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Old 06-28-2007, 01:28 AM   #1
ApneaSpearo
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Spearfishing in Belize

Day 1:

We arrived in Belize on Tuesday and were hoping to get out to the reef on Wednesday but heavy winds and 8+ foot swells made that impossible. The weather is usually very predictable in the summer (calm wind, isolated rain showers) but during our trip the weather got in the way quite a bit. The weather was supposed to be nice on Thursday so we decided to plan a trip out to the barrier reef which is the second longest barrier reef in the world (behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). Although freedive spearfishing is legal in Belize there arenít many guys there that do it, so David, the owner of the Spiritwind Resort in Dangriga, asked around for someone with experience that was willing to take my wife and I spearing. A friend of a friend of Davidís was willing to take us out to the reef and we head out the next morning to meet up with Omar. Omar likes to spearfish but doesnít get to do it all that often so he is most comfortable spearing in 15-30 feet of water (his smoking habit probably isnít helping either ). He talks about massive muttons and big hogs on the 40-minute boat ride out to the barrier reef which is music to my ears. We get to his favorite shallow spot and I gear up and jump in the crystal clear water. We are in about 20 feet of water over a grass bed that ends at a nice patch reef. There are ornamental fish everywhere but the only edible fish that we spot is a hog that Omar expertly dispatched with his freeshaft gun. Spearguns are almost impossible to find in Belize and Omarís beat-up and rusty speargun that he paid top-dollar for is evidence of that, he still manages to get quality fish though. He is also a hell of a nice guy and a welcome dive partner. After 30 minutes of fishing the shallow area we decide to change spots and although Omar doesnít do much deep diving we motor over to the barrier reef.

The barrier reef, where we spent 95% of our time, is the most amazing reef structure I have ever seen, with all kinds of huge corals and multitudes of fish. The area we spear in starts with a slow sloping reef from the shallows out to about 70 feet, where it meets sand. The sandy area is only about 200 yards wide and meets the west side of the barrier reef which then rises to within 55 feet of the surface. The top of the barrier reef is about 100 yards wide and ends in ďthe wallĒ which is a straight down drop-off to the abyss, covered with every coral imaginable. We quickly learned that the grouper and snapper were on the east side of the wall, cruising along the wall among massive rays, loggerheads, and barracudas. Omar and I worked the wall as the current steadily moved us south. Omar was diving to about 40 feet so if he saw a fish deeper he would just call me over, it was like having two pairs of eyes!

Due to size restrictions on the airlines I brought a Rob Allen 800 to spear with in Belize and it ended up being a mistake. When the water is crystal clear and you are diving 55-85 feet and spearing fish that are essentially out in the open the range of the 800 is just not enough. Iím used to my comp 3x, which is essentially a 100cm gun, and many of my shots fell short. I had to get right on top of a fish to get a good shot and that was hard to do when they see you coming from a mile away. I made the best of it though and looked for fish in holes instead of shooting the big black snappers that never let me within range. The small spear was also a problem as I had several shots glance off the heads of grouper. Next time I go to Belize I will just pay the oversize baggage fee and bring a bigger gun.

We dove with the current and there were plenty of black and nassau groupers on the wall, although many were pretty small. I ran into several massive black snapper (in the 25-30 pound range) and had several shots fall short and even more frustrating than that was when my spear would connect but not have the power to pass through the fish. While breathing up on the surface at one point I see a nice black coming down the outside of the wall. I cut my breathe-up short and head down to intercept. He had passed under me so when I hit the top of the reef I was swimming north against the current and hugging the reef to stay out of view. This actually worked well for me cause he didnít see me until I was right on top of him. He turned broadside and I let out a shot at 6 feet or so, striking him high on his back. He holed up a little further down the reef in 75 feet and so I headed back the surface to get some air. Huge 30-40 pound barracudas came racing in so I dove back down to retrieve the fish before it became dinner for something else. I didnít have a scale but the black was 34 inches, I was really excited to get it and glad to get the first fish on the boat.

During the next couple of hours we get several more fish including a few nassaus and blacks that werenít as big as my first one. There were huge spotted eagle rays and turtles everywhere, working the wall for their dinner. Then, near the end of the day, I spot a big nassau head from the surface and dive on him. Heís in a small trench on top of the reef and so I dive to the end of the trench and come around some coral to meet him head-on. I fire a poor shot at 8 feet that glances off the grouper's head. I was pissed cause this nassau was a tank compared to the ones we had been seeing all day. I decided to dive again on his hole in the hopes that I could find him and was pleased to find him just outside. This time I had a nice broadside shot. He wasnít going to go down easy though and holed up tight in 55 feet. I dove back down and was going to reach in his hole and pull him out by the gills but when I looked in the hole behind him I saw an eel head staring back at me. Instead Omar gave me a ďhook stickĒ which is exactly what it sounds like, a stick with a hook on it, and I tried in vein to pry him out for the next 30 minutes. I ended up grabbing Omarís speargun and putting another shot into the nassau which put an end to the struggle and headed to the surface with my 35-inch nassau, it was a freakin tank, and dwarfed my black. It was a fine end to the spearing and we headed back shallow so that I could snorkel with my wife for a bit.

The nassau just after getting him out of the hole



My nassau and black grouper


Last edited by surfunc; 06-28-2007 at 01:41 AM.
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Old 06-28-2007, 01:29 AM   #2
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Day 2

On the second day we got a late start but headed out to the barrier reef again with Omar. We stayed deep from the very beginning and were a little disappointed that the vis went down to 60 feet from the 100+ we had the previous day. Spotting fish from the surface was a little tougher but it was still much better vis than what I am used to in Ft. Lauderdale so I wasnít complaining. My first batch of drops doesnít produce anything as I couldnít get within range of several nice blacks and snappers. Omar told me that he had seen a nassau duck under some rocks so I went down to check things out. Sure enough, he was sitting in a hole waiting for me, I put a shot through his spine and he went without a fight.

We drift further down the wall and I spot yet another big snapper. Being used to them staying out of range of my 80cm gun I was psyched when this big dog snapper let me come within just a few feet and so I thanked him by stoning him. He ended up being 28 inches and my first dog snapper of the trip.

Moments later I spotted a nice black from the surface that ducked into his hole on the outside wall and so I dove on top of him hoping to add a black to the mix of fish that we had already speared. I get to the hole but heís nowhere to be found. There is, however, a nice mangrove in the hole and he decides to swim out right in front of me. I put a quick shot into his head and get him to the boat.

Late in the day I dove on another big black, this one running for the hills when he saw me coming down. His smaller friend, however, didnít see me coming and so I speared him just behind the gill plate. He holes up in the back of his cave at 65 feet and I have a bad feeling about it. As soon as I surface and look down thereís a 8 or 9-foot reef shark that has joined the party along with plenty of cudas, all looking for dinner. We call the boat over so that I can get the trusty hook-stick and after waiting for the shark to move a little bit off the holed-up grouper I head down. The fish is really deep in his hole and a hard day of diving along with having to watch out for the reef shark adversely affect my bottom time and my attempts to free the fish are only successful in producing cuts on my arms from the coral around the hole. On several occasions I would be working on the grouper and when I would back out of the hole I would see that the damn reef shark snuck up right behind me, fortunately he never got closer than about 15 feet. The sun is getting low in the sky and is behind some clouds making the water very dark at 65 feet, so now I take Omarís speargun and put another shot into what I was hoping was the grouperís head as I couldnít see shit in that hole. I still canít pull him out by his tail and when I try to grab his head from the other side of the hole to pull him through the tether gets in the way. As a last-ditch effort I rest for a few minutes and dive on top of the hole again while watching the reef shark about 40 feet away. I cut the tether that is preventing me from pulling the grouper through the hole and pull Omarís spear out of itís head (his spear doesnít have a tether or a flopper on it). I then grab the grouper by the head and pull him through the hole, rushing to the surface with the fish, my spear, Omarís spear, and my speargun in my arms. My wife, who was in the boat watching me dive on this grouper for 45 minutes, knew about the shark and although she didnít care that I got the grouper she was overjoyed that I was safely back in the boat.

We sped back to the marina as the sun was setting and recounted the story of the grouper to Omarís friends at the marina. They congratulated us for getting the grouper out and for the nice load of fish we brought back. On both days I brought my biggest fish back to the Spiritwind resort and the cooks there filleted up the fish and served it not only to me and my wife but anyone else eating in the resort restaurant, it was cool to see my catch enjoyed by everyone

Two nice snappers from the second day

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Old 06-28-2007, 01:30 AM   #3
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

What the water is like at the beach (definitely no shore dives in Belize, at least from the mainland)



Captain Omar



The crystal clear water near the reef



Visibility was amazing, in this picture my speargun-mounted camera is sitting in 75 feet attached to a holed-up grouper and is pointing at the surface, you can clearly see me on the surface in the top of the picture.



A view of the Belize waters from the airplane

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Old 06-28-2007, 01:32 AM   #4
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

We had booked another day of spearing in an atoll about 20 miles past the barrier reef that supposedly holds much bigger fish as it is rarely visited by fishermen but the weather prevented us from ever going out there. David, the owner of the resort, has agreed to give me a trip out to the atoll next time I head down so Iíll be organizing a short trip in the Fall/Winter, let me know if you want to come along, Iíve got one day of spearing in Belize already covered
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Old 06-28-2007, 02:15 AM   #5
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Very nice post, thanks for sharing.

How long of a boat ride was it to get to the reef from the mainland? Also I remember looking into Belize, I think I still have some DVDs, and I remember it saying that spearfishing was illegal there. Maybe it is illegal in specific areas or the rules changed, I'm going to look into it again. You never know with the guys that took you, maybe it's just not enforced. Either way good for you. Did you find your depth increased with the good visibility?
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Old 06-28-2007, 08:31 AM   #6
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Nice report, good job~

That nassau looks football-shaped...more like a red grouper?
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Old 06-28-2007, 08:48 AM   #7
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

That is awesome ...enjoy your time cris. Slay those fishes nice pics.

I am heading today to Colombia hopefully get to spear some while I am down there.

Have fun

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Old 06-28-2007, 09:10 AM   #8
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Quote:
Originally Posted by PargoAmargo
Very nice post, thanks for sharing.

How long of a boat ride was it to get to the reef from the mainland? Also I remember looking into Belize, I think I still have some DVDs, and I remember it saying that spearfishing was illegal there. Maybe it is illegal in specific areas or the rules changed, I'm going to look into it again. You never know with the guys that took you, maybe it's just not enforced. Either way good for you. Did you find your depth increased with the good visibility?
The boat ride from Dangriga, where we were staying, to the barrier reef was about 40 minutes in a 24-foot panga with 1 60hp outboard in less than 2 foot seas.

Spearfishing on scuba is illegal in Belize and specifically prohibited in the fisheries laws of Belize, but spearfishing while freediving is permitted, I took a printed copy of the Belize law with me to deal with any problems at the airport or from any marine patrol. There are many protected areas where all fishing is prohibited, we avoided those at all times.

My depth did not increase with the increased visibility but I was diving very conservatively because I was diving alone most of the time (Omar would be around, but we weren't doing the one up, one down style that I like to use in Florida when diving 60+).

You should definitely keep Belize in mind if you are trying to find a nice international place to do some spearing, the reef there is amazing, the people are very hospitable, weather is good, and visibility was perfect.
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Old 06-28-2007, 09:28 AM   #9
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stringer Bell
Nice report, good job~

That nassau looks football-shaped...more like a red grouper?
I will be the first one to admit that it looks like a red when it's dead and out of the water but here is a shot from my U/W camera as I was coming down the trench toward the nassau, you can clearly see from the markings that it is in fact a nassau grouper.

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Old 06-28-2007, 10:22 AM   #10
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Nice fish, Especially that mangrove, got one the other day around that size. What kind of underwater camera are you using?
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Old 06-28-2007, 10:43 AM   #11
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Very nice!!!!

I'm glad you enjoyed your vacation


Weather permitting are you joining us this weekend?

and btw...I'm loving the picture of the grouper looking at your spear....LOVIN IT lol...that is a bad ass picture!!!!
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Old 06-28-2007, 10:56 AM   #12
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Nice report!
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Old 06-28-2007, 11:11 AM   #13
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Quote:
Originally Posted by surfunc
We had booked another day of spearing in an atoll about 20 miles past the barrier reef that supposedly holds much bigger fish as it is rarely visited by fishermen but the weather prevented us from ever going out there. David, the owner of the resort, has agreed to give me a trip out to the atoll next time I head down so Iíll be organizing a short trip in the Fall/Winter, let me know if you want to come along, Iíve got one day of spearing in Belize already covered
Kris, nice trip, good shooting! you can count me in for your next trip!

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Old 06-28-2007, 11:12 AM   #14
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Great report and nice fish! Give us a report of the accommodations and your stay at the Spiritwind. Even since I saw the original post to the board by the owner I wondered what it was like. To be truthful I will admit I was doubtful it even existed but I guess this puts that thought to rest. How much was your trip and did you get to see anything other in Belize while you were there. Thanks
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Old 06-28-2007, 12:15 PM   #15
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Re: Spearfishing in Belize

Great report, really enjoyed reading it.
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