With the Belize flats fishing waters being so abundant and under pressured unlike many of the fisheries of the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. It’s no wonder Belize has become a premier destination for Tarpon fishing. From the offshore atoll of Turneffe Flats, to the Mangrove surrounds of Ambergris Caye and all the way down south to the brackish water of the Monkey River. Belize Tarpon Fishing is off the charts FUN! and plentiful as well.

Let’s look at a little bit of Tarpon biology before getting into the specifics of fly fishing for Tarpon in Belize.

Skip to specifics about Fly Fishing for Tarpon in Belize

Common Names for Tarpon

The silver king is the most common pseudonym given to the tarpon by anglers, descriptive of the bright flash that reflects from its large silver scales when it jumps into the air. Other common names include abalitsa, Atlantic tarpon, atlantischer tarpun, bass, big scale, caffum, camurupi, grande ecaille, grand-écaille, grande ecoy, jewfish, madzorfloe, manyofle, mell, ofin, palika, peixe-prata, peixe-prata-do-atlântico, pez lagarto, sabalo, sábalo, sabaloreal, sabilo real, sadina, savalle, savallo, savaloreal, savanilla, silberfisch, silverfish, suwiki, tainha, tainha-congo, tapam, tarpao, tarpão, tarpão-do-Atlântico, tarpoen, tarpom, tarpón, tarpon argenté, tarpon atlantycki, tarpon trapoen, tarpone tarpone, tarponi, tarpum, trapoen, and wallidöër.

Geographical Distribution of Tarpon

Tarpon inhabit a large range on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The range in the Eastern Atlantic extends from Senegal to the Congo. In the Western Atlantic, the fish primarily inhabit warmer coastal waters concentrating around the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies. However, tarpon are not uncommon as far north as Cape Hatteras, and the extreme range extends from Nova Scotia in the north, Bermuda, and to Argentina to the south. Tarpon have been found at the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal and around Coiba Island.

World distribution map for the tarpon

Tarpon Habitat

Tarpon populate a wide variety of habitats, but are primarily found in coastal waters, bays, estuaries, and mangrove-lined lagoons within tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates (45° N-30° S). The normal habitat depth extends to 98 feet (30 m). Although a marine fish, tarpon can tolerate euryhaline environments (0-47 parts per thousand) and often enter river mouths and bays and travel upstream into fresh water. In addition, tarpon can also tolerate oxygen-poor environments due to a modified air bladder that allows them to inhale atmospheric oxygen. The only variable that seems to limit their choice of habitat is temperature, and research shows tarpon to be thermophilic. Rapid decreases in temperature have been known to cause large tarpon kills. During such temperature drops, tarpon usually take refuge in warmer deeper waters.

The tarpon employs different feeding techniques depending upon its level of growth and development. Stage I larvae absorb nutrients directly from seawater through the integument. Zooplankton (copepods and ostracods), insects, and small fish compose the diet of stage II and III tarpon larvae and small juveniles. As tarpon grow, they move away from zooplankton as a chief food source and prey more exclusively on fishes (especially poecilids and cyprinodontids) and larger invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs. While juvenile tarpon are planktivorous, adult tarpon are strictly carnivorous and mostly feed on mid-water prey such as mullets, pinfish, marine catfishes, Atlantic needlefish, sardines, shrimp, and crabs. Tarpon feed during both day and night. Since the tarpon have minute teeth only, they usually swallow the prey whole.

Fishing for Tarpon in Belize

With the extremely fertile flats fishing that is prevelant through out Belize coastal waters it’s no wonder why Tarpon thrive here. The Belize waters are home to non-migrating as well as migrating Tarpon. With the non-migrating Tarpon averaging from 30 to 50 lbs and the migrating fish reaching weights over 150 lbs.

What gear to bring for Bone Fishing trip to Belize.

Saltwater Fly Rod: A 12wt rod can typically handle the majority of all most of the Tarpon you’ll encounter through out the various regions of Belize on your trip. However, If fishing the brackish waters of the Monkey river you may wish to bring along a 13 weight just for added comfort as this particular area has been known to produce tom heavy-weight champs.

recommended Saltwater Fly Fishing Rods for Tarpon fishing in Belize:

G. Loomis Cross Current Fly Rods (10′ 0″, 12 wt.) $385.00
R.L. Winston Boron IIx Fly Rod (12 wt 10′ 5″, 4 pc) $650.00
Sage XI2 Fly Rod (11 wt 9′0″, 4 pc) $720.00

Saltwater Fly Reels: Saltwater fly fishing for Tarpon is probably the most difficult species to pursue and certainly the hardest on your equipment. I recommend ONLY TIBOR SALTWATER FLY FISHING REELS for Tarpon fishing in Belize. These reels hold tons of backing and have precision bearing systems that allow to high speed FAST runs without wearing the reel down. Having it smoking in your hand while tackling a 100lb Tarpon isn’t any kind of a distraction you want (and I’ve seen it happen).

Tibor Gulfstream large arbor saltwater fly reels $625.00

What about popular Belize Tarpon fishing pattern flies? What are the best patterns and flies for Tarpon fishing in Belize?

Almost all Tarpon patterns that are predominant in Florida Keys and Bahamas will produce Tarpon in teh waters of Belize. There are a few varied bait fish streamers that local guides will carry with them so don’t worry about tying any of those variations as they’ll provide them for you.

Essential Belize Tarpon Flies:

• Stu Apte tarpon fly (size 2 to 3/0)
• Black Death (size 2 to 3/0)
• Cockroach (size 2 to 3/0)
• Boilermaker in: red and white (size 2 to 3/0)
• Lefty’s Big Eye Deceiver in: white, chartreuse, and blue (size 2 to 3/0)
• Moore’s Yellow and Grizzly (size 2 to 3/0)
• Sea Foam Popper in: yellow and white (size 2 to 3/0)
• Sea-Ducer in: orange and white (size 2 to 3/0)

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