In Praise of Peacocks
It would take hundreds of pages to review the stupendous success of peacock bass in South Florida-both it’s introduction and proliferation. The excellence of the fishery in the Sunshine State is such that it is no longer essential to travel to the Amazon to enjoy a truly viable fishery for this colorful battler. While South America boasts the largest specimens, Florida offers vast populations of good-sized fish that will challenge any flyfisher or light tackler. The following images were taken on trips with Captain Butch Moser of Delray Beach and land guide Hai Truong of Miami. Also pictured are Gus Montoya and the late Captain Ken Collette.
Today I decided to head out and do a little scouting my home waters of Tampa Bay.. ….. We just had a nice front came in with temperature in the 30’s. This might not seem too cold for many up north but for Tampa it is pretty darn cold especially for species like Snook.
I launched the boat at Bishop’s Harbor and did some fishing out front. It was somewhat dead, not a lot of bait around. All of the sudden we see a gigantic push coming out way. Some large dolphin were chasing a school of fish. We cast and cast in front and into the school but they wanted nothing to do with us. As they pass I realized they were school of a big 10 to 15lb jacks! I would have loved to get one but they were in no mood.
We moved to the back country started to spook redfish in pot holes…. this was no different than the jacks.. these fish even when we waded to them were very spooky and wanted nothing.
After being rejected again we moved even further back as the tide comes in. This time we find snook, big ones….. yup you guessed it.. again they wanted nothing. The water temperature must have been way too cold.
We decided to head in and we saw some bonnet head sharks on the sand flats. We didn’t have any bait and usually these things don’t eat artificial. I then remember I had some Savage gear crab and shrimp .. these things are 3D scanned and they look very very life like.
After learning to cast and do the proper presentation the sharks were totally fooled by these lures. We had lots of opportunity and landed 4 of the sharks sight fished on artificial which was very fun.
The key is be right in front of them about 2 to 3 feet. Once they see it fall they go crazy looking for it. These crabs have excellent action. I can’t wait to try the 1″ Manic Crab on a permit!
This is Captain Brandon Mullar and Lauren Alvarez a couple friends on mine down in the Duck Keys. Brandon is passionate about catching sword fish and is very consistent at catching them especially during the day time.
Here is a photo of them with a 500lb fish caught this last fall.
I also had a chance to shoot a video of how he rig his squid for day and night time sword fishing. He also said it works well trolling for Marlin.
A short go-pro video of myself and Jeremy Chavez throwing popper to bull redfish in the Louisiana marsh
Sun came out and stayed out the past week, here are a few photos from the past week in the Louisiana marsh.
Benton getting slimed by a 38 pound black drum on the fly.
Cooper with a nice bull red on a windy day
34 pound redfish before 9:30 am
Slicked out morning run
Benton with a 26 pound redfish we found blowing up on mullet
Capt. Ben Paschal
In Praise of Permit
Here are some images of the permit I’ve pursued, caught, and released in Florida, Mexico/Yucatan, Belize, Roatan, and Little Cayman Island. In my opinion, they are the planet’s cagiest flats fish when pursued on jigs and flies. Catching them on an artificial is something to be proud of. One of the highlights of my angling career is the release of nine- yes, nine !- permit in one day out of Belize River Lodge. This was documented by Guide Raul Navarette and Mike Heusner, who gave me the magic lure- a white 1/4 ounce Popeye skimmer jig. In balance, these were young eager, fiercely competitive fish in three schools of approximately one hundred fish. The other permit I am most proud of was the (now-EX) World record permit of 23 pounds 15 ounces on 4-pound test.
This morning I took the long lens and walked the preserve at Corck Roach Bay. I was the only one out there and there were plenty of birds.
Wanted a of the Red Hawk that was fly around but couldn’t really get close enough for a good shot.
I want to shoot some hunting images very soon, Duck which just closed and Turkey season coming up.
Star Date Jan 26th 2015, Tampa Florida (a little Star Trek Geek reference)
I tried to do some fishing Friday morning and I have to say after being out there for 3 hours and only a catching a micro snook I was quite disappointed.
I had figure before the Saturday front the fishing would be good, I was completely wrong. The lack of bait the lack of mullet in the area It was a tough morning.
This Sunday with the winds down I figure I would try some winter spots near the river. Again, it was virtually empty. It wasn’t too long ago I told you the snook were near their spring area but with the ever changing conditions and the mild winter they are moving in a very unpredictable pattern. Well at least that is my excuse.
We struggled with working mullet schools if we found them. I did manage to catch a decent trout and a rat red over some patchy grass pothole area.
I was tired of blind casting and not getting any bites. It was a sunny day for a change so I decided to relaunch in a area where the bottom would be sandy. This way if there were fish there at least I could see them. Seeing them makes me feel like I”m not casting in vain. After all rule number one of catching fish is “fish where the fish are at”
We loaded up the Sandpiper and relaunched about noon. This way the sun would be high and the visibility would be idea.
We ran to about 2′ of water and put the trolling motor down. I wasn’t concern about spook fish at this point, I just wanted to see them to build confidence. At last I would know we were not just casting to sand.
We started to spook a few fish so I put the trolling motor on low and worked areas that were 2′ to 3′ of water. Most of the fish we saw were very spooky and we had no chance.
A few did eat however which made up for the first part of the day.
What did they eat? We were using the Logic lure in gold body and black back. I tried a silver color and they did not like that at all. Using the 1/16oz worked best as the 1/4oz made too much of a splash.
After a few reds we lost the light and called it day about 3pm. All we saw were redfish, the snooks after this front, I believe have moved back towards their winter area.
Logic lure rigged weedless Gold body with black back soft plastic with a 1/16oz jig head was the lure of choice.
Using braid 10 to 15lb test will allow you to cast a good distance. I was using a 40lb leader but for reds you can use 20lb leader no problem.
My first experience fishing with Captain Rick Grassett of Sarasota was in the fall of 2013. About six months prior, he and I consulted about specific dates. The two days that he chose for us to fish landed smack dab in the midst of a huge southerly baitfish migration graced by fair skies and light winds.
Our early predawn start rewarded us with lots of snook under the dock lights of Sarasota Bay. Once the sun rose, we headed out to the Long Bar and continued to catch snook supplemented by chunky seatrout. On this first day we used the balance of our hours to fish the shallow flats to catch a redfish. An hour before quitting time, I caught and released a nice redfish and completed my Sarasota Slam.
The first three hours of day two were a carbon copy of the fast snook and then, trout action as the day before. But Rick and I were determined to meet up with the parade of baitfish schools barely a football field off the beach of Sarasota’s famed Coastal Gulf. Once we entered these grounds from the north side of Longboat Key, we sped over to a wreck loaded with huge Spanish mackerel that exploded our silver topwater plugs. Within an hour of this insane action, the Gulf waters eupted in a froth of action as huge schools of mackerel and big bonito (A.K.A. albies) savaged the terrified baitfish.
And the beauty of these two marvelous days of sportfishing was that it was done casting only artificial lures. Besides the aforementioned topwater plugs, Rick had a veritable tackle shop of D.O.A. soft plastic lures aboard his Action Craft skiff- and they all worked marvelously.
A Year Later-
Almost twelve months later after this marvelous trip, my friend Alan Williams and I were headed back to fish with Captain Rick in the midst of this stupendous fall season. The logistics would be the same. Our lodgings was the Inn on Siesta Key, a wonderful Key West-style venue right across from one of the finest beaches in the world. Each of the next two mornings Alan and I would meet Rick around dawn at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, his base of operations and an astonishing multi-purpose retail, charter, and boat rental enterprise dedicated to the marine life of boating, fishing, and so much more. As Alan and I headed north along Siesta Key Beach towards the Inn, we noticed a cloud configuration that could a spectacular sunset. And it delivered beyond our expectations.
As Alan and I ate dinner, we both wondered whether this spectacular cloud display did not presage an impending weather system. We checked the weather back at our room at the Inn and the TV weatherman confirmed that a cold front was headed our way in Sarasota. We estimated that our first day of fishing with Rick would not be badly affected by the front, but day number two would indeed feature blowy frosty winds from the north.
By the time we met Rick at CB’s the first morning, he already had a game plan in place that would factor in the approaching front. When we first launched his skiff, The Snookfin-Addict, Rick headed straight for a pass to fish the open Gulf for mackerel and albies. Although the front had not yet arrived, the pass was too churned up to let us through. Rick turned the skiff and headed to a southwestern shore of Sarasota Bay. He slowly idled onto some shallow flats and when he spotted large schools of jumping mullet, he cut the engine. As he poled about a hundred yards towards our target area, he explained that there should be redfish and snook amongst the mullet.
Alan requested a topwater plug and Rick complied. My own feeling was that an approaching front might keep these fish lower in the water column, so I asked Rick to give me a light spinner rigged with a D.O.A. swimbait. While we did see a couple large schools of redfish, they were spooky and on the move. The snook, however were hungry and eagerly attacked my soft plastic lure.
We also caught a few nice trout on the flats but were now hunkering for some variety. So Rick headed for the deeper flats of central Sarasota Bay. The wind was increasing so he put out a sea anchor to give us a perfect drift. It was here that we hit a jackpot with our D.O.A. jigs and caught flounder, grouper, jacks, ladyfish, seatrout, and bluefish.
Day two dawned with 30 M.P.H. winds out of the north and air temperatures in the fifties. This caused Rick to launch in Little Sararsota Bay. This gentleman of a captain fished these conditions all the way down to Englewood to give us some satisfaction. Alan was top rod with a snook and a flounder for the day.
As always, fishing with Captain Rick was a pleasure, I hope to fish with him again soon.
Captain Rick Grassett
The Wingmaster Sandpiper 150 is a microskiff built out of Lakeland Florida. Larry Nolan the owner, has been building boats for over 15 years. As you can imagine he has built and help, design, and test many very popular boats that are around today.
Larry contacted me to use the first skiff in his Wingmaster line up. Most boat manufacturers as you might guess, hate it when you say something negative about their boat but Larry wanted constructive criticism. He wanted any and all input good or bad.
As I write this review January 2015 I have used the skiff on and off now for almost three months. I did not just run the boat in circles for 15 minutes an write a boat review. I have fished Florida everglades , Louisiana marshes and Texas waters. Caught snook, trout, tarpon and giant bull reds. I’ve ran it skinny enough to run aground(and a couple of oyster bars) in deep waters for bull reds, in slick calm and in choppy conditions. I’ve ran it solo, with 2 people and overloaded it with even 3 people on board. Used the trolling motor and poled the skiff in calm and windy conditions. I feel like I know the skiff pretty well.
What I am trying to say is I will be very straight forward about this review. No eloquent words, no beating around the bush talking about history of skiffs, who what when and where etc. This will be straight forward break down of my likes and dislikes.
First let me say you are reading a perspective from a person that likes to fish inshore from a microskiffs. I have own several of them in my time.
Microskiffs is not a do it all boat. If you are looking to fish offshore and run rough waters click away now. This is not a boat for you. You are wasting your time.
If you like to fish skinny, fish alone at times, fish with one other person, have decent balance and want ease of maintenance a microskiff in my opinion, is the way to go. You get to fish waters that kayakers fish but get the range and comfort only limited few have access to.
Being a kayak fisherman I’ve always looked at Google map and wonder; If I could only get there in my kayak I bet that creek my big boats can’t get in is full of fish. Of course it was just too much of hassle to use a mother ship but too long to paddle there. With a boat like the Sandpiper I could get there in comfort and fish those remote creeks. Let me tell you, I was right about not all, but many of those remote creeks.
As to not fill these pages with meaningless babble I will break them down into sections so we can get to the point much faster.
Looks/Fit and finish:
If you are familiar with may of the early microskiffs the fit and fish has been very lacking. These days they are very sharp looking and the Sandpiper is no exception. The Sandpiper especially with the aluminum trailer that it comes with is a very nice looking boat. Nothing to be embarrassed about at the ramp. It truly looks like you are towing a small legit skiff. When I was towing it to Texas and back I must have gotten stopped 6 times with people wanting to check out the boat. Pretty much at every gas station you can immediately tell who was the fisherman there.
Stability is always a tricky question to answer. If you have never been in a small boat you will think it is “tippy”. However if you have ridden in a small boats before you will be pleasantly surprise how stable it is. Is it for polling for tarpon on the beach with 3 foot swells in 8 feet of water? Absolutely not. Poling the flats in 3′ or less of water sight fishing? No problem. On the front deck putting a 35qt yeti cooler is stable and works perfect for a casting deck. The only time I had a stumble on the boat is when I tried to use a small 17 qt cooler as a casting deck.
If you look at the front of the Sandpiper you can see the chine that works a secondary stability. I find hull slap an issue on two occasions. When I’m idling into waves it lifts the bow up creating air space making slapping noise as the water hits it. The other is when I lean too much left or right when I’m fishing again creating air space and allowing water to slap.
That being said, I have fished on the bow, going into head waves as well as quartering waves the boat is super quiet. In Tampa, where on a normal skiff it is tough to even get close our highly pressured redfish I am able to get within 15′ of of them.
Conclusion: The boat is super quiet as long as the bow is down. It will create noise if all your weight is in the back of the boat lifting the bow too high. The boat balanced with two people or if you are fishing alone and fishing the front, it is very quiet.
I have ran the boat with a 15 Tohatsu 4 stroke as well as a 20hp. Both are the same weight so obviously I like the faster option. Getting on plane is not an issue even with 3 people(yes over loaded).
The skiff will run in about a foot of water. This is not a tunnel so it will not run in 6″ of water. It does however float in 6″ of water.
Anything over 1′ you will get wet. There is no way around the laws of physics unfortunately. These are small boats when it’s choppy and windy, to avoid spray you are just gonna need a bigger boat.
That being said, compared to other boats its size, the ride quality is good.
Speaking of water, if water does get in, this is one of the few microskiff I have been in that has a partial false floor. The partial false floor keeps the cockpit flat and drains the water to the back and your gear stays out of the water.
Porpoising was a none issue once the motor was positioned right.
Standing and running with a tiller extension I did feel like I needed more room so I ask them to move the console up a few inches on the next build.
Gas millage you can expect 6 to 10 mpg depending on load and if you run full throttle or not. I rarely use more than one gallon per fishing trip.
The boat turns great, no sliding. I did a lot of zigging and zagging in the everglades mangrove tunnels.
I do find I need to remove the tiller extension to get the best performance on tight turns.
These speed test are real world loads. Fishing gear, a cooler and me weighing around 200lbs.
15 hp I was able to get 23 to 25 mph
20 hp I was able to get 26 to 28 mph
overload test: 3 people on a 20hp I was able to get 22 mph
If you get out of the boat you can float in about 4″ but for practicality 6″ is a honest estimate.
Like most microskiff poling is very easy due to their lightweight nature. This is pretty simple with one person in front and me poling. The boat tracked very straight does not drift or bow steer (sticky bow). I’ve poled into the wind and into quartering seas and the boat is quiet. The times I did constantly hear noise was when poling down wind. I stopped and waves hits the transom creating noise.
The trailer looks great and carries the boat real well. It comes with 2 pvc poles with built in reflectors for easy launch ad loading. It was custom made just for this skiff and is fully aluminum.
It is not low enough to dry launch. The wheels will have to be about a little more than halfway in to launch. You also need to pull the motor up or the skeg will drag on you.
There is 3 locations for storage. The bow/under the deck house a gas tank and there is enough room for a couple life jackets. It has a small lip to keep water out in case it gets in.
In the console there is enough room for a large battery and a charger.
Under the rear deck though it does get wet back there.
4 molded rod holders. All 4 are long enough to fit fly rods no problem.
The skiff sells for about $8.000.00 for boat, motor and trailer.
It is an all Carbon Kevlar build with nicely above average fit and finish.
If you are looking for something that just to get on the water and looking to spend as little as possible this is not the boat for you.(the value is not there for you)
This is a boat for someone that wants looks, performance and a quality build not found in many microskiff. A person that don’t mind spending a little more to get what they want.
The pricing is quite fair considering the build quality and components involved.
For those looking for this type of microskiff the Wingmaster Sandpiper 150 is definitely worth a look.
Sandpiper 150 specs
Dry Weight: 300 lbs
Occupancy: 2 people or 500 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3gal removable gas tank
Transom Height: 20″
Max Horsepower: 20HP
Max Engine Weight: 115lbs
5 Year Limited Hull Structural Warranty
Custom Carbon Kevlar Hull
All White Hull, Deck Gelcoat(options available)
Custom Full Deck Non-Skid
Vinyl Rub Rail
Vacuumed infused solid core
Stainless Pull Up Cleat
Custom console and grab rail
LED navigation lights
Horizontal Rod Holders
15hp Manual Start
Custom full aluminum trailer
One of the cool thing about a small boat is the ability to go fishing and not worry about dealing with the hassle of a large vessel. I mean loading it, gas, launching, and the worst part , cleaning it.
Since we did the Breathe like Fish apparel shoot on Saturday I had to deal with all media Sunday. This leaves little time to actually get to fish.
The sun was out the tides was good so I figure I would try to get out for a couple hours. I am still using the Sandpiper 150 by Wingmaster. This 14′ 8″ boat is easy to deal with and if I use a gallon of gas that day it was a long run. The boat gets 8 to 10 miles to the gallon.
With a larger boats I have to worry about where I could launch and where I could fish. This small boat I can float and fish almost anywhere there is a body of water. Launching on a dirt ramp on low tide? no problem.
Now to the fishing.
As you might know 2014 was the warmest year since we started keeping track of weather in 1878. If you are on the other side of the climate change stuff the fish seem to believe this as well.
I must report that if you fish Tampa bay, the snook are not in their winter areas. I saw lots of snook in the spring area and were very active.
I actually want it to be cold so the fish are more concentrated. For the big trout to show up where I live it also needs to be cold and that has not been the case.
Snooks are abundant however. I caught a few small snooks and even saw a tarpon rolled. We are in the middle of January it should be a few degrees colder.
Usually I do well on jigs this time of year but right now the suspending mirrordine has been working great as well as the jerk baits.
I only manage to be out there for about 2 hours but the bite was good. No big fish but I did see plenty around.
Get ready for an early spring guys.. the fishing should be good real soon.
If you want to know how to use the mirrordine.