June 26, 2013

U betta Belize it! 2013 (Day 2)

Situated on the north side of the island, my cabin received a great amount of trade wind to keep the nights comfortable for sleeping. Waking up at 6am in the morning, I started at the deeper dock again trying to look for something different to catch.

The tide was rising this morning and there were a couple of larger Bar Jack rushing at the school of Silverside. If I was not so focused on the species hunt, I would have cast something to them.

I could see a couple of Bluehead Wrasse around the dock posts, but the Slippery Dick and Doctorfish were just too fast! The smaller mouths of the Bluehead Wrasse also made them very difficult to hook.

Then I believe I saw a Black Hamlet on the bottom. They are truly a cool fish to water. They flap their wide pectoral fins as they swim and that flapping reminds me of a fluttering butterfly. Truly cute fish to watch...but that one didn't want anything to do with my bait.

I also saw a small Sand Tilefish that was flirting about, but again, it didn't like my salted squid at all. If only I had some fresh shrimp with me! :(

While poking around the dock, something caught my attention at the corner of my eye...something big and silver. I've heard that Atlantic Tarpon hang out around the dock. I didn't expect to see 5 of them between 3' to 4' cruising straight toward the dock and sat under it!

Of course I tried to fish for them...but they didn't like my lures or my 3" Gulp! Ghost Shrimp. Sigh...

The tarpon left when the 3' Great Barracuda moved in. I tied on a wire leader and a 6/0 circle hook, caught a small grunt on the light rod, pin the grunt onto the circle hook and tossed it in. The Great Barracuda came in for a cautious look but turned around. In that clear water, maybe it was too smart to bite something with a big hook and a heavy wire leader.

The breakfast bell rang at 8:30am and we had a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and some fresh flat bread with some fresh squeezed orange juice. Yum!

After breakfast, I went back to fish some more at the dock. It didn't take long for a school of Ballyhoo Halfbeak moved in. A small piece of squid fish on the surface with a small hook got them to chew pretty easily. I jumped a couple of them before finally landing one.

Ballyhoo Halfbeak (Hemiramphus brasiliensis) - Species #336

A local kid came to join me on the dock with a hand line. He had some shrimp for bait and he was catching a few grunts. At first, he said he'll keep the grunts for dinner, which I can understand when he slammed the fish on the dock to dispatch them. But when it came time to leave, he just left all the grunts on the dock after he caught a bigger Redtail Parrotfish. It made me a bit mad that he would kill those little grunts and leave them on the dock to rot.

On the island, there is an older gentleman named George (they nicknamed him Grandpa and he's 58 years old). George shared quite a bit of fishing knowledge with me. When George asked if those were my grunts that were left behind, I told him it was the kids. When the kid later returned, George gave him a lesson but the kid simply tossed the fish up into the air for the Man-O-War birds to fight over the dead fish.

The morning flew by quickly and soon the lunch bell rang at 12pm. We had some chicken salsa tortillas for lunch with fresh watermelon juice that was spiced with a bit of ginger. Really interesting and refreshing taste.

Midday was really hot during the summer in Belize. Instead of fishing, I lounged on the hammock until the couple next door asked if I wanted to go snorkeling. They were a family of three from Washington DC with a one year old son. It was a small island and the ladies at the cabins were real friendly, so they entrusted their napping son to the ladies while we went for a 45 minute snorkel. I'm still mad that I forgot to bring my camera with me since we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray from a pretty close distance and there was also a school of a dozen large tarpon in deeper water. There was a lot of cool reef fish on the outer side of the reef. Lots of soft coral and sponges grew healthy and tall.

After snorkeling, I lounged on the hammock again for a nap, only to wake up an hour later craving for more species hunting in the afternoon. I had about 1.5 hours before dinner so I tried to find a nearby spot to try. (Seriously, the term "nearby" is all relative. On this island, if I had to walk about 3 minutes away, it was pretty "far" LOL).

At the dock next to me, I saw these little damselfish with yellow tails. There were some dark blue juveniles with bright cyan spots. I'm pretty sure these were Yellowtail Damselfish juveniles and the darker damselfish with the yellow tails were the adults. I caught one of them but the tail was not as brilliantly yellow out of the water. I knew what I saw and caught even though the picture can't seem show the species characteristics well.

Yellowtail Damselfish (Microspathodon chrysurus) - Species #337

Just a little further, there was a shallow area full of small shells. Hiding among the shells were little fish. These turned out to be Frillfin Goby. They were very easy to catch but very difficult to photograph in the fading light. Here's a picture on one I caught the next day.

Frillfin Goby (Bathygobius soporator) - Species #338

Dinner time came around again and we were served the fresh snapper caught last night.

What I love about traveling is the people I often meet. A few more guests had arrived today, including a family from Guatemala and two young guys from the UK who just got into medical school. There were a lot of interesting conversations during dinner.

After dinner, I returned to my night shift work again. Just like clockwork, I caught two snappers quickly before tossing out the heavy rod. As I was looking down, I saw a Yellow Stingray cruising by. Of course, it left before I could even get my line in.

I still had the Ballyhoo with me so I scored the fish a few times and chucked it out whole hoping for something big. Maybe a bigger Yellow Stingray would find it.

Some time during the night while I was admiring the stars, my Baitrunner start clicking with a steady pull. The fish was not running real fast so I let it run for about 20 seconds before reeling tight to set the circle hook. Somehow, the hook didn't set but the leader came back kinked. I suspected it was a big stingray that had vacuumed the bait into its cavernous mouth but the circle hook simple couldn't find the right jaw structure for the hookset. It was a real bummer since I felt the fish for a couple of seconds and it felt like a nice fish.

After running out of large bait, I tried to soak squid heads again but there was no taker except for a couple of snappers that busted me off on the reef bottom.

By 12pm, I called it a night since the wind was really picking up. A storm was coming!

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