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A diesel fishing boat on the flats

The waters off Homosassa have claimed many a lower unit and propeller.

"We have a lot of submerged rocks," boat builder Joe Finn said. "If you don't know where you are going, you can really tear up a boat."

Finn, who moved to Florida from North Carolina six years ago, learned that the hard way.

"It seemed like every time I would go fishing I would have to buy a new prop," he said. "Finally, I just got sick of it."

So Finn set out to build the ultimate shallow-water fishing boat. The result is the Oyster Cracker, a 20-foot, diesel-powered flats skiff built in a classic 1940s design.

The boat will make its local debut at this weekend's Tampa Bay Boat Show at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"It can run in 8 inches of water and only burns a half gallon of fuel an hour," Finn said. "It is perfect for these west coast waters."

Old school

Finn always liked the Sea Bright-style skiffs that were popular along the Jersey shore in the early part of the 20th century.

"I knew I wanted fuel economy and a shallow draft," Finn said. "A planing hull would require too much power. That is why I settled on a semi-displacement hull and a small diesel engine."

Finn had never heard of anybody putting a diesel in a flats boat before.

But he researched his options and decided that a 25 horsepower Kubota would be more than enough to move the boat at speeds as high as 18 knots.

"This boat has minimum impact on the marine environment," he said. "The prop is in a tunnel and is protected by a 'sand shoe.' The boat will not scar grass beds or manatees."

With a top speed of 18 knots, the Oyster Cracker is not for speed demons. But that is quite all right with Finn.

"This is a fishing boat," he said. "The exhaust is out of the water, so you can motor right up to rocky points without spooking fish. You can't do that with a trolling motor."

Going green

Finn hopes environmentally minded anglers will take to the idea of a diesel-powered flats skiff.

"The 25 horsepower Kubota motor is ultra-clean burning and surpasses the California emission regulations for 2015," Finn said. "A 'keel cooler' enables the boat to run through thick grass, lily pads, even mud, without overheating."

So far, Finn has only built one prototype. But he will begin accepting orders in the spring on a 24-footer that will have added cockpit room and the option of a 35 horsepower diesel motor. He will also add a deckboat to his line as well.

The featured boat includes self-bailing decks, raw water wash down, bait well with light, lights under gunnels, easy-access casting deck, fold-down tackle center with rigging table, pop-up cleats, rod storage under gunnels, flush hatches, leaning post and tee top with launchers and a lifetime hull warranty.

Fast facts

Tampa Bay

Boat Show

When: Today through Sunday; today and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa

Admission: Free

What else?: Gulf & Bay Fishing School speakers include Gary Burch, Chad Carney, Bill Hardman, Paul Hawkins, Dave Walker and Tyson Wallerstein.

Oyster Cracker

Length: 20 feet, 6 inches

Beam: 6 feet, 8 inches

Displacement:

1,900 pounds

Power: 25 horsepower Kubota diesel engine

Max speed: 18 knots

Price as tested: $60,000

Contact: Joe Finn, Storm Port Boatworks, Homosassa, (352) 422-3891, www.stormportboatworks.com.

A diesel fishing boat on the flats 10/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 7:49pm]

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