November 07, 2019
By Florida Sportsman Editor
The vast array of shallow water skiffs that have been produced over the years at the Ankona/Salt Marsh shop have run the gamut from the most basic design tiller motor work skiffs to sleek finished technical poling craft. As the company grows, the designs continue to improve and the fit and finish is now on par with any shallow water skiff on the market today.
One constant has been the innovative mind of Mel Walker, the man at the helm behind this company. Always trying to push the envelope, improve existing designs, and create newer more useful traits in every skiff that rolls out the door. The addition of the Salt Marsh Heron 18 to their line-up has demonstrated a few things to the potential owner of one. First, Mel has transcended the company from a budget skiff building operation to one whose products will stand up against any top-tier skiff on the market. And second, a Salt Marsh 18 is proof that it's not necessary to spend 50-70K dollars on a poling skiff to run with the big dogs.
The Heron 18 offers the soft, dry ride of a larger boat than what her 18-foot 6-inch length might suggest yet still demonstrates the traits of a much smaller boat on the pole. A blend of design elements come into play to produce the personality of the Heron 18. The combination of a Carbon/Kevlar/Glass lamination schedule and the addition of injected foam into dead air space between the deck and the inner hull surface provide the rider with a very solid feeling running experience. The hull shape features a graceful entry that rolls back into a soft running surface amidships and terminates at her very narrow hips and Variable Radius Transom (VRT). A very pronounced overhanging spray rail is incorporated into the mold and begins at the stem, following a line around the forward half of her lines, gradually fading into the hull side completely, behind the passenger position at the helm.
The resulting hull shape is extremely dry in the wind, deflecting spray away from the cockpit and her range of trim angles allow the helmsman the ability to nose down into the stiffest of chop quietly or trim up and float higher across a smooth surface at speeds upwards of 40-MPH. The tapering stern and VRT provide a highly maneuverable boat on the pole with a remarkably quiet downhill ride, exposing the usefulness of deflecting wave energy in skinny water for sneaking up on tailing fish unnoticed. As a multi-tasking inshore boat, the Heron 18 rigged with a push pole, trolling motor, and PowerPole will accomplish any coastal fishing challenge you throw at her from sneak-poling in under 12-inches of water, quietly motoring around deep docks and shorelines, to chasing migratory Tarpon along the outside beaches.
The clean deck design divides equally, the casting areas both in the bow and stern with enough room for three anglers to fish comfortably. Below the deck forward is a large compartment which houses the fuel tank (22-gallon) along with trolling motor batteries and a battery charger if desired with lots of room remaining for dry storage. Across the rear casting deck are three large equally sized hatches for multiple storage options, the center space available as an optional 25-gallon live well. More space is available within the console for storage and your house battery as well as switching and wiring access. The Heron 18 poling platform is on the larger side of the spectrum which I personally found myself much more sure-footed upon while pushing the boat and the platform deck offers a comfortable place to sit for anglers in the rear of the boat.
The combination of realistic pricing for a top-tier boat, quality construction materials, a high performance ride, and elegant graceful lines are all at play in the Heron 18. For anyone in the market for all of these qualities in a shallow water fishing machine who wants personal attention to your specific custom build details from the owner of the company, and a boat to last a lifetime, the Heron 18 should be on your short list.
Salt Marsh Heron 18 Specifications
Length: 18-feet 6-inches
Beam: 6-feet 5-inches (deck level)
Draft: 9 to 12-inches (based on options and load)
Horsepower: 60 (min) 90 (max)
Base price: $29,990
Salt Marsh applies modern construction techniques and thoughtful laminate schedules resulting in a stronger, lighter hull capable of speeds in the 40s loaded with passengers and gear.
At 18-feet 6-inches, the Heron 18 poles quietly in single digit depths more commonly associated with a much smaller boat.
Integrating a wide down-turned spray rail into the hull design results in a dry ride when open water crossings are necessary.
Despite the extra weight associated with accessories such as a trolling motor or live well, the Heron 18 still will float nicely in belly crawling depths.
Beneath the roomy forward casting deck a large compartment offers dry storage and plenty of room for trolling motor batteries as well as the 22-gallon fuel tank.
The rear over-sized casting deck offers helm seating and multiple storage lockers.
Salt Marsh uses a clever offset rod storage design for multiple outfits and accents the liner with custom SeaDek for scuff protection on your reels.
The added toe-kick seen here under the helm adds some breathing room for the driver’s legs.
Two roomy storage compartments to port and starboard flank an optional 25-gallon live well, all framed by a deep water tight gutter molded liner.
The fun to run factor can’t be overlooked on this model from Salt Marsh and the combination of performance and fishability built into the Heron 18 provide the elements most boat builders aspire to.