My buddy Dave Teper (www.worldangling.com) had rented a house in the lower Keys for the month of July so Jeremy and I decided to take his 18 HPX-V down to Key West this last weekend for a couple of days of fishing. Fishing was good, food was great, and the good times had were second to none. Thanks, Dave for the invitation.
Jeremy, David McCleaf, and I decided to make a game plan covering all the different types of fishing that Key West had to offer. The crystal clear waters were teaming with life and the many types of fishing that could be had in one day were too good to pass up. There was bait everywhere, lots of clear water, and the remnants of lobster hunters stayed well away from where we planned on fishing (except for that one tool bag in a big catamaran who decided it was a good idea to get in front of us and motor up to every tarpon that swam towards us). The versatility of the Maverick 18 HPX-V allowed us to cover everything from the shallowest inshore flats where permit and bonefish tailed to the wrecks and reefs in the deeper waters. Making the crossing through Northwest Channel, Lakes Passage, and Boca Grande Channel to the Marquesas had never been this comfortable. We kicked off the first hour of fishing with our first small permit and proceded to mix things up from there. From the wrecks to the flats, we caught Permit, Bonefish, Cobia, Snappers, and even hooked a Tarpon on fly. Some of the food I had this last weekend was absolutely epic; Lobster dinner on the first night, the best cuban food at El Siboney the second night, and then grilled up the cobia we caught on the final night there. This was definitely a weekend to remember…
A chain of islands better known as “Keys” lies at the southern-most region of Florida. At first glance, we begin to notice that once we step into the realm of this wonderful place, time seems to slow and the tranquil pace of life takes the place of the “get up and go” lifestyle that is Miami. Who would know that a major metropolitan city would neighbor this republic of tranquility? For some those like myself who have lived the fast paced life and seen the late nights and early mornings through the eyes of a college student and club hopper, there comes a time when life must slow down. There comes a time when one seeks a shot of tranquility on the water rather then a shot of Tanqueray on the rocks at a stuffy night club. The chaos on the dance floor transitions to chaos on the poling platform as a bonefish muds on your fly and fly line jumps stark raving mad through your guides. There is a time to party, there is a time to relax, and then there is a time to enjoy life in this paradise that is the Florida Keys.
I returned to the Florida Keys this past week to take advantage of this vast diversity of terrain. Fishing from as far south as the atoll known as the Marquesas, moving up to the Purple Isle (Islamorada) and fishing as far north as the Biscayne Bay, my friends and I targetting bonefish and permit on the clear shallow flats that were teaming with life. Both the Maverick Mirage HPX-V 17 and 18 proved to be versatile skiffs built specifically to take on the challenges of big water, shallow flats, and weary fish.
We started the week down south in Key West. Capt. Frank and I met up with my buddy Twig in the AM. We decided on a 2 boat fishing trip as the crossing over to the Marquesas can be a treacherous one if something out of the ordinary were supposed to happen. As I’ve said before, Boca Grande channel is no joke… but both our Mirage skiffs proved ready to handle the task of the crossing this very day. Winds blew about 15kts, swells kicked up, props would breach the surface, but the permit were chewing, and us anglers very anxious to throw flies and crabs on their dinner plate. Capt. Frank and I managed over 25 shots, having one permit eat the fly and missing him before hooking 2 big fish and landing one on a crab. It was truley some of the best permit fishing I had ever experienced. After the fish stopped tailing, we visited a near shore wreck and caught our limit of big mangrove snappers to come home for dinner, then stopped at the reef and played with some very big sharks on fly before calling it a day and heading back. The amount of life and scenery was truley amazing. This is what keeps us coming back.
My next stop brought me to Islamorada where my buddy Jeremy and I would take his new 18 HPX-V out for an afternoon of bonefishing. Jeremy had just put a new Powertech 4 blade 20 pitch PTR prop on the boat and it proved to be a major improvement over the previous TRO prop that was on there. I feel there should still be more we can get out of this boat with a different prop though. All techy stuff aside, the fishing was definitely improving. Bonefish are starting to transition into their spring pattern and feeding hard. We managed 6 shots and hooked 2 bonefish. I caught a weight fish and Jeremy got spooled by an absolutely huge downtown Islamorada slob bonefish.
My journey ends at the north end of the chain of Keys known as Biscayne Bay. My buddy Tim had invited me to fish in his newly purchased HPX-V 17 so we decided that a bonefish would be the perfect first slime in the boat. 10 shots and 2 fish later, mission accomplished. A fitting end to an incredible few days on the water…
The clock winds down and spring is definitely approaching. The fish are finally starting to feed well as the temperatures rise. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Spring. The first days of spring have finally arrived. All there is left now is to wait for the poons to show. We will be there, down in the Florida Keys waiting off the flat in the tarpon highway with 12wt in hand… rise tempertures rise!
Until next time…
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!!