By Bill Marts
My hat is off to Sea Eagle Boats. I had been looking for the exact right craft to guide clients in skinny/shallow waters for bass, panfish, trout and carp. And to explore waters where a normal boat can’t access. Two years ago I found it! It is the FishSkiff 16′ inflatable boat from Sea Eagle Boats. I searched blogs, YouTube, Google, advertisements and I finally came across Sea Eagle and checked them out. There it was. Under fishing inflatables. I ordered one, but they were already sold out of their first order. Maybe some others with the same idea as I had? I finally got it in late August of last year but I didn’t get it on its maiden voyage until later in September. It is really a skiff/SUP designed for big and small waters. Sort of a SUP on Steroids.
I went equipped with directions (yeah, I’m one of those) to the lake and unpackaged everything including the Watersnake electric motor and electric pump to inflate the skiff. It has three chambers; each side and the deck. So safe and stable. I got it pumped up hard-rock solid. Noticed the fish measurement scale on each gunnel. Attached the rear seat, launched it. Stepped on and paddled out to deeper water. So far so good. I borrowed a farmer John wet suit (the water was cold) and a one-piece pushpole. This was exciting stuff for me. I was imagining some favorite Eastern Washington shallow waters where this was going to be awesome. I turned on the electric motor and was scooting over the water. This was fun. After about an hour playing around, I made my way back in to the shallows to try my pushpole. I was a little harder to get control with the pushpole. It was not like poling a flats skiff or panga. As I kept searching for the sweet-spot for poling, I got a little better. I have found, since, that with a person on the bow seat, it is much easier, stable, smoother and quieter. I had quite a few people looking it over and inspecting it when I brought it ashore. It was easy to disassemble and deflate and wrap it up in its protective carrier. It is a little heavy when loading and unloading and an extra person is helpful carrying it. I couldn’t have been happier.
The following months drove me crazy not to be able to get it on the water during winter and spring cold-water conditions. I don’t have a wet suit, yet, but it is on my list. This will get me on the water early during shallow warm-up in the spring. It will add two months to my fishing, exploring and guide season.
Ok, now skip forward to early July 2019. The water was cold during the spring and didn’t warm up until late June. I had it out a few times to get used to it in windy and calm conditions and then took out my first client. It was tough conditions limiting us to very protective waters. The wind conditions were 15 to 20 mph constant with gusts to 35 to 40. The air and water temps dropped suddenly. We did find some water but the fish were difficult, only hooking a few large carp. But my boat handling abilities in the wind improved. I made a decision to add an outboard for next season for safety and the ability to get to better waters easily. I did make some changes to the FishSkiff. I do not use the seat in the back. This gives me better maneuverability for poling. I sometimes use a watertight, heavy-weight ice chest as a dry-box I can sit on and use for items that I don’t want to get wet. I also use an adjustable pushpole. This is handy to make the pole shorter when running from place to place and to use as a stick-pole. I added a long post to the seat in front to give my clients a better view and make it easier to stand up for a better view of spotted fish. They can also use it for support when standing. We fish only for sighted fish except in extremely muddied up waters where we use an indicator and retrieve it VERY SLOWLY at a depth just above the bottom. With the alterations to the FishSkiff we are able to move slowly and quietly along the shoreline where we can find fish easily and also observe the wild and bird life carrying on their routines at the shoreline. I am a happy guide.
This July I organized a fly fishing only tournament for carp at Banks Lake, in Eastern Washington. We had about 30 participants who had a chance to use the FishSkiff and a FishSup 12.6 during the event. The FishSup was donated by Sea Eagle as the overall grand prize. The winner was ecstatic with his prize. He won with 9 carp landed on the fly. Congratulations to CraigSchumann. I have a feeling he will get a lot of use from it. There were several other prizes from top tier fly fishing companies as well. Everyone committed to next year’s “Schmoots Clooper”, the name of the event. Its comes from the book “Another Day In Paradise” by John Gierach – “It was a hot, windless day and the carp were clooping the schmoots.” It means the carp were eating food from the surface.
I am heading to Eastern Washington soon to do some exploring of new carp waters with a friend. A regular boat cannot get to this water. We will inflate the FishSkiff and lower it down a hill to get to the lake and then explore the shallow waters. I will report about our trip in a future blog.
I am excited about this next trip and using my skiff.