We are officially in the dog days of summer. The weather can some time make for a hot day on the water but it also makes for the best fishing. When the temps rise the bait starts to flood onto the beaches and into the creeks and bays. This time of year thru the fall is when fish are the most aggressive. Early calm mornings in the summer can be incredible fishing. Whether you want to throw flies to tailing reds or topwater plugs for them this is an awesome time of year. The tarpon also show up in the highest numbers of the year. The biggest challenge in the summer can be thunderstorms. Avoiding these requires some flexibility but once they pass thru the fishing can be amazing.
Here is a little walkthru on how I rig my Maverick 18 HPX. Starting at the bow I have a custom casting platform. This platform has leg braces to allow the angler to stand on the deck and brace themselves in rough water or fighting fish. It also is the perfect level to sit on for a rest. The angler can also stand on top of it to get better visibility on the flats if needed. I will also stand on this behind the angler to help direct Fl them to fish at times. The only other thing on the bow is the trolling motor. I have it offset to the starboard side to keep it as much out of the ways as possible. I can also remove it and put it on the stern if not needed. The quick release puck is very clean and will not catch fly line. In the front hatch is my fuel and miscellaneous gear. In the cockpit I carry a 45 quart yeti that doubles as a seat in front of the console. The console is the y’all one offered by maverick and has a cushion to make a comfortable back rest. In the console I have a 7” garmin mounted. The rear seating I have a double thick cushion that is very comfortable. On the back deck I have 2 hatches and the livewell. The starboard hatch is where I have all my gear and tackle. The port hatch carries 4 type 1 life jackets and has plenty of room for all of the gear my clients my gear. On the stern is mounted my Yamaha 115 and the poling platform. This is the best skiff I have found to fish the big water that I do.
My anchor rig is pretty simple but I have been using it for several years and am very happy with it. I will start with the anchor and work my way to the top. I will also give a range for size or length of the item depending on conditions you fish.
For the anchor I use a galvanized claw anchor. These have done me well in all conditions. I have slept many a nights trusting a claw to hold the yacht I was on so naturally a skiff or bay boat is a no brainer. I use from a 3 pound up to a 12. The 3 held in all conditions I needed in the Florida Keys and Everglades. In South Carolina we have very heavy current and deep water and I went to a 12. This ensures I hold where I want even on hard bottom.
I use from 4-12 foot of chain depending on conditions or location. The 4 foot chain on my keys anchor is rubber coated which is nice for keeping it quiet and from beating up the skiff.
For rope I use from 50 to 100 foot. My keys anchor has 50 foot. This allows me to sit on the ocean in 4-10 foot of water and still have plenty of room to pole around a little. The 100 foot is helpful in the heavy current and deep water in South Carolina.
For my keys anchor I use a crab trap marker float and in SC I use a 20 inch boat fender. These floats hold up the end of the line for when I release the anchor to chase a hooked fish.
My quick release clip is a Rhonstadt clip that is sold at west marine. I think it holds 5000 pounds which is plenty for a skiff. From this I run a small line long enough to reach the inside of the cockpit with a small cork on the end. This is easy to grab and pull to quickly unhook us from the anchor.
Trolling motors on skiffs have been controversial in some places but have almost become a necessity. In the Florida Keys it is rare to see one on a skiff but there are few places that have stayed away from them as long as there. The poling tradition is sting in the Keys. Poling is required for and water less than a foot deep but there are many situations in deeper water where fish can still be stealthily approached with a trolling motor. The last 3 years I have adopted the trolling motor on my skiff whereas before I was totally against them. They are indispensable for much of my fishing now.
I use the Minn Kota Terrova with i-Pilot. This new model is incredible and the anchor mode feature allows me to fish in ways I would never have been able to before. I use a 24 volt system. A 12 is to light for any real fishing usage on most skiffs. To reduce weight I use lithium batteries and a stealth charger that constantly keeps my charge high. I have been very pleased with this system.
Push pole length depends a certain degree on preference and water depth. There are many different lengths of poles out there whether it was purchased that way or ended up that way from being broken and shortened or a ferrule put in fo added length. Most poles when purchased though are 21 or 24 foot. We will use these lengths for this article. For a most anglers chasing redfish or bonefish in shallow water less than 3 foot deep a 21 is a great length. For tarpon anglers in deeper water a 24 is usually a great bet. That being said many pick a 21 or 24 and stick with it. A 21 is lighter and more maneuverable but a 24 allows you to walk the pole without repositioning it as often. I personally prefer to buy a 24. This allows me to fish in deep water and walks the pole longer distances in shallow water. Another benefit is that if it is ever broken you still have room to put a new foot on before getting below 21 ft. I have always felt that I had to move a pole way to much if it was under 21.
The spinning gear that I carry on my skiff depends on 2 basic seasons. The summer and fall season and the winter and spring season. I like to carry the minimal gear so that the skiff is not cluttered but at the same time have everything we need for the day.
For summer and fall I always carry 2 heavier rods for the tarpon or bull reds we encounter. These rods are 7 foot 15-30 pound Shimano Terramars with a 5000 size Florida Fishing Products reel. This setup is heavy enough to battle big fish but still plenty light to be a pleasure to cast all day. I also carry a pair of G Loomis Greenwater rods with a 3000 size Florida Fishing Products reel. These rods are 7’6 10-15 pound. They are extremely light weight and handle all the inshore size redfish we encounter. I use 20 pound power pro braid on my smaller rods and 30 on the larger. In the winter and spring I scale back and carry the 2 greenwater rods a lot with 2 G Loomis NRX rods of similar weight and length. This time of year heavier gear isn’t necessary since we spend our time in the creeks and bays.
Fly line management is very important to being successful on the water. Much of this comes from practice and good management like a good cast or double haul must be learned. There are a few items I carry every day to aid my angler greatly in his quest to keep the fly line from not becoming a tangled disaster or heaven forbid caught in my trolling motor prop. The first is an oversized gym bag I slip over the trolling motor and all it’s wiring and mount. On a calm day this is all that is usually needed. This will keep the line that is being stripped on the deck from getting tangled. I will always have this on the troller when I have a fly angler.
The second is a stripping mat. This is simply a mat with spikes to catch the line and keep it from spilling overboard. This works great in moderate wind conditions.
The third is a stripping bucket. This is used when conditions get breezy. It is a great tool to keep line from blowing around but it does take some concentration to get the bucket while stripping. I will usually put the stripping mat beside it to catch any line falling outside the bucket when an angler is quickly casting to or trying to feed a fish. As always the net will be over the troller.
I get a lot of questions on whether Yeti coolers are worth the cost. I am a firm believer that they are and I use many of their other products besides the hard coolers as well. On many days I carry a 45 quart in front of my console with a cushion on it for a seat. This holds all my drinks for my clients as well as their lunch. I also carry a Hopper Flip 12 for my lunch. I put the Yeti ice block in the bottom and it works great to keep my food cool but not soggy. My personal favorite is the Rambler in the one gallon size. I love having cold water handy all day and I find I stay much more hydrated when I don’t have to dig thru the cooler every time I want a drink. I’m all about cutting down on plastic as well not only for the environment but to keep my from having to throw it away when I clean out my skiff every afternoon.
I have a few patterns I always have on my boat that I can buy or tie myself.
The first is a baitfish pattern. The EP Campeche minnow and the EP black and purple small peanut butter fly are two of my favorites. This small baitfish patterns work under a lot of circumstances.
The second is a crab/shrimp pattern. I like pink and tan flies or even black and purple at times.
The third is a popper. These can be simple foam head poppers with a tail of different materials. These are probably used the least but are a lot of fun when the redfish key in on them.
With these few patterns I am confident I can catch reds anywhere under any situation.
Spring in the lowcountry of South Carolina is a time of big change for our fishery. The water is slowly making it way from the crystal clear of winter to the darker water of summer. Redfish have been in large schools for the winter are starting to break up and scatter. Bait is slowly increasing as the water warms and the fish will respond as more and more arrive. Spring is often a time when the weather can be perfect one day and unfishable the next with the last fronts of winter passing thru and stirring things up. Fishing is much the same and one day the fish will be happily feeding and the next totally lockjawed. I feel that this is the great time to catch a large fish in the creeks before they head offshore. Even though it may be a time of transition spring is a great time to be on the water.