Curacao, Netherland Antilles Retrospective
Curacao is part of the Netherland Antilles. Specifically, it is part of a three-island group (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire) off the coast of Venezuela. I have traveled there many times and experienced some very good snook and tarpon fishing, but this fishery is at the mercy of industrial pressures. The three major languages spoken are Dutch, Papiemento (the local “creole”), and English. The diving in Curacao can be quite good, at times rivaling Bonaire. The climate is dry and the island is full of melodious birds. Curacao is perhaps best known for the colorful Punda section and the floating bridge in Willemstad, the island’s capital.
Here are some images of a recent trip I made to Curacao.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM-
SaltyShores Close-Up: Anna Maria Island, Florida
Jan S. Maizler
Like so many things in life, meeting good folks is a combination of persistent effort and favorable opportunity. In recent years I heard more and more about the exploits and angling successes of Captain Jason Stock in the Sarasota/Bradenton/Tampa area. The reports and pictures of his kayak and wade-caught snook, sea trout, and redfish were truly impressive. I also liked the unpretentious enthusiasm his fishing pictures conveyed: clearly, this was a guide that loved to catch fish and even more, loved the thrill of battle on his angler’s faces. His non-migratory game fish were taken on lures- which is my favorite kind of fishing. And I’d discovered that Jason had added a flats boat to his charter operation, a bonus that would certainly add to fishable waters. I would also learn that after our fishing together, Jason obtained a Hanson center console boat, which not only furthered his offshore ability but also provided a mothership for kayaks to fish longer and more remote waters. But our day-or, perhaps, two- would be out of his skiff.
I couldn’t hide the fact that Jason plied some of my favorite fishing waters. I contacted Jason last summer to fish a day or two with him in the Sarasota area. Fortunately, he had an open date or two for me in a few weeks and I committed to it. While I’d be staying down in Siesta Key, we agreed to meet at the boat ramp at the northern end of (and across the bridge from) Longboat Key. I was more than happy to take that wonderful drive up 41 through downtown, and then to Bird, St. Armands, and then, Longboat Key. What makes Sarasota so special is that the superb angling is matched by beaches, stores, restaurants, art galleries, and the kinds of attractions that all travelers are compelled to love. I am proud to say I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been to Sarasota. Three places I planned on dining at- and in fact, did- were the Café L‘Europe and Columbia on St. Armands Key and Ophelias on the Bay in Siesta Key.
Flats Fishing with Jason-
As dawn peeked over the horizon to the east, I arrived at the boat ramp and could see that Jason was waiting for me. As I climbed aboard, he fired up his engine and told me we’d be heading over to the flats in this early morning stillness to try for seatrout on topwater plugs and soft plastic swimbaits. It did not take long to reach for us to reach our spot. Jason pulled out two spinning outfits from the racks. They both featured stiff graphite rods and reels with braided line finished with a light fluorocarbon leader and a “Zara-style” topwater plug. I knew from past experience that with the tackle we were using, mere finessed sweeps of the rod were sufficient to get the plugs dancing.
All it took were a couple long casts for both Jason and I to get solid strikes and hookups on seatrout. As we reeled them in to the boat, they appeared to be around two to three pounds-nice respectable sized fish. After we got some photos, we released the spotted gamesters and resumed fishing. And, again, the hookups were almost immediate! It’s a rare pleasure to cast plugs into a flat-calm bay in soft light and have your lure exploded on…kind of like a firecracker in a library or sanctuary. No doubt, Jason had us on the trout, one after another. After I had the necessary photos, I was careful to limit all the hookups, lest I grow spoiled with all the action- or worse, forget that these frenzied moments were the exception, not the rule.
Battle in the Channel-
Still, we wanted a catch as many species as possible, so Jason cranked it up and pointed his skiff towards the northern end of Anna Maria Island. While we were underway, Jason explained that he’d be fishing the edge of Passage Key Inlet for gag groupers which lately had been stacked up and striking live baits.
When we arrived Jason got out his Sabiki rods so we could catch some live pinfish. After we had about a dozen lively baits in his ample livewell, Jason idled into the deeper section of the channel. He pulled out two of his heaviest tarpon rods and tightened down the drags on the reels. Jason warned me that the strikes would be fierce and drive like freight trains back down to the bottom.
I got my pinfish to the right depth and waited but I had no idea how strong the strike would be. After losing two good fish to cutoffs, I succeeded in “fast stroking” my third away from the bottom and marveled how a seven pound fish pull so fiercely. We took some photos and caught three more grouper, while losing the rest to cutoffs.
It was mid-morning and Jason felt we should turn our attention to tarpon. With the sun this high, visibility would be excellent for spotting cruising fish as well as the customary rolling fish. Jason only had to pilot his vessel around the corner of the northern tip of AnnaMariaIsland for our search to begin.
Not surprisingly, we were not alone in our quest. As we began to idle southward off the beach, Jason readied two tarpon rods with live crab baits which would be fished under corks. As we searched, the crabs were carefully (and non-tanglingly) stowed in his livewell in a “pitch bait” mode.
Over the next four hours, we spotted about six schools of silver kings that were running fast and clearly not “happy.” We finally spotted a school of “southbounders” that had not been harassed by other vessels and moving at a non-anxious pace. Jason fired up his outboard and ran his vessel a hundred yards forward so we could be on an intercept path with them. We could clearly see their approach and “lead” the fish with perfect casts.
I had a fish rush my crab and suck it in, so I reeled up the slack so my circle hook could do its’ work. But evidently, the tarpon had blown out the bait before that could happen.
Ending with a Spot-
By this time, it was mid-afternoon and our adventure had only an hour or two left. I was hankering for a more reliable species and let Jason know that. It was not surprising that he would suggest a return to the inside waters to round out our day with some redfish. Jason ran his skiff to PalmaSolaBay and slowly idled over some potholes. He cut his engine and said he was confident that the afternoon breeze would take the skiff over the right areas that we could cast to. Jason gave me a rod with a weedless spoon and told me to cast to either sighted fish or to the potholes. I was really impressed with the numbers of redfish that flushed from our skiff. Finally, I had a solid strike and reeled in a nice redfish of about seven pounds. After that we released a few more redfish. Then it was time to end our day.
As we headed back to the boat ramp, I reflected back on the wonderful action Jason put us on, yet also looked forward to Ophelias crab cakes down south on Siesta Key. Clearly, I’d have to fish with Jason again…and the sooner, the better.
Captain Jason Stock
Web Site- www.jmsnookykayakcharters.com
SaltyShores Close-Up: Gold Coast Bonito
Jan S. Maizler
I’ve always loved bonito. Not only are they one of the strongest fish in the sea, but they are not hunted very often because many anglers find them un-glamorous. Even better, since it keeps their numbers up for anglers like me. But maybe folks that don’t like bonito are fishing for something else. Perhaps if they pursued them as a primary game fish, their perspective would change.
Bonito (or false albacore) are easy to catch and can be taken by trolling, drifting, and jigging- almost all methods can take them. For some anglers, this is less of a challenge and for others, it’s a boon- particularly practitioners of light tackle. And without doubt, the most exiting way to encounter them is when they are feeding on the ocean surface. This happens in response to live chumming on Florida’s Gold Coast or feeding on migratory minnow schools off Florida’s west coast. This latter scenario is when bonito really show off their stuff.
Light Tackle Challenge-
When the gamesters erupt on the surface, they are especially vulnerable to lures, and jigs that “match the hatch”. All of these offerings are the stuff that is fished with light tackle. While bonito are strong enough to put a strain on heavy boat gear, on light tackle they feel like freight trains. Light tackling for them with lures is an apex moment in the marine game fish lexicon. Despite their strength, they can be leader shy if they are feeding on small baits like minnows or small whitebaits. If they are hitting large live baits like greenies or herring that are thrown as live chum, they will hit large artificials like topwater plugs with abandon- and they’ll tolerate a heavier mono leader better as well.
If you’re on your own vessel, be aware that surface feeding bonito gobbling minnows and other “non-chum” migratory baits pop up and down quite often. Rather than running down the predator schools, either ease over to the school on electric motor(s), a slow RPM outboard, or cut the engine in their projected path- if you can determine that. Above all, do not scare them with your outboard or inboard engine(s).
Get Started the Easy Way-
The best way to get anointed in the Bonito Game is to go with a guide that’s experienced with light tackling for these species. And that’s exactly what I did in arranging a trip with Captain Dave Kostyo, and enlisting Captain Ken Collette for photo support. Though I spoke to Dave in the early spring, I was not surprised to hear we’d have to wait for the placid days of summer to encounter the schools of bonito that mass off Florida’s Gold Coast.
When the time arrived, Ken and I assembled at T.N.T. Marina in North Miami, where Captain Dave keeps his center console vessel, Knot Nancy. I’d brought two eight-pound plug rods onboard as back-up to Dave’s huge tackle arsenal, since it’s become evident that revolving-spool casting equipment is less common in marine “cast-angling” than spin or fly gear. The only other items I brought were two-dozen ½ ounce white Spro bucktails.
As we idled out of the canal to the open bay, Dave said we’d have to get bait before going through Haulover Cut into the ocean. Since it was summer, Dave told us that while the pilchards had departed, we should be able to catch a bunch of herring on the sabiki rigs and possibly even net some small assorted whitebaits along the island shorelines. As it turned out, we got live bait using both methods. We filled up the livewell in an hours’ time. And, soon we were passing through the mouth of the cut into the open ocean.
The Fishing Begins-
Since we were off Miami, we’d be having none of the bonito blitz of Florida’s west coast in twenty feet of water. Indeed, Dave took us right out to the “edge” in depths of around 150 feet. He deployed live baits on a “free” line, a weighted line, and one on a downrigger. In a half hour we only had a couple strikes so Dave took us shallower to around ninety feet. Almost immediately after re-deployment, all three rigs “went off.” The rods bent deeply and the drags screamed like a Star Wars trio. All of us were sure these were bonito by the long runs and rapid changes in trajectory paths. It was a perfect match of Man versus Fish- three on three- and we landed our gamesters in short order.
I was personally satisfied that we were into the fish but needed some really light tackle action. I pulled out one of my light plug rods from the rod holder and had it “at the ready” when I asked Dave to throw some live bait off the stern. As soon as the herring landed, bonito exploded under them. Some of the baits disappeared, some went airborne, and a bunch shot under Dave’s twin engines for shelter. I cast into the fray and after two sweeps of the rod hooked up with a mean bonito machine. This time the fight was much longer than with the “heavier” twelve-pound tackle. It took about ten minutes, but eventually we saw color as a big bonito pushing over twelve pounds came to the top. Dave leaned over and tailed the fish for photos.
Now it was time for Ken and Dave to get into the act. Both of them grabbed light spinners and rigged up with tiny whitebaits. As soon as their baits landed, both anglers were hooked up and smiling like Cheshire cats. As Ken got his fish within “seeing color” distance, he shouted that there were other fish alongside it. I quickly free-spooled my bucktail to the right level and jigged the rod barely twice before it heeled over. Once again, we had three-way pandemonium onboard. We repeated this action a few more times until we got the right photos as well getting ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
It’s rare to get a successful fishing trip in such short order, but with some good planning and a great captain like Dave, such things are possible.
SaltyShores Close-up: Mosquito Lagoon
Jan S. Maizler
I’d met Captain Justin Price as the guide who would spearhead the hunt for redfish and seatrout as part of a photo shoot for an article on ultralight spinfishing in Sport Fishing Magazine. From dawn to dusk, Justin and his East Cape 18-foot Lostmen took us through the “bays” and flats of the “Goon” with finesse and stability as we caught and released stud-sized bruisers of both species on line barely testing over four pounds. When our mission was over for that day, we were determined to fish together again.
Our plan was to fish in early summer of the following year, but a tropical storm plus other prior – committed travels on my schedule postponed our two days of fishing until late July. The conditions of our revised time featured flat calm warm water and a slew of vacation-liberated skiffs all over the inside waters of the Space Coast. The water was also slightly more turbid than two months prior and due to the annual growth of algae. This stood in stark contrast to the stronger algae blooms of the past year as well as the present toxic dumps of fresh water through the inlets of Stuart and Jupiter to the south.
I told Justin that I’d be bringing friend and photographer Alan Williams to New Smyrna Beach to join us on our two day adventure. As our target dates arrived, it turned out that we were blessed with fair weather and sunny skies. It appeared there would be few if any thunderstorms or showers to drive us off the flats.
On the day of our drive from Fort Lauderdale, we spoke to Justin for a last minute status report. He told us that although there was a huge push of fish in the shallows two weeks ago, the fish had now predictably settled into the flats drop-offs and potholes. As we discussed the most effective techniques for these conditions, Justin did not hesitate to recommend using live pigfish for the best results if we wanted rod-bending action and ample “photo-ops.” Local knowledge placed a great deal of trust on the gamefish – calling grunts of live piggies.
I had mixed feelings about using live bait- as did Justin. While I prefer to cast a lure to a sighted fish, I also want a backup if any shallow water gamester is unresponsive to lures or flies, especially on a story trip. Live bait would give us some old school action, just like a plate of Mac N’ Cheese. It would get us quick satisfaction, but we’d have to moderate our efforts lest we grow fat and bored with much too much.
And that’s exactly what those two days brought us: seemingly endless action on piggies with a first day tally of over forty trout to five pounds and a few redfish. We started the second day poling the flats. While most of the fish spooked way ahead of us, I did hook one golden-colored stud of a redfish which picked up a raft of grass on the line and then the hook on the soft plastic twitch bait popped out so disappointingly.
The day grew hotter and the skiffs seemed to materialize all around us in the shimmering light of mid-morning. We went back to fishing the drop-offs with live bait and easily caught another twenty trout-including some gators-and a few nice redfish.
Alan, Justin and I had a wonderful time. As we headed in to JB’s for lunch, we were already planning our next trip targeting the cooler waters of fall and bigger bunches of fish.
Captain Justin Price
Web Site: www.rightinsightcharters.com
Jan S. Maizler
The sun was setting through the front windshield of my car as I headed across Alligator Alley towards Naples, and eventually Sarasota, my destination. As I drove through the waterlogged Glades, I was drawn into the tight balance of watching the road carefully but allowing in some irresistible excitement over the planned fishing that lay ahead. The next two days- Friday and Saturday- would be full-on pre-dawn to dusk fishing with lure and fly fishing specialist Captain Rick Grassett.
My experience has been that almost all angling and angling travel that ends up well and even memorable is based on solid planning, not random chance. Although I was familiar with Captain Rick’s expertise through his excellent fly fishing lectures and fishing reports, we had not formally met. That changed when he and I connected on Linkedin and soon enough, we made plans to fish out of his skiff (and professional charter vessel), the Snook Fin-Addict, an 18-foot Action Craft. While I was aware that Rick also fishes in Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, I opted to fish with him in his home waters of Greater Sarasota. Though our initial contact was in May 2012, Rick recommended we wait for the fall month of October for some of the best and varied fishing. My ready agreement to go with Rick’s timing advice would prove to be one of the best decisions for my Florida angling in 2012. Rick was also instrumental in referring us to the Inn on Siesta Key for our lodgings.
Summer and Fall-
The summer was busy and full of fish, but the everlasting radiant heat made this torrid season in South Florida far too long. Though September proved to be a rainy, humid, encore of the previous months, October featured drier, slightly cooler air. There were even a couple of mild fronts that coaxed the fall into unfolding. I was glad that the time to travel to Sarasota had arrived. My wife and I traversed the “Alley” without incident. We continued north on I-75 (the same highway). We then exited on FL. 72 /Clark Road and headed west to Siesta Key. All it took was one right turn and a couple miles more to reach the Inn, a simple and welcome journey.
Since we knew we’d be arriving in the late evening, Innkeeper Paige had given us all the proper instructions to access our unit. As we unpacked, we were delighted with our room- a little piece of Siesta Key with its’ bright, tropical furnishings. It was midnight and my sleep would be of short duration, since I had to meet Rick at 4:15 a.m. down the road at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters.
Time to Fish-
I barely slept and hoped the adrenal high that kept me awake would do the same throughout the fishing. We both arrived at CB’s (Rick’s “headquarters”) precisely at the same time- ten minutes early! …and a good sign both of us were pumped. This was no chance occurrence since we’d agreed to fish the pre-dawn hours for snook under the dock lights.
The brief drive to the launch ramp near Mote Marine Laboratory took us through the heart and shorelines of this exquisite city. Though I’d been to Sarasota countless times, the art, restaurants, and elegant homes re-confirmed the hip splendor of this marvelous destination.
Rick launched the vessel in minutes and as we idled out into the open bay, he familiarized me with the location of all the safety equipment on his skiff. It soon became apparent that everything on the skiff had a place- and that Rick’s obviously methodical character made sure that everything from tackle to procedure to outfitting his boat would be done to sheer perfection. For me, this was a hallmark of professionalism.
Rick quickly got on plane and headed east to the mainland side of Sarasota Bay. The ride was made more pleasing by the horizontal rear casting deck hatch that doubled as an “underway” backrest. Rick reviewed the plan for both days, which basically would take us ocean ward with each progressive stop as the day dawned and sun got higher. Since the wind was light to moderate out of the east, we’d go from the docks to the shallow flats to the deeper flats near the passes, and finally out into the open Gulf for Spanish mackerel and bonito (false albacore). Rick mentioned that there were loads of minnows right off Long Boat and Siesta Keys and that chances for encounters with breaking game fish was excellent. With these plans and choices, it was hard to focus on the snook fishing which was yet to even occur !
But we were soon powering down and Rick cut his E-Tec as a big underwater light was not far off. Rick dropped his electric trolling motor and eased towards the vast blue glow-which was full of snook. For this light and others tight to the seawall, the water was calm and the tide was slow, creating cautious snook. But by dawn, I’d released four nice fish to seven pounds on jigs with soft plastic tails and a TerrorEyz. Not surprisingly, we got more strikes when there was more wind and schools of glass minnows.
Our next stop was the very shallow flats near the mainland. We easily located the mullet schools which would hold trout, snook, and reds. We fished topwater plugs for an hour with no results, so we headed west to the deeper flats just inside the Gulf passes. Rick gave me the rod with a soft plastic jig and told me to work the flats drop-off. I quickly started hooking up on seatrout.
After an hour we’d caught over fifteen trout and a flounder- and I was ready for some nearshore action on mackerel and albies. It was mid-morning and a good time to spot fish. We headed out into the ocean to look for diving birds and breaking fish. It took about an hour of running, but we found them. We started catching smaller mackerel up to three pounds on every cast….to the point that we started to look for bigger macks and albies after we released about twenty. We could have stopped and fished these schools of smaller macks, but we opted to finish out the day searching for bigger game.
We started the second day in exactly the same order. Conditions under the dock lights were about the same and I released three snook- this time up to nine pounds, which offered some better photo “ops”.
At dawn, we fished the shallow flats near Long Bar, catching nine trout and another snook. Rick said he wanted me to get an Inshore Slam, so he fired up his engine and made a ten minute run to a shallow flat. After ten minutes of poling and casting, I caught and released a nice redfish of around six pounds. We high-fived it when we got our slam.
Rick suggested that we run into the Gulf to look for big mackerel and albies- and I agreed. He called a friend who was already fishing off Longboat Key. When I saw Rick smile, I correctly concluded it was “game on.” He quickly fired up the engine and made a fifteen minute run to the hotspot. We spent the next hour catching big mackerel to six pounds on topwater plugs. It was a wonderful time.
We both spotted a huge flock of birds a few hundred yards to the south and decided to check it out. As we approached the melee, the big splashes underneath told us they were albies. After a slow approach, he cut the engine and drifted into the action. We casted silver-flecked plastics into the splashes and hooked up with fat bonitos as large as twelve pounds. We stayed in this frothy paradise for an hour hooking and releasing big albies. After that, I could take no more. The ride back to the launching ramp was rich with feelings of excitement and enormous satisfaction at the great fishing that Rick and Sarasota provided this writer.
About CB’s Saltwater Outfitters-
CB’s is the largest on the water bait and tackle shop that offers Siesta Key boat rentals, fishing charters, fishing tackle, jet skis and clothing for everyone. CB’s Outfitter Shop and Beach Boutique carries the leading brand names of outdoors apparel.
Captain Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
Web Site- www.snookfin-addict.com
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
1249 Stickney Point Road
Web Site- http://cbsoutfitters.com
The Inn on Siesta Key
515 Beach Road
Web Site- www.TheInnOnSiestaKey.com
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.