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Turneffe Island Resort

Turneffe Island Resort offers the best and most diverse fly fishing opportunities in all of Belize – and if you’re nuts about permit it’s THE place to fish!

Turneffe Island Resort is a Belizian luxury lodge situated on its own little idyllic island in the Southern part of the greater complex of coral and mangrove islands called Turneffe Islands. The island houses around 30 guests who are housed in beachside apartments and cabanas. Aside from the housing facilities, the lodge consists of a main building with a cosy dining hall, an outdoor pool area with its own wooden deck and bar as well as a marina.

Both the setting and the service – and not least the food, is fantastic, and the atmosphere is relaxed and open-hearted. About two-thirds of the visitors on the island are there to dive and snorkel on some of the exceptionally beautiful and fascinating diving sites in the area. The rest are typically there to fish, and they are in good hands. A total of eight passionate and highly professional guides work at the lodge, and they know every single flat, every mangrove tidal current, and every reef in the overwhelmingly big and geographically chaotic island-complex as if it was the back of their laborious hands. Between them, they have in the vicinity of 200 years of experience guiding, and most of them are born and raised on Turneffe Islands, which has given them an enormously shrewd understanding and appreciation of the whole eco system.

Typically, you’ll be fishing from eight o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon – both wading and from the cool and practical boats. This means that you have about nine hours of flats- and open water fishing every day, and this is more than enough to try out different spots and different fish. One week’s worth of guided fishing – including housing at the resort, costs 2.990US Dollars in the high season, and it includes delicious lunch packages and cool drinks, so that all you need to worry about is catching that highly prized trophy fish. As a supplement, you can book some night fishing, which is a great idea, if you want to target tarpon.

The season stretches across the whole year, but especially March, April and May are great for permit fishing. If you want to go full-hearted for a grand slam, or if you are a sucker for tarpon, the period from mid-May until the end of September is the optimal time to visit the lodge. The average size of the permit is truly impressive with 20lb fish being common and 40-50lb fish being a real possibility – if you’re able to land them that is!

The Fishing

A typical day at the St. Francois Atoll involves close combat encounters with triggerfish along the coral reefs, quality shots at golden permit and nervous milkfish on the flats in addition to chaotic intermezzos of foraging giant trevally that appear suddenly and unannounced along drop offs and reef formations. There are bonefish enough to keep one plentifully entertained from morning till evening, but most people target either giant trevally or permit. Or they’ll methodically sweep through promising areas, cover the water and cast at whatever presents itself – and that’s a lot!

If the impulse to go big game hunting should manifest itself, Alphonse Island also has the option of renting a charter boat. On it you can easily access deeper water and fish for sailfish, marlin, tuna, wahoo, giant trevally and much more. Especially the sailfishing is in a league of its own and the same is the wahoo- and tuna fishing.

The Gear

When targeting bonefish and permit on the flats, a 9′ 8-weight setup is ideal. In addition, you’ll need a 12-weight setup for tarpon in the mangrove channels and deeper flats sections. When targeting tarpon in deeper water, blind-casting in tidal channels etc, sinking lines are often the most effective – so bring along a few depth-probers. 

Turneffe Island is unique in that it offers permit fishing along it’s southern drop offs. It’s a fascinating fishery and a great addition to targeting permit on the flats. There are permit up to 50lb+ at the Elbow Reef, and even smaller fish (those weighing in at around15-20lbs!!!) will tear your gear apart if it isn’t up to the task.

10 weight rods will do for the most part, but if you’re hoping to hook up with one of the real giants, a 12weight rod might be more suitable. You’ll be fighting the fish directly below the boat, so you’ll need a fairly short rod with loads of backbone. And forget about those double-handed saltwater rods. You’ll want to bend the rod right down into the handle, to put maximum pressure on the fish. By using a fighting handle further up on the blank, you simply shift the power center in the rod to a more lenient place. And in the process, you risk breaking the rod. (This has happened numerous times on the Elbow)

In terms of reels, you’ll want one of the many excellent large arbor reels out there – one of those with a drag system that can stop a band of horses. Don’t worry too much about the backing. If more than 30 yards of backing peel off your reel, you’re doomed anyway – and the fish will break you off on the chorals below. It’s all about hooking and holding!

With regards to the fly lines, clear lines are certainly to be preferred. Permit have great vision, and especially in open water, flylines are quite conspicuous. You’ll need a couple of different ones (floating, intermediate and sinking), since the depths at which the permit are found varies. Some times, they’ll be popping their heads out of the water and feeding in the surface film, while at other times, they’ll be further down, and the only way to get them is to use a relatively fast sinking line.

The leaders should be designed for pure abuse. Double-check all leader knots, and finish off with a 3ft section of 20-25lb test fluorocarbon. Only the very best and meticulously tied knots will hold up, so don’t be sloppy.

The Flies

Bonefish bitters, Crazy Charlies, Avalon Crabs, Strong Arm Merkins, Alphlexo Crabs, all belong in your fly box when heading to Turneffe Island. The usual stuff works on the flats. However, when fishing the Elbow Reef, you’ll need something different.

The guides at Turneffe Island Resort swear by a fly they call the Pizza Fly. It is a pink and extremely heavy epoxy fly that is as dangerous to cast as it is effective. With lightning quick retrieves it moves erratically and unpredictably through the water like a shrimp, and it really gets the permit agitated. We’ve developed our own fly for the job – a drastically more realistic version of the fly: The Pabst & Pizza Fly. 


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