The grace with which Jupiter Marine’s 38 Caribee edition glided across the waves belied the sea state off Islamorada, Florida, the day I fish-trialed this center-console with Capt. Billy Harbaugh and Bill Gilbert, manager of Caribee Boat Sales. Powered by triple F300 Yamaha outboards, the boat bounded headlong at almost 40 mph into steep 4-footers on this April day. The 38-foot, 2-inch hull — reinforced by a fiberglass unigrid stringer system and high-density matrix core transom — knifed smoothly through the whitecaps with nary a thump.
“Big boats do make a difference, especially on days like this,” I said to Harbaugh, who nodded in agreement as he throttled back near our first fishing spot in 180 feet of water, where he planned to target mutton snapper.
The proven deep-V-hull design by Donald Blount and Associates with a rather steep 24 degrees of deadrise at the transom played heavily in favor of a comfortable ride. Yet, it’s not the running surface, but rather the interior layout, that’s new here. Islamorada-based Caribee Boat Sales worked closely with Jupiter Marine designers in Palmetto, Florida, to integrate new hard-core-angling features, as well as a few creature comforts.
Built for Bait
Expanded livewell capacity distinguishes the Caribee edition from other iterations of this model. “We definitely like to carry lots of live bait,” says Gilbert, representing the views of not only the boat dealership, but also most of the South Florida saltwater-angling community.
Jupiter integrated three big livewells into the design: twin 38-gallon tanks built into the transom bulkhead and a 40-gallon well within an innovative, multipurpose helm module. The module accommodates helm seating, aft-facing seats, and tackle storage, including cabinets along both sides, with room to slide 10 plastic tackle boxes in each.
The transom livewells each have clear-acrylic latching lids and are separated by an alcove into which an angler can wedge while fighting a fish astern.
The design dispenses with a transom door; however, a beefy side door on the port side of the aft cockpit allows for easy boarding at the dock and easy boating of a big fish offshore.
The central livewell features an aquarium-style window to keep an eye on your precious pilchards without inconveniencing guests enjoying the comfortable seats atop the well. All three wells are fed from a pump box that holds four Rule 2000 pumps; the plumbing setup allows you to switch pumps in case of a failure.
During our trip, we used only the transom wells. Earlier in the day, Harbaugh — who also runs a business selling live bait to boating anglers from November through April — loaded 18 goggle-eyes in one tank and about 25 pinfish in the other, giving us plenty of ammo for our mutton mission. Not a single bait died in the wells, a strong testament to the life-sustaining design of the 38 Caribee’s tanks.
Beamy and Stable
As I was to learn, Harbaugh has developed an effective power-drifting approach for targeting mutton snapper on what he refers to as “live-bottom areas.”
Harbaugh’s technique involves drifting a bridled live bait using a 50-foot leader of 30-pound-test -fluorocarbon behind a swivel connected to the 20-pound-test braid main line. He uses a short piece of copper wire to connect a 12-ounce bank sinker to the swivel to keep the bait near the bottom. “It’s important to have a very long leader,” he explains. “Otherwise you’ll spook the mutton.”
Fishing a single rod amidships on the starboard side in one of 18 stainless-steel gunwale rod holders on this boat, Harbaugh put the Jupiter 38 Caribee on a drift, shifting the engines in and out of gear to keep us abeam of the 15- to 20-knot winds. I was surprised by the stability in the trough. The -10-foot-7-inch beam tamed the roll.
Within five minutes, the rod bowed over hard, and Gilbert picked it up and reeled down to embed the circle hook. As he fought the fish to the boat, we saw it was a black grouper weighing about 16 pounds. But since grouper were out of season during our trip, we took a few photos and then quickly released it.