Once you get out from the reef, the water gets deep fast. Here you will find large fish of many kinds. Wahoo, tuna, dolphin, marlin, shark, and sailfish abound.
SAILFISH - Istiophorus americanus
Potential is strictly for sportsfish. Up to 73 lbs. in size have been caught locally. It is fished anywhere outside the reef.
ALBACORE TUNA - similar to Thunnus alalunga
BONITO - Katsuwonus pelamis
YELLOWFIN TUNA - similar to Thunnus catalinae P.
BLUEFIN TUNA - Thunnus thynnus
Here's some information from Peter Singfield, who often fishes in the area:
My boat is actually a local fishing sloop. I went out with a crew of three -- all fishermen. They commercial fished -- I have the class A license for my boat -- while I did at least 4 hours per day of snorkeling and exploring.
You are not going to get to any deep water in the Ambergris Caye area on the inside of the reef with the spread of parks and population. Get outside the reef, or go out to places like Turneffe, Lighthouse or Glovers. If you want to handline fish, fish around coral islands. They seem abandoned by snorkeling, but usually plenty of fish there if from a boat and you wait. Best spots for handline fishing are mixed sand and turtle grass bottom, with sea fans and scattered clumps of man sized single corals. Far away from real solid coral formations. The fish feed and hide by ferns, or coral clumps and forage over the turtle grass. If you can locate where currents twirl because of tidal flow and meet and cross because of coral reefs some hundred or more yards away, you will also do good for bigger fish. Snorkeling is a good way to check out a spot. Fish tend to congregate in spots, very narrow circles. Usually because of current causing feeding patterns to fall out from floating microscopic larvae. Not discernible to the human eye, but these concentrations are where the schools stay. Fish are intelligent. You use a trolling spoon and get one or two bumps without a catch, you might as well give up, they have told everybody else. Fish bait is best for towing. Same with school spots, the fish will watch 4 or 5 fish get caught and by then have caught on and told everybody, you have to move again. Inside handline fishing requires constant moving from spot to spot. Porgy fishing is good usually about 150 ft back from a coral patch. These are two pounders.
Wire fish traps are the best for steady fish production for the least labor hours of work. But nurse sharks twist them to hell and gone. Again, around the Ambergris Caye area forget it. Way overfished and the wires have killed a lot of the fisheries that used to be good. They usually require three days to start fishing. Heart shaped designed is the best performing. Work very good for jacks. I used to put pieces of tieing wire on the inturned downturned funnel to discourage them from coming out. If you don't check them daily though, they tend to get wrecked by nurse sharks. You need a glass in a box to do that over the side, or snorkel.
We were recently at Rocky Point -- the North Side. The little part they left for Belizeans, the rest is all a restricted reserve now. We get checked by fisheries everyday. so not many people "work" that area anymore.
But the boat, the crew and me are fully licensed. So we can and do.
Rosa (code name "Pecker") the Captain, is mostly a diver -- conches and lobster man.
You can catch yellowtail snapper in 36 feet of water outside the reef. You make a grapnel anchor out of re-bar. Nothing special, bend it around a tree with a few good whaps. Use a rope or even a 100 lb fishing nylon line. Use ordinary hooks and stick with ball of light line.
There is definitly no really deep (30 feet) water anywhere inside the reef and no way to 'sit' on the reef and cast out.
You can also anchor outside and shift your boat position by using the anchor line like a guy and shifting your anchor line along the side of the boat, thereby moving yourself into deeper or shallower water. For black fin snapper, quite big. You need a wooden reel for the line on apiece of galvanized pipe with a welded brake spring on top to hold the nylon wheel up and away from the wood drum. Should be plenty around to copy one. It's called a snapper reel.
You use a heavy iron for weight annd put about 3 or 4 snapper hooks ( these are curled hooks special for them ) Co-op has them. On the line with a leader. You will get the occasional shark with them. You can fish one spot for about 45 minutes then you have to change on the outside of the reef. Up your area, the point of reef separating Franco's cocal from the rest of Ambergris is called Rocky Point. Anyway, measure your line and mark it with colored paint. 36 ft for yellow tail. 80 feet for black fin snapper and 120 feet for red snapper. You drop the line as close to the bottom as you can, let it touch then lift it up 12 or 15 feet. Hold the line in your hand and you will feel the nibbles. When you get two or three swinging it around, you start reeling up. It is usually pretty fast. But capacity around Belize is only around 90 lbs per day per reel. You also while there leave two fly lines off the stern with a good hunk of shark, or something strong in the way of meat to float out astern a hundred yards. The bait should hang down about 10 feet or so below a float. Or one float and one down. Occasionally you pick up barracuda while reel fishing, or a mackerel, shark or something. Fish weight is usually 5 to 8 lbs. Occasionally a good size monster.
Line fishing is good for snapper at the river. (Channel seperating Belize from Mexico)
I spend from 3 to 5 hrs per day snorkeling. This is just scouting the area. I see simply incredible things this way. We live on the boat, and eat sea food along with rice, split beans, flour tortilla, plantain -- regular fishing mans fare. Sleep is irregular as one gets up twice per night to check the nets and fishes all day.
This trip was poor -- we barely covered expenses! 135 pounds of fish (S1.50 per pound) -- 9 pounds conches ($4.50 lb) -- one Leopard Ray (what was not used for bait I carried home for food) -- and two small shark.
When it was all over -- we (four of us) "netted" $10 each (all funds in BH!!). This for five "long" days of hard work.
I'd like to mention Moray Eels. We have real giants out there and they keep us "nervous" at all times. When "exploring" reef formations, they are our biggest fear. They resemble a huge snake with the head of a barracuda. They are vicious when approached improperly. I use a home made "Toad-Sticker" when I snorkel. Pretty useless for spearing fish. But great for poking around. I straightened a large fishing hook into a spear point and attached that to a 3/4 in. diameter by six foot long, carved round -- piece of macheche hard wood -- which is almost "neutral" in weight when submerged. I use this to "pole" myself around the reefs -- due to tricky currents -- so as not to get smashed into a reef head -- maybe to meet up improperly with a Moray!
I also do manage to spear the odd fish. My Captain Rosa, with his "Hawaiian-sling" does a much better job "spearing".
When we are out there -- we are out there alone. Things can happen -- and no "emergency" services. We had a novice with us this trip. A man good at line fishing and setting net -- but no experience at diving. He had the misfortune, on his first dive!! -- to meet a large Moray in the wrong manner. The Moray made a serious attempt to have his hand for breakfast. The damage to this man's hand was simply astounding. Fourteen hours to civilization -- what does one do??
This was our first morning at our destination -- just North of Rocky Point -- in the Bacalar Chico reef basin. We were not ready to go home!!
Massive wound!! A normal hospital would have had him in ER and surgery. Like multiple stab wounds though the hand -- side to side. Lots of bleeding and one huge swelling -- probable thrombosis due to a severed vein/artery.
He was back to work in two days time, line fishing. Wash well in salt water, apply lime juice (squeezing from fresh lime), bandage in 1/2 roll of toilet paper and a ripped tea shirt. Take lots of Cascabel (note to readers -- a medicine I manufacture here in Belize from snake bone -- extremely effective in curing wounds -- as well as all serious diseases -- including cancers). If I had a video camera I could have recorded the entire episode. Today was his forth day -- no infection, no thrombosis, light pain when moving hand vigorously. But especially -- how fast and well the wounds have healed over. No swelling or redness. Might no be so fancy as a modern hospital, but works better!!
We were 14 hrs by sail from the nearest civilization, we were also the only people in that area -- no one in sight from any direction -- no radio or cell phone.
Only got two small sharks. I often see those giant Morays -- a Barracuda head on a snake's body. Saw two at least a 100 lbs.
So pretty out there -- but so much lethal wild life as well.
On a recent excursion deep water fishing outside of St. Georges Caye, we anchored in over 500 feet and gradually dropped back trying several depths up to about 300. We were limited with time as we did not get out there until about 4:00 pm. For the short time we were on site we did well. Caught some nice size true yellow eye and some very dark pigmented black snappers.
Between the south point of Glovers Reef Atoll and Utilla and Half Moon Caye and the coast off Puerto Cortez, there is a circular current around 60 to 80 miles wide. The few dead bodies I know of, with life jackets still on, have gone around this very large Gulf of Honduras eddy. It runs counter clockwise. There is an abundance of blackfin tuna schools in this 80 miles diameter area. Coming from inside, at the Rio Dulce you get quite a current outflow, which for the most part flows along the coast of Honduras. It curves north around the Bay Islands to Glovers Reef Atoll and returns south by Half Moon Caye on the end of the barrier reef. I suspect that there is some big game fish underwater canyons around Half Moon Caye in the strait there. It would be interesting to see the underwater geology. There is a similar situation off Pensacola, Florida out about 90 miles in the gulf of Mexico. Here there is a deep canyon that hits a dead end, the current coming into this submerged canyon, gets forced upward taking phyto plankton and other goods stuff and within a half mile of the top of the canyon, on the sea surface above, a very big sportsfishing gamefishing industry has developed, for sailfish, marlin, tuna and stuff. They congregate around the vertical current wall of the sea food chain that develops from the underwater current.
Off Half Moon Caye, what you would be looking for would be an underwater canyon, or block, or dead end wall. The West of Utilla is one place, the east off Glovers Reef another place. But there should be something close to Half Moon Caye. The current along Puerto Cortez area flows about 4 to 6 miles an hour. A hell of a mess, if you are coming by sailboat with no engine from Ranguana Caye entrance to get to the harbor in Puerto Cortez, because you have to offset the lighthouse, fuel tanks and radio tower by nearly 8 miles to the West in order to make the harbor, when the current sweeps you inexorably east. I have spent up to six hours sometimes trying to round the damn buoy on the harbor point and could spit on the darn steel buoy sometimes, but never make it into the harbor and have to go back out into the ocean and sail six or eight miles west against the current before, going close inshore to the rocky mountainous coast. It is treacherous without motor also, because the bank shallows and the waves get tremendously big, trying to sail along the rocky coast to make the harbor in Puerto Cortez without an engine. In my 25 ft. Buccaneer sloop, the waves would break and wash completely over the boat, they were so steep walled. In my 34 ft motorsailer Atoll Queen, it was no problem with both diesels and sails chugging, but still a slow last 45 minutes to get into the harbor around the point on the peninsular.
The schools of blackfin tuna that are in this huge ocean eddy, also support enough fish schools to attract the huge whale shark. Many a 45 footer has been sighted off the barrier reef of Belize, going south to this feeding ground. They make you feel puny, when you are out in an 18 foot boat and travel quite fast without any apparent difficult swimming motion. Where there are blackfin tuna schools there are mackerel schools and probably the big game fish that attract the well healed tourist.
What has stopped tourism development in this southern area has been the lack of shops, a harbor to protect big sportsfishermen from the winter northers and subsequent waves from the inland sea of Belize. Also a location to put any kind of tourist hotel facility. The only places are Sapadillo Cayes and Hunting Caye proper if memory serves me right. If the communications and shopping problems could be solved. The international treaties, or whatever political problems with the use of Sapodilla Cayes, a harbor and docks, there is the equivalent potential of another Bahama style Bimini fishing town situation, dedicated to offshore sports fisherman for the well healed millionaire tourist.
Between Hunting Caye and Puerto Cortez lies a subterranean earthquake fault and every eight years or so, there is a 6.0 earthquake in the ocean. I was in one in Puerto Cortez one time and the earthquake is just a few miles off shore. The hotel roof opened up, I was on my bed and hanging on, as it careened around the room on it's wheeled castors, slamming from wall to wall. I was thinking from my war time experiencces that I should be under the bed, but couldn't move. Thankfully the building stood and the roof came back down on the sills and not on top of me. There was a foot gap and you could see the clouds and blue sky.
At any rate, the recent sports fishing tournament that was recently at South Water Caye and went out to Glovers Reef Atoll, needs to move south and offshore from Sapodilla Cayes. There are a lot of schools of fish out there in that huge ocean eddy. If, you could find the underwater geography and locate a blockage to the main current flow, which is counter clockwise, you would have a ready made tourist fishing industry for the big expensive playboy set.
Click here for how to cook up that catch!