Fall has definitely set in, followed by cooling temperatures, lobster sized live shrimp in the baitwell, blue bird skies, and lots of muddy minded fish. Redfish in Flamingo are swimming on the mud in the afternoon heat and hanging off the deep end of mud banks on cool mornings. Bonefish on the other side of this little world in Islamorada are mudding their tails off, fattening up for the winter. The deep backcountry of the Everglades is also teeming with life. On a recent day in the backcountry, we caught snook, redfish, bream (I haven’t caught a pan fish on fly in over a decade), and gar all in the same few coves. As temperatures cool, catches of 40+ redfish are becomming less uncommon in a single day. We’ve been having a ball catching a bunch of backcountry redfish on DOA CAL shad tails in the new Fiji Chicken color fished on a 1/8oz or 1/4oz chartruese CAL jighead. Fall fishing is just straight up fun and relaxing.
Days have been real windy so it has been fun tackling some big chop in big water in my new 18 Maverick Mirage. I recently added a Minnkota Riptide ST trolling motor with iPilot for some of the deeper water backcountry stuff and it has worked amazing. The spot lock feature on the iPilot trolling motor is pretty amazing (thought it does kinda promote my laziness).
This is definitely a cool time of year to fish…
Stay tuned for more skiff fish porn…
Chapter IV… Refined…
We approach the final stages of the construction process of my new Maverick Mirage. The hull and cap were popped from the molds, the cap was then fused to the hull, seadeck installed, and now the final details are being worked on. The hatches were installed, console wired, Yammadog hung on the rear, and little details refined. These photos depict the final stage before the installation of the poling platform. I await several other accessories such as the casting platform, prop, and GPS to bring my Mirage closer to completion.
The wait is near an end and the fun has almost just begun.
Stay tuned for the next chapter… Pre-Absolute!!!
All my life, I have always tried to seek out the best of the best and this comes especially true when choosing my next flats skiff. This will my my third skiff I own and my third product from Maverick Boat Company as well. Currently, Maverick Boats is building my next skiff… and for the first time, I was able to build one from scratch with every little nit pick detail that I desired. After a 12 year run fishing the shallows from Flamingo to Islamorada, I have finally spec’ed out everything I wanted in a skiff; both for guiding and for fun fishing days.
I learned to run a boat and fish the shallows at age 12 on a Hewes/Maverick Light Tackle 18 flats skiff (currently the Redfisher 18). It had a 2 tone commander blue and white hull with Yamaha 150HP Saltwater Series motor, lots of weight, and a fishy attitude. I tried to get into places where this big flats boat was pushed to it’s limits from big water Dolphin fishing to shallow water Redfishing. This was hardly a skiff, but a big water flats boat, which my buddies and I actually did end up still trying to pole. For many years, I first learned to fish Whitewater Bay before learning how to fish the flats out front in Florida Bay. Along the way, my buddy Capt. Frank had also taught me how to bonefish in Key Largo as well as introduce me to fly fishing. I did a lot of this in either Frank’s Hewes Bayfisher 18 or my Hewes Light Tackle 18. These bigger skiffs were adequate and got me where I needed to be dry and comfortably. I fished the hell out of my 18 Light Tackle from the day I bought it in 1998 until the day I sold it in 2004.
In the next few weeks, I will keep an updated blog on Saltyshores of the entire skiff building process that goes into a Maverick Mirage HPX from start to finish. Until next time…. stay tuned for the “Hatching”!!!
Spring break had finally come and I took a week off to log some days on the water. The initial plans were to spend 3 days down in the lower Keys but due to circustances, that plan had to be put on hold for now. Instead, I chose to do something I had wanted to do in a long time. In 5 days straight, I fished in 4 different locations throughout Florida in 4 different style Maverick Mirage skiffs. Fishing had it’s ups and downs, but company was great, the overall experience was great, and I had a blast doing this. Upon introduction of the Mirage series of skiffs, Maverick Boat Co. revolutionalized the shallow water fishing industry. In 2000, Maverick introduced the HPX series of Mirage skiffs. These new hulls, floated shallower, rode drier, and were dead quiet. The HPX-Tunnel introduced stealth with the ability to float shallow, run in water once through too shallow for anything but a jon boat, zero hull slap. The 17 HPX-V allowed for anglers to take advantage of shallower draft while still providing a dry smooth ride in the rough and of coarse, zero hull slap. The 15 HPX-V, HPX-Micro, and 18 HPX-V later joined the line of Mirage line of skiffs and continue to raise the bar. I got to fish all 4 models in the last 5 days.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Tunnel
Desitnation: Titusville, FL
My buddy Will invited me to spend a day fishing on his HPX-Tunnel up in Titusville so I took advantage of the situation and got to get out on the water with him for a few hours before I had to head back down to pick up my skiff at Maverick Boat Co. and head back home. We met up at dawn and got an early start, making our way through the shallows to get to our destination. The Mirage tunnel skiff handled the Lagoon chop fairly well and got us into some real shallow water where we would start our search. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds so we waited for the water to warm up, blind casting some shorelines in the meanwhile. Blind casting was not too fruitful so we made our way to the flats a little early to wait out the tailers. Once the sun broke through the clouds, the water warmed up, and the light revealed to us a couple of big red tails flags waving in the distance. With 9wt in hand, I tied on a simple modified redfish slider and had a few refusals before coming tight to a few smaller redfish. The day then revealed to us something different. Big grey tails began popping up and the through of being cold and throwing at reluctant oversized redfish had left my mind in a hurry. Being from South FL, we don’t get many opportunities to fish tailing black drum. We approached the first of many and this fish ate my redfish slider. After landing that big drum, we caught several more on a variety of flies ranging from a black merkin crab to black rattle shrimp flies. These drum aggresively attacked the rattle shrimp. It was pretty amazing. My buddy Will is fairly new to the fly game and managed to catch his first and second black drum on fly. Screams and high fives defined the degree to Will’s new fly fishing addiction. Time ran out and we left the fish tailing for the next group of dedicated anglers to find. This was definitely a cool experience neither of us will ever forget. I then headed home and made a stop at Maverick Boat Co. to bring my skiff back home after a minor nip/tuck.
Day 2 & 3
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 18 HPX-V
Desination: Key Largo and Florida Bay
My buddy Jeremy picked up a new 18 HPX-V with a Yamaha F115 last weekend so we spent the next couple of days tweaking the boat, testing it under real life conditions, and trying to get this boat dialed in properly. Unfortunately, the TRO model prop we have on this motor is not the right prop for the job so we are still waiting on different props to test out. Rest assured, several props are on their way and this boat will be dialed in. We will have more technical info for this setup shortly. Our first day on the water was rained out so we just took the boat out to run around Blackwater sound in Key Largo to make sure everything was in top order. The weather finally gave us a break the next day and we were able to take the 18 HPX out that afternoon for her maiden fishing voyage. We started out fishing East of Flamingo and had a few shots at some very big redfish that were reluctant to eat any of our offerings. From here, we boogeyd out to the oceanside of the Keys and paid a visit to one of flats where bonefish have taken residence. Jeremy managed to hook his first bonefish but the fish ran away from the boat first filling the air with the sound of the screaming drag. Then the bonefish turned and screamed towards the boat. My buddy reeled as fast as he could but could not keep up as the fish ran under the boat and spit the hook. The wind had picked up and the clouds rolled in so we headed back in staying bone dry and comfortable as we ran through a 2ft chop. Earlier in the day, while poling around in some real skinny stuff, I was amazed again to see how this boat performs on the pushpole. The 18 HPX drafted significantly shallow as we poled through some real skinny water. To put things into perspective, the only part of the push pole submerged in the water was the foot. It had to be no deeper then 8 inches and the 18 HPX was not even touching the bottom. When we had hit a hump no deeper then 6 inches, the 18 HPX was a breeze to push off it. The effort to push this boat was no more then pushing my 17 HPX-V with F90 but the stability when poling around in rough water and heavy winds was second to none. This is truley a remarkable poling skiff with an amazing hull. I will likely find myself in one in the near future.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Micro
My buddy Jason also picked up a new Maverick Mirage this last week. For the type of shallow water fishing he plans to do and the long range runs out west, Jason opted for the HPX-Micro. With the inevitable implementation of the pole and troll zones that are to be enfored at Flamingo in the near future, the ability to run in shallow water will not as big of a factor as the ability to pole easily for longer distances, float shallower, and be a ble to take to handle running in a slight chop. The HPX-Micro fits this bill perfectly. The skiff floats in extremely shallow water. We poled around in water with the tips of grass protruding from the surface and slid along with ease as we poled for great lengths chasing down big schools of redfish pushing across the flats. The ability to be able to pole fast and set up on these fish is vital to success. Jason and I managed to feed countless numbers of redfish on a variety of lures and flies. I must admit, even having caught plenty of redfish on fly in my past, there is still nothing cooler then watching a big school of redfish dogpile on top of each other to try to eat a topwater plug. After being taken in by the cool ad I’d seen in a fishing magazine, I bought one of Bomber’s new Badonkadonk ( I also liked the name) topwater plugs and fed it to a bunch of redfish today. The fishing this day was spectacular as we plucked doubles off of each of the different schools of fish. Not only were there large numbers of fish in each school, but we encountered at least a dozen different schools of redfish up in the real skinny stuff. With the water continuing to warm the sight fishing opportunities on the flats is returning to the way it should be. Fishing can only get better from here. On the way back to the ramp, the wind had kicked up pretty bad but the Micro took to the chop surprisingly well and we stayed dry. The only thing I would change on the Micro is the engine HP rating. I would love to see a F60 or F70 on the rear of this boat. The F40 performed nicely and fuel economy is second to none, but the ability to scoot around faster would be nice. I must say though that even with an F40, the Micro was able to jump on plane in less then a boat’s length and with very little squat once tabs were applied. I also got to test one of Carbon Marine/Loop’s new push poles. These poles are amazingly stiff and light weight. I did not find a problem at all poling it in both shallow or deep water. The Carbon Marine Loop push poles are pretty impressive and priced unbeleivably cheaper then the Stiffy poles. After having used the Loop push pole, I highly recommend one for the absolute best value per performance.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 17 HPX-V
Location: Key West and The Marquesas
During my 5th and final day on the water, I decided to take my own 17 HPX-V out to fish as south as I can go. Jeremy, David McCleaf, and I headed down to Key West to throw crabs and flies at Permit. Jeremy had never caught nor had a shot at a permit before but this day we produced many shots. Our first few shots came off a strip bank where there we had shots at 3 big fish. One cast was dead on but the fish spooked and didn’t eat (welcome to permit fishing). Towards the end of the day, we decided to make the journey across Boca Grande channel and look for some permit over at the Marquesas. We had 5 more solid shots at the end of the day and Jeremy ended up hooking his first permit. The fish ran under the boat during the fight and somehow ended up breaking off. This was a heart breaker but we were very content with the amount of shots we had and the fish we hooked. The day was growing late and the wind was steadily picking up so we decided to head back. Running back was no walk in the park. We made our way across Boca Grande channel again but the wind and current had sped up this time creating a consistant 3ft chop with a 4 to 5 footer mixed in here and there. I had the skiff airborne several times but she felt solid running across the chop and brought us home dry, humbled, and in one peice. Boca Grande channel is a definitely a force to be reckoned with but having the right skiff for the crossing is a must. Once Jeremy gets his GPS installed, we are going to try taking the 18 across to the Marquesas. This time, I can perhaps hopefully capitalize on my first permit on fly.
Spring is finally here and I am absolutely THRILLED about the warmer weather and good fishing to come. Stay tuned… the next journey has just begun!!
I was surprised when I began to notice that quite a few people around in the flats skiff scene were not familiar with the term “dry launch trailer”. A dry launch trailer set up consists of a skiff trailer with the ability to launch a skiff without having to dunk it’s hubs in the water. Most of these trailers also incorporate an electrically powered winch with a clutch to launch and pick up their skiffs off the water. The bunks are set at a higher front, rear downward sloping angle and carpets are drenched in some sort of lubrication so the skiff slides on and off easily. Without having to dunk the hubs on your trailer, you greatly prolong the lifespan of both your hubs and the rest of the trailer. This is definitely the way to go. The two top manufacturers of such trailers are Ameratrail (Maverick) and Ramlin (Hells Bay/ECC). Thing is that some of the people own one of these trailers and don’t even realize the dry launch capabilities of it.
Here’s how it works:
When launching, you simply back the trailer up to the water’s edge, stopping where the tire is barely wet and the roller is about to barely touch the water. Then you loosen up the clutch on your winch and push the skiff to let it slide off the trailer into the water. You now walk down the integrated walk boards on the trailer down to your skiff and detatch the hook from your bow eye. Your boat is now ready to be docked.
When picking your skiff up out of the water, simply back up the trailer so the roller is just above the water line, drive the front of your skiff up on top of the roller, trim your motor up, and attatch the winch hook to your bow eye. You then walk up the walk boards on the side of the trailer and use either an electric winch or manual winch to crank the boat completely out of the water and onto the trailer. It is that simple.
The setup I currently have on my Maverick Mirage HPX-V is a custom Ameratrail aluminum trailer with just about all the options ordered. This particular all welded trailer is of OEM spec and was custom ordered with a zero degree torsion axle, which helps to make the trailer sit lower in the rear. I have added a Powerwinch RC30 electrical winch to the trailer to complete the perfect skiff trailer setup. I have owned this trailer for over half a year now and have nothing but great things to say.