After bidding my Holbox group a fond farewell at the Cancun airport, I headed over to the FBO terminal to catch a Tropic Air flight down to Belize City where I met up with my wife, Tori, and Aaron Adams from Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) for the flight down to Punta Gorda. We were co-hosting a group of fishermen joining us on a permit tagging project, spearheaded by BTT. The goal was to implant a satellite telemetry tag into mature permit, 18 pounds or more, to aid in better understanding movement patterns etc. and find new ways to enhance and protect the environments that permit need to thrive.
Flats species are under ever-increasing threats from human interference and from Mother Nature. Gathering data on permit behavior will allow organizations like BTT to focus on protecting the areas they live in before it is too late. Anglers need to support these conservation groups if we hope to be able to pass along the legacy of sport fishing to future generations. I recommend visiting the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust website to learn more about the organization.
After greeting my fellow participants at cocktail hour, we sat down to a fantastic meal where Aaron shared BTT’s efforts abroad and at home. He also outlined the plan for tagging fish, stressing the importance of barbless hooks, minimum handling times of caught fish, and how to properly photograph your trophy to increase the odds of its post-catch survival. I was fortunate enough to participate in other BTT sponsored trips in the past and have learned a TON each time. I would encourage anyone reading this to take advantage of any future hosted offerings involving this worthwhile organization.
While the weather in Mexico was absolutely stellar during our visit there, it was clear that Mother Nature was planning on making us work for things here in Belize. Heavy cloud cover and winds at a steady 15-20 mph kept us somewhat limited in where we could fish and what we were able to see. Water was choppy, making even pushing fish hard to spot and tails almost impossible to notice. Still, we managed a few shots each over the first couple of days with client Steve Z. landing a beautiful fish weighing in around 25 lbs. late on day two. Unfortunately, we were unable to get to Steve in time to put the satellite tag in the fish in a timely fashion. Rather than risk over-stressing the fish, a couple of quick images were shot and it was released, pushing off hard and healthy with a BTT spaghetti tag attached. 32” to the fork! Way to go, Steve!
Day three brought fewer clouds, but with continued wind, however having some sun really seemed to make things work and most everyone was getting shots at fish. Still, the fishing was clearly just starting to get back on track. I managed one small permit late in the day before calling it quits. “Getting the skunk off the boat” definitely has some value and is more than just a fisherman’s superstition. Confidence is a strong component when it comes to fishing success.
Day four arrived all too soon and while the rest of the group was staying on for a fifth day of fishing, Tori and I had commitments back home that needed to be tended to, so this was our farewell day. A little less wind and a lot more sunshine greeted us on the flats this day and the promise of good fishing was in the air. Fellow fisherman and Junior Team U.S.A. member, Knox, landed his first permit at the ripe old age of 16, showing his father, Kam, how to get it done. It was awesome to see a dad sharing this kind of adventure with his teenage son.
I managed to land three permit on my last day, nothing of note size-wise, but as every permit guide I’ve ever fished with says . . . “a permit is a permit .” Who am I to argue? All in all, I managed to tag four, and if you’re a permit fisherman then I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a good week anywhere! Amen.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the over-the-top service at Belcampo. It is truly a place that any fisherman can take his non-fishing companion and rest assured they are well-taken care of while you’re out enjoying the fishing. Spa treatments, pedicures, facials, Mayan ruin tours, zip-lining, cave tubing, cave exploration, AMAZING bird-watching and wildlife tours, horseback riding, poolside cocktails . . . on and on. Food; best I’ve had anywhere in the world. Chef Renée Everett hailing from Chicago was a star! Her culinary delights were unbelievable night in and night out. Sigh. Wow – back to the real world.
I cannot wait to return. In fact I’m in the process of selecting a week for next year already. This time it will be oriented towards couples and hopefully will involve BTT again if Aaron’s schedule allows.
Again, we were blessed with a diverse group of fun loving people to host at Belcampo Lodge. Manager and co-host Todd Calitri asked Frontiers to help provide some gift packages for those in attendance and I was happy to call a few industry friends to help in that endeavor.
Special thanks go out to the following folks that supported this BTT hosted trip: Sage, Rio, Redington, TFO, Smith Optics, and King Sailfish Mounts all contributed generously to the group of attendees.
By Joe Codd, Saltwater Department Manager