hour Cesar slowed down and cut his engine. He poled the panga onto the edge of a flat and pointed to the edge of some mangroves where a dozen bonefish were tailing. After we got into position and the fish were in the clear, I presented my jig lightly and was rewarded with a good “take.” After five minutes, I had beaten a bonefish of five pounds; again quite large for this part of Belize.
Wherever we would go, we’d find bonefish. I caught another six fish as well as a colorful boxfish. But as the tide started to fall, the bonefish got “very nervous and picky” as Cesar put it. Another hour of fishing continued to reveal their reluctance. But I was happy with the results and needed to get back to the lodge to do some more photos.
As we headed back, Cesar said, “it was a great day.” And I said, “yes, it was!”
El Pescador Lodge and Villas
P.O. Box 17
Toll Free: 800-242-2017
Web Site: www.elpescador.com
Jan Maizler is a veteran writer, author, editor and blogger with over 35 years in the outdoor writing field. He has written eight books and more than 600 articles for all the leading saltwater angling magazines, as well as many prominent websites. He has traveled all over the world and is past International Game Fish Association world record holder for permit on 4-pound line and bonefish on 2-pound line.