June 27, 2013

U betta Belize it! 2013 (Day 3)

I woke up this morning at 4am to horizontal rain, some howling winds, thunder and lightning. It was the raining season after all, so some rain has to be expected. I tried to soak a bait out in the back porch but the rain basically soaked me within seconds so I had no more desire to try harder. I went to bed again and didn't get up until 6am when the rain turned into a light shower and the wind into a softer trade wind.

It was wet and sandy all over the island so I fished on the back porch for a while only to find nothing big enough to take my #8 hook. After the 8:30am breakfast, the sky cleared and the sun soon dried everything out. It was time to start species hunting again.

I promised myself that this morning is focused on getting some of those difficult reef fish. So I primarily armed with a tanago hook and 2lb test. Don't be fooled...I took 3 rods with me to the dock and one of them was rigged up with wire and a 6/0 circle hook in case the tarpon or barracuda showed up again.

I started trying for Bluehead Wrasse but the darn grunts and Slipper Dick just wouldn't leave me alone. Even the Doctorfish and larger Redtail Parrotfish came into the fray and busted my 2lb mono off a couple of times. I don't mind losing tackle...but those tiny tanago hooks are a biatch to tie!

Finally, I figured it was too silly not to cast a big bait out where while I get pestered by unwanted species. So I went into the shallow water to catch a small grunt. Wouldn't you know it...hiding amongst hundreds of French Grunt and Bluestriped Grunt was a new species!

Smallmouth Grunt (Haemulon chrysargyreum) - Species #339

I used the Smallmouth Grunt as bait since it didn't seem to be very fit to survive a release. I sent it out under a floating bubble hoping for something big.

While I was targeting one of the Bluehead, I heard my rod falling over and the Baitrunner gave a steady pull. I ran to grab my rod (smartly secured to the dock with a carabiner clip rod leash), wait for the run to slow down...only to find it was a small Houndfish messing with my bait. I've yet to catch a Houndfish and of course I tried for a hookset...but a circle hook is not designed to catch these bony jaw fish.

I switch my hook to a 4/0 baitholder hook. Maybe it would give me better hookup percentage.

After sending out a small Yellowtail Snapper as bait, I went back looking for a Bluehead. At last, I was able to catch one of the juvenile, which looks nothing like the terminal phase Bluehead.

Bluehead (Thalassoma bifasciatum) - Species #340

Initial/Juvenile Phase

Terminal Phase

There was a Puddingwife Wrasses that showed up after I released the Bluehead. While trying for it, my Baitrunner ran off again and I had to grab it, but it was a large needlefish playing with my bait again. By the time I came back, the Puddingwife Wrasse was gone.

I noticed a damselfish that was fiercely guarding its territory. It had a very bronze coloured head and dorsal area, plus longer looking fins than the Dusky Damselfish or Beaugregory I had seen or caught so far. Curious about what this fish may be, I tried to get it to bite. It took quite a bit of trying getting it to commit since it was too busy chasing all the wrasse and other damselfish that would swarm into its territory as I dropped the bait near this fish...but finally I had it hooked!

While inspecting it in person, it had decidedly longer dorsal and anal fins reaching past the caudal fin base. I'm confident beyond doubt that it was a Longfin Damselfish even though the camera angle and the resulting picture is a bit questionable. We would catch a few more in the next few days where, time and time again, these damselfish with bronze head and back were proven to be Longfin Damselfish. They were actually very common all over the island and in other areas of Belize.

Longfin Damselfish (Stegastes diencaeus) - Species #341

I also lost a couple of fish that would haunt me for a while. One was a juvenile Striped Parrotfish and the other was a juvenile Princess Parrotfish. I had them on the dock but both somehow twisted off the hook, found the gap between the boards on the dock and fell back into the water before I can even take a picture. Urgh! Also, while fishing the the tanago hook, a Yellow Stingray was working the sandy bottom to hunt for prey. As usual, I was not ready for it. By the time I took off my tanago hook and tied on a #8 baitholder hook, the stingray was gone. These guys were just not giving me a chance!

Just before lunch, I was chatting with a couple of Swedish girls who were snorkeling the seagrass beds by the dock. I told them there was better snorkeling on the outer reefs so we arranged to go there after lunch.

During lunch, I also recruited the Guatemala family and the two UK guys to join me...but most of them fell deep into an after lunch siesta and only the two boys from the Guatemalan family and the two Swedish girls joined in. This time I didn't forget my camera...but we didn't see any large marine animals :(. I didn't take too many pictures since the visibility had decreased a bit due to the morning storm. I was also leading the group so I felt responsible to keep track of everyone at all times.

Still, the snorkeling was great for a spot that you can just slip off the dock, swim around the point and reached the outer reef.

After snorkeling, we hung out a bit and then lounged around a bit. Life is real rough on this island LOL.

Later in the afternoon, a sailing boat tour from Raggamuffin Tour arrived and the population of the island almost doubled! Still, there was room on the dock for me to chase after some fish. I noticed some Redfin Needlefish very close to shore. A tiny bit of shrimp on a #20 hook skimmed on the surface got their attention. After they grabbed the bait, you have to let them take the bait around on a slack line. If they feel any sort of tension, they will spit the bait. True to their name, their dorsal fin is red.

Redfin Needlefish (Strongylura notata notata) - Species #342

I spotted a pair of Blackbar Soilderfish at the base of a dock post but they were super shy. One grabbed a tiny piece of squid and spat it out quickly. I really wish I had some fresh shrimp with me!

While I was attempting for a repeated bite from the Soilderfish, a Yellowtail Parrotfish came out of nowhere to grab my #20 hook tied to the 4lb fluorocarbon. It wasn't even a fair fight. The parrotfish took me into the piling and snapped me off in no time. Darn it! It would have been a new species as well. Argh!

Dinner time was approaching so I decided to pack up. On the way back, I noticed a tight rope and it turned out that the friends of the 2 Swedish girls had arrived via the sailing tour and they had set it up. So we gathered there and walked the tight rope for a while. I don't really have to balance to walk the whole length without any assist yet...so I usually need a shoulder there for a bit of support. One of the girls had been practicing for a long time and it was amazing watching her walk the rope.

Before dinner, I took a couple more pictures of my home away from home.

Dinner as usual was good. We had some Caribbean style meatballs...but I love the sweet ripe plantain most. I also had an extra serving of snapper added to my meal - one of the fish I caught the night before. :)

After dinner, I was back to my usual post fishing the night bite. I kept the Redfin Needlefish for bait and cast out a chunk of it on a 4/0 baitholder hook with a wire leader. The snapper bite was slow and I only landed a small snapper, but about 30 minutes into fishing, my Baitrunner slammed down hard and gave off a mean scream!

I reeled my snapped rod in quickly and grabbed the big rod. Something was running fast and hard on the other end. When I set the hook, I heard some splashing on the surface and the fish ran off about a 100 yards. I tightened the drag some more and finally turned the fish. It had ran off to my left almost parallel to shore. Luckily, it wasn't too close to shore so the cabins next door did not interfere at all. As the fish got closer, I could hear more splashing on the surface. I was guessing it was a stingray. When I finally see some colour, I was a silvery side, a large reflective eye and a forked tail. The thought of a juvenile tarpon crossed by mind and I was getting a bit excited...but then it turned out to be a decent Horse-eye Jack. We put this fish on the scale and it came out to be 4lbs even.

The night bite was really slow tonight so I decided to start packing. I would be leaving Tobacco Caye tomorrow morning on the 9am boat so I had to spend a couple hours to reorganize my gear.

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