Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 82

Work, work, work and the occasional fishing trip has kept me pretty occupied for the past few months. 
The biggest news is I've sold the Key West boat and bought a Mako flats boat.   I decided, since I'm usually alone when I fish, I likely won't go off shore often enough to have a bigger, more gas using, boat.  Plus, I found myself more and more often trying to get into shallower and shallower water to find Redfish, Trout and Snook. 

In the summer of 2012 I had occasion to fish the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway with 3 friends on 2 boats.  I ended up on a Mako flats boat and really liked the design, size and setup. My friend, named Billy, had found this boat in a barn in GA and gave her new life through good old fashioned elbow grease, new wiring, and some fine tuning of the original Mercury 115 outboard.  It was like the boat had just rolled off the assembly line in Miami.  The design was so stable and user friendly.  I kind of obsessed over that boat for many months afterward.  

I learned the history of Mako boats. They started in Miami in the 60s by a guy named Robert Schwebke, who was a fisherman that designed and built a boat to his own needs.  He picked the name Mako after the shark species that is known for being so tough.   They used high quality materials and workmanship that built a great reputation with fishermen over the decades.  In 1992 hurricane Andrew hit south Florida and tore the roof off of the Mako factory. Their insurance company denied their claim and they were shut down for 6 months. When production started again cash flow was a big problem. The Schwebke's took on financial partners, who would later lead to their demise. In 1995 they decided to take the company public but a poor financial quarter killed their stock price from the start and it got delisted.  The company ended up being bought out by Tracker Boats (Bass Pro Shop) in 1996 and while the name and reputation survived, after the turn of the century the quality of their boats began to decline.  It seems profit margins took priority over materials and craftsmanship.  These days, a pre-1996 Mako boat is known as a Classic Mako; built to last, from a time when things were just plain made better.  Makos from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are fished everydays all around the globe.  Owners gather both in person and on a website for Classic Mako owners to share information, refurbishment advice, photos and stories of days gone by.  Robert Schwebke's son, Brett, is a member of the web forum and offers a unique historical perspective of the vessels built under his and his father's watch. 

So back to my decision to sell my Key West boat.  I'd spent over a year searching the web for the rare Mako 161 flats boats.  They were designed to float in 6" of water, yet survive being towed across the Atlantic to fish the shallow waters of the Bahamas. Brett Schebke told me less than 200 were ever manufactured, and only produced for model years 1993 & 1994.  I found the occasional ad online but the listings were years old and boats long ago sold.  I knew once I found her, I'd need cash ready to buy right away.  There'd be no time to sell my boat if I didn't do it before finding the next one. I put my boat up two weeks ago and sold it to the first looker for full asking price. 

There was a Classic Mako 161 flats for sale in Naples, FL.  It had no motor and had been re-painted. I had no problem with putting a new outboard on it but was concerned what might be hidden under new paint.  I decided to call my friend Billy to ask his advice.  Imagine my shock when he told me he was going to sell the 161. He'd already purchased a  Mako 191 to be his next project and needed the cash flow.  Coincidence or fate?  I consulted with a few other friends and my Dad.  Everyone agreed the turn key boat from a friend was a better investment than the one from a stranger, needing to be put back together.   There's a chance the 20 year old outboard could need replacing soon but if I get a few more years out of it, I'm really ahead of the mark. I drove to Stuart, FL and brought her home the next day.   The very vessel I'd fallen in love with while fishing the Atlantic ICW was now mine. 

I wasted no time in getting her on the water last Sunday.  I caught dozens of Ladyfish in the Myakka River then headed into the mangrove flats.  I explored some shallow water tidal creeks, where my previous boat dare not venture. The kind of place that weeks or months could go by without seeing a human being. I pinned her down in less than a foot of water and shortly thereafter brought home a 21" redfish for dinner.   My day was complete.  I marked the spot on my GPS but wasn't sure when I'd return here. There are thousands of spots like this to explore. My home water, Charlotte Harbor, is fed by the Myakka and Peace Rivers.  These two rivers are splintered with hundreds of tidal creeks and backwater bays.  All are affected by the rise and fall of the tides of the Gulf of Mexico and hundreds of square miles of Charlotte Harbor.  This is why I moved here.  This is what moves me. The peace and quiet, the fun and sport, the challenge and occasional success.  This is the vessel to get me there and bring me back. 

Click on each picture for a full screen image, then page back to view the next. 

First Redfish produced from the new boat


Jerrid said...

Excellent Story Bill! have fun with her!!

Rich L said...

Congrats on your find, and on the first Redfish, of many to come!!
Rich from City-Data.

Ray Tiller said...

Great story,I found interesting as I recently (Late May) got hold of a 161 that had been sat under a house near Key West. I think it had been a guide boat at one time, I`m currently getting her ready for a paint job and doing some customizing hoping to be in the water by new year.
Tight Lines