SW FL-Bonita beach: Big snapper, sheepshead, redfish, trout
<p>Tuesday, 2/2/16, I headed 20 miles offshore in calm seas with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett. The guys used live shrimp to catch seven nice mangrove snapper keepers to 16 inches, a dozen lane snapper keepers to 15 inches, seven porgies all around 14 inches, a few 14-inch grunts, and six sheepshead to 18 inches. They released a few red grouper shorts and one 20-inch gag grouper.
Seas were predicted to be only slightly rougher on Wednesday, 2/3, than they had been Tuesday so John Pound and friends, Troy, Jim and Tom weren't expecting the four-footers we encountered 20 miles west of New Pass. Winds blew considerably higher than predicted, which kicked up the seas. But these four hardy anglers had no problem sticking it out, and it proved worth their while. The guys boxed eight nice sheepshead ranging in size from 15 to 20 inches, ten mangrove snapper that were 14 to 15 inches, a dozen lane snapper keepers to 14 inches, and a few big grunts. They released ten red grouper shorts to 18 inches and, heartbreakingly, six out-of-season gag grouper, five of which were keeper-size. The groupers all bit on baitfish, while everything else bit on live shrimp.
Thursday morning, 2/4, ahead of another weather front expected to drive up winds and seas and bring some rain over-night, I headed offshore 18 miles from New Pass with Ralph Marino, Howard Ramsdale and Fred Mulchy. Seas were three-to-four feet, but fishing was good. Using live shrimp, the guys caught a dozen keeper lane snapper to 14 inches, fifteen mangrove snapper to 16 inches, four sheepshead ranging 16 to 17 inches, five 12-inch porkfish, and grunts to 14 inches. They released a 26-inch bonito, along with a few smaller sheepshead, red grouper shorts, and a 22-inch out-of-season gag grouper.
Friday was a cold, blustery day, and my anglers had no interest in being on the water, even inshore. So, I remained in port, until Saturday morning, 2/6, which was still too rough to fish offshore. But father-son anglers Butch and Chandler Cole fished a catch-and-release trip in lower Hickory Bay with me, using live shrimp. They caught seven sheepshead to 14 inches, a 14-inch black drum, an 11-inch mangrove snapper, a pair of 3-pound stingray, and a 20-inch trout.
Monday and Tuesday, 2/8 and 2/9, winds and seas were high, with seas up to 14 feet well offshore. My planned offshore trips for both those days canceled.
Wednesday, 2/9, Jeff and Beth Heinrich and their two young children, Maddie and Tanner, had planned to fish offshore, but seas were not nearly calm enough to do so, so the family decided to give the backwaters a try instead. Live shrimp yielded some pretty nice catches, including a 30-inch bull-red that Maddie reeled in with very little help! We photographed that fish and released it, since it was outside the slot size. The family also released a big stingray, estimated at about 35 pounds, along with one sheepshead. They also got to see a 5-inch seahorse float by so, all in all, it was a fun excursion.
Thursday, 2/11, began with a temperature of 43 degrees, but hardy anglers John Pound and his sons, Dan and Ryan, along with John's niece, Chelsea, braved the cold to head offshore, where seas were rougher than predicted. We had a feeling they would be, given the conditions all week, but this group was up for heading out 19 miles. The bite wasn't as strong as it was when John and his friends fished with me last week, but the group used live shrimp to catch six keeper lane snapper to 13 inches and two mangrove snapper to 15 inches, along with a 13 ½-inch sheepshead. They released a 14-inch mutton snapper.
Seas calmed and temperatures warmed on Friday, 2/12, and the snapper must have liked those conditions better because their bite was on! Kari Vilamaa, Ed Hershey, Jerry Wilson, and friend, Don, fished 22 miles west of New Pass with me, using live shrimp. The guys boxed eighteen lane snapper to 13 inches and twenty nice mangrove snapper to18 inches. They added three keeper sheepshead to 17 ½ inches, a couple of porgies, and nine grunts.
Winds and seas were forecast to pick up again by Saturday afternoon, but Steve Davis, Jim Grubbs, and Harland Durkin got a fairly calm morning of fishing before that happened. We fished 22 miles west of New Pass with live shrimp, and the snapper were still biting strong. The guys caught an 18-inch mutton snapper, eight keeper lane snapper to 17 ½ inches, and eight mangrove snapper to 15 inches. They added to the fish box four nice sheepshead to 18 inches, a half-dozen grunts, and four porgies to 14 inches.
The first photo shown is of angler Tom Picha with a 20-inch sheepshead, one of several large sheepshead he and his friends caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip.
The second photo shown is of angler Chandler Cole with a 20-inch trout, caught on shrimp in lower Hickory Bay on a recent inshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
About The Author: Captain Dave Hanson
Company: Fish Buster Charters
Area Reporting: Bonita Beach
Bio: Captain Dave Hanson is a native of southwest Florida. He has been fishing local waters since childhood, and has been fishing professionally for over fifteen years. He is Coast Guard licensed, and is a member in good standing of the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce. He has been featured in several national fishing magazines, and he also appears weekly in the fishing reports sections of the Bonita, Ft. Myers, Ft. Myers Beach, and Naples, FL newspapers.