Since Capt Dave started running our spin and bottom-fishing trips the Gulf Breeze Guide Service "fleet" is down to two vintage skiffs: a 1995 Hewes 18' Redfisher and a 2001 Maverick 17' Master Angler. For fly anglers there's nothing more exciting than stalking fish in shallow water from the bow of a flats skiff. Our boats are "classic" fiberglass skiffs made before the lighter kevlar hulls became popular. Each boat weighs 800 pounds which is about twice the weight of a comparable Hells Bay. The extra weight makes the boats much more comfortable in choppy water. Of course it also means we cannot get into water less than a foot deep. The good news is this isn't the Laguna Madre, and most of our flats are 1-2' deep. If we find fish in shallower water we go after them on foot.
Our skiffs are as simplistic as possible. There are no trolling motors. I'm confident that we can get closer to the fish using the push pole rather than an electric motor. Plus, the only thing on the bow for snagging your fly line is your own foot. Which is plenty if you know what I'm talking about... I had a bad trolling motor experience 20 years ago while fishing with a guide in the Everglades. He had a beautiful skiff with a new "trolling tab" trolling motor that mounted to the trim tab in the stern. The idea was to get the trolling motor off the bow and out of the way. So we were easing along the shoreline looking for snook. The guide was up on the platform running the motor with a remote control. I was on the bow ready to cast, fly in hand, with a loop of line dragging alongside the boat. We were both focused on the shore when suddenly my rod doubled over and the drag started screaming as my flyline disappeared around the shaft of the trolling motor. Fortunately I had a backup line, but the experience taught me a lesson I'll never forget. Trolling motors are essential in some situations like "deep-water" tarpon fishing around Homasassa, but around here you are better off poling.
There are minimum electronics on our skiffs. The Hewes has a compass and the Maverick adds a simple fathometer which I use for finding the proper depth when tarpon fishing. In addition, I always carry a GPS in case we get caught in the fog, but that's it. Simple. Also, we don't use the popular "Powerpoles" for anchoring. They are a nice invention, but who needs another vertical obstacle in the stern... When we "anchor up" or "stake out" we use....an anchor. Go figure. We have heavy anchors on both boats for emergencies, but our shallow-water anchor system includes a light "Fortress" anchor, 30' of anchor line, a float, and a quick-release clip on the end of the line. When we hook a big fish and have to motor after it we simple unclip the line and go. After landing the fish we motor back to the float, clip on, and resume fishing.
I work hard at keeping the decks of our skiffs pristine and snag-free. After nineteen years of resistance we finally last year added a "leaning post" to the bow of the Hewes to accommodate a great client, good friend, and two-time Emerald Coast Grand Slam achiever who had a debilitating stroke. In addition to being a fly-fishing addict this gentleman has a million vertical feet heli-skiing, and his two goals during rehab were to get back up on the mountain and to once again fish from the bow of my skiff. The grab rail made it possible, and he landed four redfish in one day last year. Most clients like it, but if the bar gets in a client's way we can easily remove it from its brace and stow it in the front compartment. It's especially nice when fishing along the shore in the Gulf of Mexico where we might encounter a shore break or boat wake.
Bob Hewes built the first fishing skiff in the 1960's to accommodate the needs of his friend Lefty Kreh. Famous Keys guide Bill Curtis worked with Bob to design a poling platform for Lefty's skiff, and the modern-day flats skiff was born. Our Hewes 18 Redfisher has a lapstrake hull, 18' total length, 7' beam, and 30 years of improvements from the original design. It handles 2 anglers comfortably, floats in a foot of water, skims right over the chop, safely stowes 6 fly rods, and the "Flyline Tamer" fits in the forward compartment. It's also a dream to pole. The boat is powered by a Yamaha 115HP 2-stroke outboard and will run almost 50 mph.
The Maverick 17 Master Angler has a total length of 17' and an 8' beam. The additional foot of beam makes it a little "drier" than the Hewes and more stable especially when we have an extra passenger on board. It too glides over the chop for a smooth, quiet, dry ride. It's powered by a Yamaha 115HP 4-stroke engine which provides excellent fuel efficiency for long trips. Tarpon trips are a good example. When conditions are right we run 15 miles east in the Gulf of Mexico to intersect migrating schools of tarpon before they experience any other fishing pressure. It can be a 50-60 mile round trip depending on our starting point, and it's nice to save some fuel. She's a quick little skiff, too, with a top end around 50.
Our skiffs are both over 20 years old, but you'd never know it. We take great pride in keeping the decks spotless and free of any clutter. We ask our clients to assist us by wearing shoes with "mark-free" soles and by applying non-spray sunscreen before getting on the boat.
Itís always a great day on the water with Gulf Breeze Guide Service!
Breeze Guide Service
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