Wild Side: Cheeseheads in paradise, againBelize is a small country in Central America on the Caribbean Sea, bordered on the north by Mexico and on the east and south by Guatemala. Carol and I have been going there on vacations nearly every year since 1990.
By: Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist, River Falls Journal
Belize is a small country in Central America on the Caribbean Sea, bordered on the north by Mexico and on the east and south by Guatemala. Carol and I have been going there on vacations nearly every year since 1990.
This year, we were again part of the winter cheesehead invasion of the country with Bill and Sue Smith, and Dwight and Mary Jo Nelson of River Falls, Linda Schreiber of Eau Claire and Jerry and Jean See of Shawano.
Bill and Sue arrived earlier in February in time to cheer on the Packers during the Superbowl game on TV while dressed in flip-flops, shorts and t-shirts. They are long-time visitors to Belize and have become snowbirds, staying in Placencia Village from February into April.
The rest of us arrived in mid-February bringing with us air from up north that made for cold (to our Belizian friends) 70-degree weather, wind and rain. After a few days of variable weather, things settled down into the sunny 80s with easterly trade wind conditions that attracts us there again and again during late winter.
Our Belizian friends are doing well. Janice Leslie owns the Tradewinds Resort in Placencia where we stay in cabanas on the beach. Her resort was nearly full during the time we were there. Her daughter Emily has turned into a beautiful and intelligent young lady.
Our fishing guide friends have been busy. Bruce Leslie guides fly fishermen looking for the holy grail — a “grand slam” of catching bonefish, tarpon and permit all in one day. Bruce doesn’t have to advertise and is booked most days of the year.
I enjoy wading the flats fly fishing for bonefish and permit. Bonefish look like grey suckers with a pointy nose. They are turbo-charged dragsters that can peel 100 yards of line off your reel in seconds. Permits are deep-bodied members of the tuna family with big eyes that feed on crabs. They are very wary and strong. Fishing for permit is so challenging that it’s addictive.
Bruce took Carol and me out onto shallow flats to fish for permit. I made a good cast in front of a school of “tailing” (feeding) permit. When a permit grabbed my imitation crab fly I thought I was onto one. The permit crunched my fly with its molars, bending the hook over. I continued to strip in the line, moving the fly in small jerks like a swimming crab. Several other fish hit the disabled fly. I’ve caught permit before, but never had a series of hits and a clear view of feeding fish like that.
We ventured into Deep River where I caught some energetic young tarpon and big jacks on surface lures. Bruce poled the boat into shallows in Icacos Lagoon, a mangrove estuary in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. I cast a popper near a big snook that took the bait in an explosion of water like a giant largemouth bass.
Bill and Sue Smith went trolling for big fish outside the reef with our friend Eloy Cueavas. They caught black groupers, barracudas and a good-sized king mackerel. Magda of the Shak restaurant cooked up a dinner of delicious mackerel steaks and a tropical fruit salad.
Eloy Cueavas took Carol and me, Bill and Sue Smith and Dwight and Mary Jo Nelson on a long boat ride to his fishing camp on Seal Caye at the southern end of the Belize Reef. We went snorkeling and were amazed at the diversity of life forms. That part of the reef is quite pristine having not suffered hurricane damage in many years.
A vacation in Belize is a great way to relax and shorten a long winter. Travel within the country by small plane is easy. There are many comfortable and affordable places to stay where you can get to know the locals. It’s a great way for us cheeseheads to thaw out and melt a bit in the sun.
Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.