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Roatan: A Triple-Win for Anglers
by Jan Stephen Maizler


Though I've flats fished from Abaco to Tahiti, I was always curious about Roatan as a unique, exotic, yet economically do-able destination for most flats fishermen. My research indicated that it had three major features, which made it a one-of-a-kind island.

Before discussing these, let's back up to the basics. Many of you may not have heard much about Roatan. This island and a few others comprise the Bay Islands that lie about forty miles north of the Caribbean coast of Honduras. If you traced a southward-moving line through the more famous islands off Belize, then traced that line eastward by following the perpendicular shift of the landmass, you'd find Roatan.

The three characteristics that almost compelled me to visit Roatan were the following: Firstly, unlike most other Mexican and Belizean islands, Roatan's environment was lush, mountainous, and undeveloped. A friend told me that you could sleep on the beaches next to the mountains under brilliant starry skies and wake up to little clouds of hummingbirds as a prelude to your day of fishing. Secondly, the waters of Roatan boasted coral reefs second to none in the Caribbean, and the best thing was that this treasure was a mere 50 yards offshore! Imagine what a nice snorkel break this could provide during a day of flats fishing. Because Roatan has a diver's emphasis, it has fishing habitat that is relatively unpressured: this is the third big feature. My research yielded stories about flats that offered plenty of tailing permit, bonefish, and ocean tally. Its mangrove-lined bights were said to house plenty of small snook and tarpon. Last but not least, Roatan's drop-off is so quick, you'd be hooking tuna and wahoo five minutes from the shoreline.

In my research, I made a decision to stay away from the more touristy west side of the island that was so frequented by divers. I decided on the Tropical Beach Resort for many reasons. It was located on Calabash Bight, which offered tarpon fishing not 5 minutes from the lodge, and the most substantial flats were only 30 minutes away. The reef was only a minutes swim from the shoreline, and I learned that the beachside resort was covered with palm, pecan, and noni trees. This would be a great place to kick back when not fishing.

The owners, Rod and Jean Christensen, had done an excellent job with amenities at Tropical Beach Resort. Each cabana had air conditioning, cable T.V., hot showers, and comfortable beds. The meals were first class with plenty of meat, seafood, and vegetables, and could be cooked American or Honduran style. The resort has two excellent pangas: one for the flats, and one for the reefs, with dependable Yamaha motors. I was sold on this perfect combination, and promptly made my reservations.

The airline arrangements were simple with plenty of choices. Solair flies direct from Miami on a weekly basis. Taca Airlines and its partners access Roatan from Houston, New Orleans, and Miami through San Pedro Sula on the Honduran mainland, then to Roatan via twin-engine plane.

Rod was there at the airport to meet my friend Art and myself. An hour later, we hit the sack at the resort in air-conditioned comfort. The next morning we would be fishing crunchy reef flats with Kevin for three days. We would also fish the Roatan bights with Perry for tarpon and snook for the remainder of our time, approximately two days.

How We Did

Since our trip was during the rainy season, which corresponds to Florida's winter season, we encountered showers about half of the time. There was rarely much thunder and the fish seemed not in the least bothered by the rain. I spent three days fishing, and the other two sightseeing in the mountains, shooting film, and snorkeling. Those three days of fishing provided more than enough action.

I cannot recall seeing more tailing permit anywhere, Belize included. Sometimes I would see six schools of a dozen fish each inside a football-sized field of flats. A properly cast crab style fly or hermit crab was grabbed about half of the time. The flat calm waters of the rainy season made our challenge greater. My biggest permit that I hooked was over 20 pounds and was lost when the fish frizbeed itself up and over the reef and down the drop-off. The same for an ocean tally of the same size hooked on light spin.

In between the tailing permit were schools of bonefish to 6 pounds, and small pods of tailing ocean tallies to 20 pounds. I caught and released more than enough bonefish and permit on those flats. All three species of tailing fish were numerous. In the remaining days we explored the mangrove-lined bights, bays, and creeks for snook and tarpon. The fish were there, but were especially receptive to bonefish sized bucktails tipped with shrimp fished on a 30 pound fluorocarbon leader.

While Art fished, Rod and I took the big panga out over the reefs for some snorkeling. These reefs are clearly some of the best in the entire Caribbean, and offered an incredible diversity of fish and different corals. It was clear why Rod and Jean opened Tropical Beach Resort: they were living the good life! I plan to rejoin them soon, and live some good Roatan life myself.

 

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