The winter season brings ultra-low tides and clear water to Southwest Florida.
A super shallow draft boat allows you to get a shot at the redfish that stay all winter and prowl the flats. Stealth, a sharp eye, and long casts are in order to connect with these wary fish in clear water.
Ob-viously wading, kayaks and canoes are suited to this fishing, but your range is measured by how much you enjoy paddling or walking. If that's not an issue, today's hi-tech kayaks are amazing fishing machines at affordable prices.
Capt. George Tunison
Next come what are called the "technical poling skiffs." Basically this is an idiom that means very expensive. These shallow draft machines are true space age modern wonders designed for one thing -shallow water poling. Most of these boats are 14- to 18-feet long and weigh in at 400 to 700 pounds.
With ultra-light weight due to advanced hull materials and designs, some of these boats will draft not much more than a kayak and allow you to fish skinny water all day in comfort. Another plus is most of these boats can be powered with 20 to 60 hp outboards, and if it's a 4-stroke, will sip gas and give you quite a range.
Another huge advantage of these advanced designs is the "no-slap hull." Many anglers don't realize how much hull slap affects shallow water, wary fish and sends them running for cover long before you get close.
The down side is price. Expect to pay $30,000 for one of these boats. Hells Bay and Maverick are two of the many names that come to mind in this price range. I have fished from both and they are incredible machines, but at that price they should guarantee you will catch fish on every outing.
A step down in price, but not in quality, is the Beavertail Skiff, a remarkable shallow water machine that can be customized with a ton of factory options to suit every angler. These cool skiffs start in the low $20,000 and up. A great buy and highly recommended. Also look at Mitzi Skiffs and Dusky Marine.
Next in line are a series of square bow or modified bow poling skiffs. They have all the fancy features of their classier brothers, but a "non-pointy" bow. They float super shallow, and are cheaper to buy. A good example is a Hewes Tailfisher. At a starting price in the low $20,000 they are a great skiff, that pole straight and effortlessly. The down side of these boats is getting to the fishing grounds. Being "non-pointy," they are affected by waves and provide a very hard ride. Once you get there they perform as advertised.
The Sundance and Carolina skiffs are popular and very economical boats that perform well and can be fitted with every option, but still suffer from hard ride from the square bow design.
I've been looking for a good super skinny poling boat without a big price tag and I almost had given up when I stopped at Fort Myers Marine to see their new line from Clearwater Boats. Ron Groeneveld showed me around the lot and I was particularly impressed with their 16-foot entry, the Clearwater 16. A slightly modified bow, shallow running boat with center console, cooler seat, tons of room, 25 hp Yamaha 4-stroke and nine-gallon tank, with a 10-year hull warranty, on the trailer ready to go for under $8,500. Add a poling platform from Action Welding and some accessories and this boat looks like a winner for right around $10,000.
Stop at Cape Tool & Tackle's customer appreciation day today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Discounts, fishing seminars, hog roast, music, and get a signed copy of Capt. Dick May's wonderful new cookbook. Capt. May is a master fisherman and chef.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.