Captain Gene picked me up at the Belize airport, and we drove down to Stann
Creek town in his tattered old pickup truck which we proceeded to load up with supplies
along the way. There were plenty of foodstuffs - sacks of rice, beans, flour, sugar,
and cans and cans of everything. Fresh fruit also came aboard by the bag full. Oh,
and yes, we added a case of rum and a couple of cases of beer.
When we got to Stann Creek town, we transferred all our supplies from the truck
to Kelly's boat and set off to the Caye. Man, it looked like a tropical paradise,
even from a distance, with palm trees laden with coconuts and surrounded by clear,
We tied up to a little dock and made several trips back and forth to the house with
the supplies. It was a pleasant walk from the dock on the bay side to the house which
faced the open sea, the Caribbean. You can stand on the front porch and see the deep
blue water on the other side of the reef.
The most beautiful place on the face of the earth that I've ever seen was South
Water Caye, Belize. I fished there a couple of times in the ate 60's and early
70's with Captain Gene Kelly, who ran the only fishing camp in the area. Here's how
the first trip went.
When all the stuff was in the house, I went back to the boat for my personal
gear, and began to assemble my rods. I got a light spin rig together, snapped on
a salty dog, and took a few casts. A salty dog is a pink rubber shrimp tail on a
pink jig head, and was a very popular lure for Long Island weakfish. On cast four
or cast five, something jumped on the jig, and started screeching out drag. When
I got him to the dock, looked in the water, and saw a bonefish, my eyeballs almost
fell out of my head. Imagine that! My first bonefish! In two minutes of blind casting
from a boat that was tied to the dock. On a Salty Dog, yet. Oh, boy.
I raced back to the house to tell Capt. Kelly - "I caught a bonefish!" I panted.
He never even looked up from what he was doing. "Oh, yea - there's a million of them
out on the flats outside" he said. "We'll catch plenty"
We did, too. In the days to come, we caught them on jigs, we caught them on bait,
and we caught them on flies. Fantastic.
What we fished for mostly, though, was grouper and snapper. We would go out in the
boat in the morning, and fish with tiny jigs for blue runners or small yellowtails.
They would go in the live well. Then we would break out the heavy rods, 4/0 stuff,
and tie a large single hook on the end of the 50 lb. mono. A live blue runner or
yellowtail was hooked through the lips and slowly trolled about 50 or 60 feet behind
the boat. It was very exciting fishing.
When something big came up after the baits, you got to see the action. Big grouper
and big snapper would come up and snatch the bait right off the surface. Then you
had to give him time to eat, but you had to hit him and turn him before he got back
down to one of the many coral caves and crannies on the bottom. When you hit him,
with the drag socked up, it felt like he was going to yank you right out of the boat.
Barracuda, too, would attack a surface swimming bait. They were not abundant enough
to be a nuisance, but only added to the fishing excitement. Sometimes a 'cuda would
slash up and bite a bait in half. Then he would swim off with the tail half. If you
quickly switched to free spool, and dropped the head half of the bait, still bleeding
and twitching, and let it sink down, down deep, a grouper or snapper might grab it
before it hit the bottom. It was almost as if the big lazy grouper or snapper would
follow the 'cuda around, waiting for it to bite something in half, waiting for an
Each day on South Water Caye was a new adventure. We fished inshore, we fished offshore,
we fished bait, we fished lures. We caught dozens of different kinds of fish. But
soon, too soon, it was time to go home.
On departure day Capt. Kelly and I were having a delicious breakfast prepared
by his housekeeper and cook, Cecelia, who was born and raised here. I was sad because
I was leaving. "This place is Paradise on Earth" I said to Cecelia. "You are so lucky
to live here". I went on and on about it.
Finally Cecelia voiced her opinion. "It's nice here", she said, "but me and
my boyfriend, we are saving all our money. We want to move to Chicago."