Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Pursuit of Permit in Southern Belize June 14-21, 2018: Part Two

Angler's General Warning: If you are expecting lots of fish porn, this post will be very disappointing!

Once we arrived at Gallows Point, the crew quickly stowed the Rising Tide in the mangroves and we all then headed out to the reef. Initially, we we saw quite a few permit, but they were incredibly nervous. One big permit blew up when a cormorant made a pass over it, another spooked when a dolphin cruised by in deeper water and yet another permit disappeared when a 12 inch trigger fish invaded it's space bubble.

We were frustrated and the guides were frustrated. It was not only tough finding fish, but nearly impossible to get within casting range. And in the 25-30 knot winds, even if we did get within range, things seemed to head south. My best shot of the day was ruined when we saw five big permit in a hole. Our guide Dean, knowing it would be impossible to hold the panga with his push pole in these winds, quietly dropped his Danforth anchor. Unfortunately, it did not stick in the gale and we quickly drifted right over the white sand spot noisily dragging the anchor behind us. C'est la vie!

We all fished hard for a day and a half in the Gallow's Point area, but the ever increasing cloud cover, accelerating winds and falling barometric pressure translated to fewer and fewer permit on the flats. Where they went we do not know. What we do know is there were not to be found on the flats. At the end of the second day at Gallows Point, we decided to run further south to check out the Robinson Bight area.

Fisherman's shack at Robinson Bight

At Robinson Bight, even the birds were grounded... like this cormorant
...and this frigate
...and this pelican.

To make along story short, under dense cloud cover and with constant 25+ mph winds, we saw no permit for two days. Even the fishing birds: cormorants, pelicans, frigates and osprey were hiding from the winds in the mangroves. There was simply no life on the flats except for the occasional ray. And this was on flats that have been historically very productive. Hell, I caught some of my first permit on these flats 25 years ago!

We all knew we had a decision to make. We could cry uncle, try to salvage something of the trip by going up the rios on the mainland (and maybe find some tarpon or snook). OR, we could stay here and get increasingly frustrated by the lack of fish and battered by the winds. Like the cowards we are, we mixed a few rum and tonic and retreated to the coast.

This smallish jack crevasse was all we found on the flats in two days

Frigates, great flyers, were battered by the winds

On our retreat to the coast, one of the skiffs tow ropes broke in the heavy chop and winds. Noel and Mike cut the rope on another skiff not wanting to take the time to try and untie the knot! Noel quickly jumped in the skiff and rescued the errant panga.
NEXT: The Coast of Belize

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Pursuit of Permit in Southern Belize June 14-21, 2018: Part One

I guess most of us were due. Probably overdue for a good weather thumping! On our hugely successful trip to Cuba in April, we had experienced incredibly good weather... and our February trip to the Bahamas was pretty good too. When it's good you get used to it, but when it turns bad, it brings with it disappointment and frustration. In our case, Tropical storm BUD (and who the hell names a storm Bud??) was sucking moisture and wind behind it into Belize, Mexico and the Gulf States. Before we departed for Belize, our contact with the mothership we were using had told us:

"Your timing appears good…….nasty weather system south of Belize and moving north that is supposed to make things ugly through Thursday before it moves north into the Gulf of Mexico.  Hopefully, you’ll be on the heels of this system…….which can be very good."

These words brought hope, a powerful and essential commodity for any angler. But, as we boarded the Rising Tide in Belize City and made the quick trip out to  Hicks Cay, the sky looked... unpromising. That night we optimistically rigged rods for both permit and tarpon. Dawn brought us an even angrier sky and stronger winds. By the afternoon of our first day, it was clear the weather was not going to improve soon. Columns of cumulonimbus paraded to the horizon and high cirrus clouds peaked though the small gaps. High cirrus, a.k.a. mare's tails, almost always predict bad weather. In the early afternoon,  we experienced a strong thunderstorm and by the time the sun set, winds were topping 20 knots.  
It didn't help that we had been told by the same gentleman:

Last week, Dean said he saw more permit than EVER near the Gallows Point Reef.  One of our regulars landed his first ever permit in the same water you will be fishing!!!!

Sure... the old "shoulda been here last week". But we were an experienced and hardy crew so we perservered. We started out looking for tarpon and Jim Woollett did manage to find a big one, but was unbuttoned when the fish went a bit manic in very shallow water. For the rest of us, the tarpon were nonexistent. We all know tarpon are bitchy; they can disappear during low pressure systems. So, after giving the area a good perusal, we decided to switch gears, head south and commit to permit only.

Day One: No More Coffee for Jim Woollett

After and hour and a half run, we anchored in a mangrove jidey-hole. Here, the winds were relatively calm, but we could see the taller mangroves and knew the winds were still brisk.

Over the next few days, we settled into a nice schedule: Up at 5:15 am, grab a quick cup of coffee then stumble into the skiffs at 6:00 am. Fish till 9:30 or so then back to the mothership for a great breakfast prepared in our absence by our cook Radiance. Then, it was back in the boats until 1:30 or 2:00 pm when we again headed back to the mothership for lunch and a quick siesta. At 3:30 pm or so, we met at the stern and shoved off to fish for permit until dark.

Dr. Steve Peskoe does an ad for Belikin Beer... Scene ONE: Steve says, "While in Belize, I enjoy an ice cold Belikin at the end of a long fishless day!
Scene TWO "The beer of Belize. Try it, you'll like it!"

After we arrived back at the mothership in the eveniit was time for cocktails, appetizers, a great dinner, some fussing with gear and sleep!

Next: The search for permit