This has got to be the most exciting and anxious time of year for most of us anglers who love to sight fish on a flyrod, crab, lure, or whatever. The warm weather starts to settle in and the sight fishing all over Florida begins to yeild epic days on the water. For those of us in the upper Florida Keys, the possibilities of the ultimate grand slam… fishing for bonefish, tarpon, and permit in a single day becomes an easier reality.
Jeremy and I have been running his new Maverick 18 HPX-V with the 21 Pitch Powertech 3 blade PTR prop. Compared to the 20 pitch 4 blade we were running before, this 3 blade had much more bow lift, better top end, better fuel economy, and made the boat perform like a whole different machine. The only thing sacraficed here was the ability for tight cornering at higher speeds… which isn’t much of an issue considering that this boat is meant for crossing big water in the Keys. We are going to subject the boat to further testing but so far the results are amazing. The concept applied to my 17 HPX-V years ago when I switched over from a 4 blade 18 Pitch PTR prop to a 3 blade 19 pitch PTR prop. This hull loves the bow lift and unfortuantely the 4 blade props on this HPX hull make the front end dig when running a big chop. This is a huge plus if you are planning on crossing those big basins in the Florida Keys. Give the folks at Powertech Props a call and they can provide you with whatever info you’ll need on these props. If you need to order one, you can contact your local Maverick Boat dealer or Shallow Water Customs.
Joe at Carbon Marine delivered a new Carbon Marine/Loop Push Pole for Jeremy’s 18 HPX. All I can say is this pushpole is SWEEETTT! It is much stiffer then all the Stiffy poles, lighter then both teh Graphite and Hybrid, and is great for poling deep water as it is not as floaty as my Stiffy Guide. The best part about this… the warantee that Carbon Marine offers is unparalleled and the price for these push poles is worlds less then the comparible Stiffys. Loop and Carbon Marine have come together and outdone themselves on this product. Oh and the Lambda shaped foot is pretty freakin sweet!!
It was a very busy few weeks and I have had very limited days on the water. Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated with me at all when I was able to make it out but fortunately, we still caught some fish. This semester is finally over and it is time to get busy on the pushpole…. and possibly spend some time on the pointy end of the bow if I’m lucky. Stay tuned guys and gals… this should be an AWESOME Spring and Summer.
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!!
Jan 21st 2009
Yesterday was trying to catch up day. Nine am I had to meet up with with Jim of freemirrolure.com. Jim has a pretty cool idea that has been working well. He gives a way a free MirroLure with every shirt he sells for $17.95 not a bad deal really considering the lure cost about $6.00 at the tackle shops.(note: put in coupon code “cap mel” at the end and get a 25% discount, that’s even a better deal) We talked about a bunch of stuff and one of which is perhaps printing up a calendar or coffee table book of all the coolest images.
I then met up with Tom and Joe for lunch. Since I’ve been using the Loop Push Pole for a few weeks now and it seems to be working out pretty nicely. It’s cheaper, just a stiff as my stiffy hybrid and even a little lighter. It’s so light it tough to pole in 6′ of water(for tarpon) as the pole wants to float. I got Joe to to be part of the video projects I am putting together in 2010. Tom also wanted to be involved in the fishing and putting the wanganchor on the boat so everything went quite well.
By the way, if you live in the Tampa Bay area and like authentic Spanish food you need to stop by Las Margaritas. Located on 4031 W Hillsborough Ave Tampa, FL, the food was cheap and excellent. It’s just a little hole in the wall but the food was much better than 90% of the Spanish restaurant I’ve been to. I read some reviews on-line complaining about the service. We had good service as we went there just before the lunch rush. The bill came to $29 for 3 people with drinks. We even had one café conleche and 2 espresso. That is cheap!(me being the adventurous type ordered the ox tail)
I had some time to kill before the next meeting so I stoped by Tampa fishing outfitters. If you go their website (yes it sucks), it don’t look like it, they have the largest inventory of any tackle store in the Tampa bay Area. They have all the high end gear from Shimano, Diawa, Sebiles all the way to castanets(they are the largest in the country) crabtraps, fly gear .. just a monster of a tackle shop. If you have not been there..its like a mini basspro for saltwater fisherman. Also they had the book “Skinny” by Captain Mel with my photos on the cover. He tells me the book is doing very well and that they have sold over 100 copies in that store alone. Maybe I should have asked for a kick back.
Speaking of photos, while talking to Mr. Lee, I turned around and I see the latest Florida sportsmans on the shelf. No, it’s not the one with the girl with a brand new Gloomis hat, in the bikini holding up a one pound sheeps head. (I know, very realistic,.. NOT). Just kidding Rick D. :) One of my photo finally made a Florida sportsman cover. It is the photo of Jason Stock hold a redfish. The redfish is underwater and Jason is on the boat. Wooo hooo!
I then had to make another meeting with a local boat company near by. John builds a 16 foot tiller skiff. He tells me on the phone that he could sell the boat retail for like $6995.00 with out the motor. So I was thinking to myself, yeah but it’s probably gonna look like a john boat or a gheenoe. I show up to his wear house and I was pleasantly surprised. The boat looks like a tiller Hewes Redfisher. Very wide, roomy and stable with sharp V entry. He said that with a 50hp 2 stroke(boat will run 30mph) he can sell them for $12,900.00 boat motor and trailer. This is a deal for this boat. I know people that pay more than that for Carolina skiffs. This boat is finished and looks like it should cost 15k to17k I asked him how he could sell it so cheap, he tells me has been in the fiberglass business for 25 years and has no middle man. Needless to say I’m dying to take it for test run when I get a chance. If it’s anything close to what I suspect, John should do very very well in the “economical skiff” space. I will let you know more about the skiff once ride in it and I take a few photos of it.
Today Jan 21st more follow up work. (over cast skies and windy, good day to catch up) Things are hopping over here on Saltyshores. I will do my best to keep up.
Photos of large breeder snooks.. all died from the unprecedented freeze Florida recently had.
Some shots I got from this week… poling the empty flats as Biscayne… and the tailing redfish is from Pine Island.