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A Brief Guide On Hunting And Fishing In Belize

Hunting And Fishing In Belize

Hunting and fishing are more than pastimes or leisure activities to many Belizeans. In fact, hunting or fishing is still relied on as a supplementary source of sustenance to many families and the main source of protein to more than a small portion of the population today.

Blessed with more than 40% of the landmass being virgin national parks, coupled with a small population, there is an abundance of game that can be legally hunted in season in Belize. The game animals of the dense jungle are usually smaller than the forest or plains animals of North America, evolution necessitating that they remain smaller to allow free movement through the denser jungle.

Hunting

In Belize, deer, peccary, gibnut, armadillo, iguana, and game birds are all popular game that require a license.

There are two types of licenses available:

Local Hunter License: US$5 per day.
Annual Hunters License: US$100 per year.

Hunting licenses are valid for personal consumption only, and meat must not be sold without a valid game meat dealers license (US$1,000 per year).

For all queries and applications contact the Forestry Department at wildlife.fd@ffsd.gov.bz or call +(501)822-1524.

The following must be presented when applying for a license at the Forestry Department in each district.

  • Completed application form;
  • Valid gun license;
  • Valid ID;
  • Payment for the permit.

Hunting season is currently closed for the following animals for these periods:

Odocoileus VirginianusBrocket Deer (Odocoileus Virginianus): a small-sized jungle dwelling deer much prized for its excellent meat.

White-Tailed Deer: Larger and more commonly seen and caught than the brocket deer.

Closed Season:
July 1 to Sept. 30 for males.
July 1 to Feb. 29, 2017 for females.

PeccaryPeccary (Tayassu Pecan): These tasty medium-sized new-world pig/boar cousins weigh between 40 to 90 lbs. They make for a more interesting hunt and have a rich, gamey meat.

Closed Season: June 1 to Nov. 30.

Gibnut Gibnut (Cuniculus paca): My personal favorite, these 15- to 25-lb. rodents are lovingly referred to as the “royal rat” after the Queen of England bravely sampled some while in Belize and declared it was “quite nice really.” Nocturnal and noisy, requiring little practice to stalk, their lean meat tastes of pork and, I’ll tell you personally, it’s really good.

Closed Season: Jan. 1 to May 31.

ArmadilloArmadillo (Dasypus Novemcinctus): Care needs to be taken to remove the several glands of the armadillo, especially those of the males before cooking. Locally cleaned and grilled in its shell, it is very popular for its exotic nature and specific flavour. These slow-moving critters should be cooked thoroughly.

Closed Season: Feb. 1 to June 1.

Iguana Green Iguana: Locally referred to as “Bamboo Chicken,” these large lizards (up to 5 feet long) are a local favorite and are tastiest when young. Due to their small size, hunting with anything more than a small bore weapon will leave you with little to enjoy on the BBQ. Gangs of children often hunt these by hand, and also seek the buried eggs to be eaten raw or boiled in their leathery shells for a rich, tasty snack.

Closed Season: Feb. 1 to June 30.

Dermatemys mawiiHicatee (Dermatemys mawii): This Central American river turtle is prized locally for its rich meat. Dressed in full armour, the hicatee may attain a weight of nearly 50 lbs.

Closed Season: May 1 to May 31.
Minimum Size: Females must be between 15–17 inches.
Allowable amount per hunt: Three hicatee per person, no more than five per car.

Game BirdsGame Birds: The chachalaca, black-throated bobwhite, blue-winged teal, and lesser scaup all make for good hunting and eating in season.

Closed Season: 1 Feb to July 15.

Fishing

The fishing enthusiast has a multitude of options in Belize.

Some fishers of the sea want to grapple rod-to-scale with powerful fighting fish, but many times, once the fish is caught, these triumphant game fishers magnanimously release the quarry back into the big blue wild for future breeding and wishful re-catching.

Kriol 101

“Fishaman neba seh e fish stink”
Literally: “A Fisherman never says his fish stinks”
Meaning: “Self-criticism is rare”

Others fish for their dinner and relish the ancient sense of satisfaction of a belly full of the tasty bounty of their hunt.

We have an abundance of inland fresh-water fishing, shallow-ocean fishing inside the barrier reef, and deep-blue fishing beyond the reef’s coral-covered boundaries.

In marine-protected areas several restrictions on fishing apply: No nets, no long lines, and no traps.

You can get your Belizean fishing license online here.

Fresh-Water Fishing

TarponTarpon: A great fighting fish (salt and fresh water) grows up to 8 feet but are boney and catch-and-release only. These fish can live in oxygen-poor waters, and are a popular game fish; the largest on record is 235 lbs!

Habitat: Found in fresh, brackish water, marine-mangroves, coastal areas, and estuaries. Swim in schools.
Feeding Habits: sardines and anchovies.

Bay SnookBay Snook (Petinia splendida): From the cichlidae family, this funny fish can grow up to 12 inches (or more). In Belize, it is used for both food and as a game fish.

River LobsterRiver Lobster (Macrobrachium Rosenbergii): This is actually a giant fresh-water prawn and is typically caught in small lobster traps or can be snorkeled for. These beauties can grow for years until you have the delight of snagging them.

Nile Talipia (Oreochromis niloticus niloticus): From the perciformes family, this invasive, non-native fish can grow up to 2 feet long and is commonly farmed in Belize. Since its introduction to Belize waters, adverse ecological impacts have been reported in the wild.

Habitat: fresh and brackish water, rivers, lakes, sewage canals, etc.
Feeding Habits: phytoplankton or algae.

Marine Fish

Bone FishBone Fish (Albula vulpes): These prized fighting fish are catch-and-release only, but are one of the favorites of sports fishers here. Bone fish live in inshore tropical waters and move onto shallow mudflats to feed with the incoming tide. Adults and juveniles may shoal together, and they may be found singly or in pairs.

Feeding Habits: benthic worms, fry, crustaceans, and mollusks. Ledges, drop-offs, and clean, healthy seagrass beds yield abundant small prey such as crabs and shrimp.

Trachinotus falcatusPermit (Trachinotus falcatus): These fish are also catch-and-release in Belize but give a wonderful fishing experience. If approached when alone, they attempt to escape human interaction, but if approached when in a school formation, they become aggressive and can deliver dangerous bites.

Habitat: Permit are usually found in shallow, tropical waters such as mudflats, channels, and muddy bottoms and are usually seen as individuals or in small schools. Although found close to shore and even in some brackish areas, they spawn offshore.

Red SnapperRed Snapper (Lutjanus): These tasty eaters are favorites of locals and tourists alike. Often caught inside the reef, they are often served with the head attached to prove it is wonderful red snapper that you’re eating.

Cuberra SnapperCuberra Snapper: Our tasty red snapper’s bigger cousin. Not only are these bigger, but they are more fun to catch!

Fun fact: The greatest recorded weight for a specimen of this species is 57 kg (126 lbs). It is commercially important and is also sought-after as a game fish.

Nassau GrouperNassau Grouper: According to the Fisheries Department, grouper can only be caught in Belize from Dec. 1 to March 31. They also announced that from the 12 spawning areas, fishers with special licenses can only fish in two areas: Northern Two Caye at Lighthouse Reef and Mauger Caye at Turneffe Islands.

Closed Season: Dec. 1 to March 31.
Allowable Catch Size: 20–30 inches.

Spiny LobsterSpiny Lobster: This colorful lobster can be fished for with pots and by free-diving.

Closed Season: Feb. 15 to June 14.
Minimum Size: Cape length allowance is 3 inches, and the minimum tail weight is 4 oz.

Lion FishLion Fish: This voracious invasive predator is devastating to the local fisheries population and is endangering the coral reef. A bounty is payable to those who catch them. Chefs are specifically engineering delicious new dishes to encourage more people to eat this beautiful fish with its painful poison barbs on its body.

Open Season: 24 hours per day, 365 Days per year.

Conch Conch: The giant sea snail’s shell is an iconic emblem of the sea. Delicious in soups or ceviche, even the French are impressed with this size of escargot.

Closed Season: July 1 to Sept. 30.
Minimum Size: Shell length allowance is 7 inches, market clean 2.75 oz.

Come to Belize and sample a myriad of delectable delights of nature… for those of you who are seeking the thrill or adventure of catching your dinner in a manner not too different from the ancient Maya who once ruled these jungle and reefs, Belize is your answer.

Con Murphy
Belize Insider

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