Friday, February 15, 2013

Skiff Driving 101

Key West's Capt. Mike Bartlett running his skiff to the Marquesas.

Driving a flats boat while you're sitting down might be comfortable, especially in choppy water, but it's not a good idea.  When I first started fishing down in the Keys a veteran guide advised me to always stand up while I was running the boat so I could what I was about to hit.  Even though I followed his advise religiously, over the next ten years I still managed to snag dozens of crab traps, smash into a submerged Cuban raft, and wreck a prop and lower unit thanks to a piece of rebar shoved into the bottom.  Driving my boat from a seated position would have made things even worse.

There are lots of hazards out there on the flats, especially here in the darker waters surrounding Pine Island, from slow moving manatees to non moving oyster bars.  Despite all that, I'm amazed at how many guys I see out there running full throttle sitting behing the wheel with a passenger direcly in front of them.  Stand up and keep your eyes at least two boat lengths ahead at all times.  As an added bonus, you'll be amazed at how many fish you can spot and come back to later.  And wear your kill switch, too.  More on that later.