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Beware in shopping used boats

November 6, 2010

I never thought I would be boat shopping again, but here I go.

These days, with our suffering economy, I get calls from folks wanting to charter, but in groups of four or five to help spread out the cost of a day on the water. I'm here to tell you that five people whipping rods, each armed with plugs with three sets of treble hooks on a flats boat of any size short of an aircraft carrier is a dangerous proposition.

I prefer to fish one or two dedicated well seasoned anglers on a flats boat, but I'm not in business to turn down work and teaching kids and first-timers is great fun as well.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

One 6-year-old, a small rod and one two-pound, hard-pulling and high-jumping ladyfish usually will hook a kid for life. That's a good thing these days.

Even though I'm not fond of the idea of becoming a party boat captain, I'm shopping for a used bigger boat. Just like shopping for a used car, let the buyer beware.

First rule - when you find your used dream boat get the owner to allow you to have a competent mechanic do a compression test on the motor. No matter how shiny the hull, without good compression you are buying trouble. If the owner refuses, walk away.

Also, find out how many hours are on the motor. If there is an hour meter, of course, that helps. Many boats don't have one, but most modern engines have a computer port and with a laptop and the right program your mechanic can tell you a lot about an engine.

Next, go over the hull and not just the sides. Get under it and closely inspect the bottom. A few scratches or rubs is not a big deal. You're looking for gouges, cracks, etc. Look closely at the transom both inside (if possible) and out. The weight and propulsion of the engine puts a lot of strain on the transom. If you suspect anything wrong in this area, don't buy it.

Next, look at the electrical systems. Corroded wiring and switches spell trouble.

Try to get a fuel sample and check for water contamination. These are just a sample of things to look for.

All of these issues can be corrected at $85 an hour plus parts. Be careful. If you need help on buying a boat, contact me.

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters says for lots of action go to Boca Grand or Captiva passes. Watch for schooling bait or diving birds. Throw white soft jerk baits, Gulp shrimp, or live pilchards on 40-pound leader or short wire leaders to large blue fish, lady fish and Spanish mackerel.

Have a heavy rod ready for sharks. Throw a live pinfish to them under a cork or balloon. There are also large pompano on the flats and beach just inside the passes. They will take shrimp and small pink or white trout tots fished on or near the bottom.

Keeper trout are mixed in with a lot of small trout and will take white jerk baits, Gulp shrimp and live pilchards.

Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters started out the month of November with a bang. He had one of his best grouper days ever on Monday. Fishing in 85-feet of water off Redfish pass, his party caught 20 keeper red grouper to 26 inches, of which he was only able to keep six.

They also had well over 100 short grouper. He uses a two-hook rig and landed three doubleheaders of keeper grouper. He also had a 39-inch king and an 18-inch mahi.

Friend Jerry caught a dolphin on a castmaster spoon after they saw three chicken dolphin swimming around the boat. They had smooth seas and his friends are now addicted to grouper fishing even after being told it's not always that good.

Life is short, fish hard!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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