The summer heat isn’t the only cause for anglers perspiring at the thought of our National Parks right now. The recent National Park closures have sparked some heat among us fisherman who really enjoy this great resource we have in South FL. Times like these leave me reflecting on the great memories raising Hell in the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks this past summer. Law Enforcement is now patrolling the boundary line entering the ENP from the Keys but I can’t help but feel tempted to cross over and pole some of my favorite flats until the blue lights chase us.
Fall is approaching now as we are adorned by NE winds following the last few storms of the year. As the season takes a shift, so does our fishery. The park closures have kept man out of the glades and there is no telling what we will find when the gates open up once more. I, for one am anxious to get back to my slices of heaven… Everglades and Biscayne National Park.
There is something brewing at Maverick Boat Company. With the revamping of the classic 17 Mirage HPX-V, the HPX-Micro retired to be replaced with a completely new concept. It was time to build a shallow water skiff to much better meet the demands of anglers in today’s market. Introducing, the Maverick Mirage HPX-S.
The HPX-S was redesigned from scratch and implements the latest in space aged material and construction technology that Maverick offers. This is a whole new breed of skiff, as evident by the evolved lines and chines. The new HPX-S has a target draft of less then 6 inches. Speculation suggests the “S” designation either stands for “shallow” or “sub 6″. In today’s world of power choices, it seems a 60 or 70hp motor suits this type of skiff best for holeshot, load carrying capability, and speed; therefore the new HPX-S will carry a 60hp or 70hp max rating. There is much more bow entry on the HPX-S, making for a soft smooth ride when tabs go down and the entry is used to dampen the ride in a big chop. This is the classic sharp entry to near flat deadrise rear design that is very popular in Florida waters; yet this bow’s V is designed much like that of the HPX-V Mirage. At a total length 17ft 8inches, the extra length will allow for a better ride quality in bigger waters as well as help the skiff glide well when pushing from the poling platform. The fact that there are no sponsons will also allow the HPX-S to be very agile on the pole as well as allow the skiff to run with much more bow lift. The slightly rounded transom edges also help in reducing the pressure waves usually sent off when spinning a skiff. To deck configuration has also been updated to reflect the top of the rest of the Mirage fleet with huge bow storage, gas tank against the rear bulkhead, center livewell aft, and 2 side storage compartments aft. It will be very exciting to see the test performance results in the coming weeks as this skiff is set out to be an extremely versatile shallow water technical poling skiff.
Summary of Tech. Specs
Max HP: 60hp or 70hp
Hull Weight: 268lbs
Stay tuned… more to come shortly.
I made the choice to downsize my skiff this year so in the midst of selling my 18 HPX, I researched several v bottom poling skiffs in the 16ft to 17ft range. It really didn’t take long to make up my mind on which skiff would fit my needs. I spend most of my winters and summers poling for redfish and snook in the shallows; tarpon seasons running big open bodies of water to either sit on a wind chopped ocean or pole down laid up poons in backcountry basins; and some months stalking weary bonefish and permit on the flats when conditions get snotty. This required a skiff that is able to pole in less then a foot of water, move around quietly, and handle like a sports car on the pole while producing the least amount of pressure wake possible; all while being seaworthy enough to get there and back safely and comfortably when conditions get rough. Was there one perfect do it all technical poling skiff to get this job done?
After having tested the new Maverick Mirage 17 HPX-V2, it did not take me long to spec one out. It took an even shorter amount of time to get those ideas on paper and get in line to have one built to my specs. The first concern of mine was power. If I was still guiding, I would have opted for a 4 stroke motor; likely a Suzuki DF90, seeing it was the lightest in it’s class. But along came the opportunity to pick up a sought after Yamaha 90TLR 2 stroke (due to ridiculous tree hugging EPA laws, these simple 2 stroke carb’d motors are no longer brought to the states). This was the lightest 90hp motor I could put on this skiff so it was the choice motor. I needed some decent speed and load carrying capability but also needed the skiff to pole light when I arrived at my destination. With speeds into the mid 40s, the ability to spin a 13.5″ wheel, and less then 300lbs of motor on the transom, the Yamaha 90TLR was the perfect candidate. What I will lack in 4 stroke fuel efficiency, I will gain when the throttle is backed off and the push pole becomes the means of mobility.
The folks at Maverick Boat Co. welcomed my needs to personalize the skiff. I opted for a 2 tone white nonskid deck with whisper grey hull and slicks. The skiff is adorned with black powder-coated aluminum platforms and grab rails, as well as a black Edson steering wheel. To keep the skiff light, I chose to go with a light weight Odyssey PC925 battery for cranking/house and house it in the center console. I went with the old reliable plastic Stiffy push pole holders to hold my Stiffy Guide push pole in place. I preferred the the plastic holders over the popular aluminum ones because the plastic holders have a little bit of give and thus are less stressful to a bouncing push pole or stumbling foot. Personally, I think they give a nice vintage look. Speaking of vintage, I kept my old black aluminum Pro-Trim cage ready casting platform to give a little extra height to the angler on the bow. A Tibor push pole caddy and custom SeaDeck from Castaway Customs (http://castawaycustoms.com) finishes off the last bits of bling on this skiff. The idea is to be as minimalistic as possible, keeping the skiff very light and balanced.
The HPX-VII sits on a dry launch specific AmeraTrail trailer with every option available: port side walk-board, dual rollers on rear crossmember, negative 20 degree torsion axle, upgraded wheels, and the works. I wanted the skiff to sit low into the trailer like a glove.
A long road of shallow flats that lies ahead is filled with endless possibilities. If the fish swim it, I’ll pole it.
Stay tuned for the next chapter…
The only regret I have about tarpon fishing with light tackle and fly is that I did not really get into this sport sooner. It was maybe only a few years ago that I started chasing tarpon on a flyrod, but after that first fish that tracked my fly, crossed his eyes, slurped the fly, and took off into an incredible aerial display as flyline zipped through my fingers; I was absolutely hooked. From that day forward, I lived, dreamed, and talked about tarpon fishing to no end. The many days dedicated to tarpon fishing, be it bageled or successful was well spent as learning about these incredible fish has been quite a journey on it’s own. Perhaps it is the humanlike characteristics or the way a serene bay can erupt with a hooked tarpon that draws so many anglers to chase the silver king.
This season’s journey has brought us through rain storms, cloudy days, sunny days, frustrating days, and a few epic days mixed in. I think all that there is to write has been written in previous write ups I have done, so until the inspiration to write a lenghty piece hits me again, I leave you all with the images from this year that will always stick in my mind.
2011 Maverick Mirage 18 HPX-V
- Mercury Optimax 115 ProXs (less then 200hrs) with Mercury throttle and SmartCraft gauge
- 35 Gallon Fuel Tank
- 2 tone custom Whisper Grey nonskid and deck with Ice Blue Slicks
- Custom Seadeck poling platform pad and Tarpon design Under-gunnel pads
- 2012 updated wiring schedule from Maverick
- Custom Permanently mounted cushion (color matched deck with black piping)
- Stiffy Push Pole Holders
- Motor Bracket for Power Pole mount
- two 12volt batteries in console (one for cranking one for trolling motor)
- Garmin 546 GPS
- Stereo System by Shallow Water Customs
- Minnkota 55lb Thurst iPilot Trolling motor with capability to mount on bow or transom
- Full equipped Livewell with recirc, raw water, high speed pickup, and bubbler
- Custom Dry Launch Ameritrail Trailer (Never dunked in Saltwater and no rust at all on hub or axles)
- negative 20 degree torsion axle
- Port side walk-board
- Carpeted side support bunks
- Dual rollers on rear axle
Performance features include a 7.5in draft. Top speed in mid 50s and cruise around 40mph. Very fuel efficient (between 5mpg to 9mpg depending on cruising speed).
The 18 HPX-V has proved itself to be the best all around skiff for fishing in Florida. It has the ability to travel long distances and through rough water safely and comfortably. You can carry a ton of bait or a few fly rods on a given day…heck even both. The skiff excels in being able to stalk weary bonefish on the shallow flats one minute, then net some bait and go fish a nearshore wreck the next. Versatility is what the 18 HPX-V was built for. Skiff is what in tip top shape… 9.5 out of 10 rating. Must see to believe. She is ready to fish.
Optics play an important role in the game of sight fishing. In this game, if you can’t see the fish, you are not catching them, whether you are searching for green or pink backed laid up poons in dark Everglades water or the slight blue off the fin of a pale white redfish in the sandy bottoms of the Islamorada flats. Picking up on these slight signs of life make the difference between getting your shot or blowing it. Having the best lens on the market has always been my top priority. Without bringing in names of other brands, I have tried every amber/copper based polarized lens on the market and I seem to settle for one until I find a better one on the next round.
During the Salty Fly in Tampa this year, I was able to pick up a pair of RCI Optics Monster Hole frames with the Copper based Sunrise Gold Mirror Lens shades. It became evident that they cut through the glare and repelled water very well. The lenses had just the right amount of contrast and did not over-contrast. While bonefishing, the first thing I noticed when comparing side by side with my old preferred lens was that the RCI lenses cut through that white glary stuff much better… I would say at least 30% better. This made all the difference in the world during one of my last bonefish missions where white clouds dusted the horizon. The frames I preferred was the “Monster Hole”, conveniently named after a popular surf spot. They fit my wider asian face very well and temples remained very comfortable around the tops of my ears during and after a day of fishing. Needless to say, I was very impressed and have now made the switch.
The Techy geeky stuff…
“Made in Italy” speaks for the great quality of the frames. The frames are extremely durable and light weight. The lenses are made of a material six times harder then poly lenses and pass the ANSI Z78 rating (I think this is where they shoot the lens at point blank with a low caliber round). Together, these components make for what I feel are the best fishing shades I have ever fished.
For more info visit http://rcioptics.com or give the guys at Shady Characters Sunglass Emporium a shout at 321-953-9875.
I hear a strong winter storm approaches our buddies in the NE this weekend and I reflect on how fortunate we are here in South Florida this time of year.
The classic sight fishing scenario in my home waters on the clearer side of the Everglades has been nothing short of epic this year. From fat redfish floating on the surface like a laid up poon to hoards of sheepshead tailing like a school of small permit (just as skittish and at times even tougher to catch on fly). Of coarse, all this fishing helps pass the time between poon season but is lots of fun nonetheless. It makes for a great opportunity to sharpen your skills using clear fly lines, turning over longer leaders, sneaking heavier flies into zones with skittish fish, and of coarse helping to calm your nerves before the day you are confronted with a more difficult or rewarding challenge.
So to my buddies in the NE, I leave you all with some fish porn and wish you all safe passage through this nasty winter storm. Stay tuned… there is far more to come shortly.