SW FL-Bonita Beach: Bottom Fishing Yields Good Variety
<p>Monday, 4/13/15, seas were predicted to be two feet or less, but NOAA definitely underestimated those. I fished with long-time customers Clement and Evelyn Wong, along with their son, Nathan and daughter-in-law, Joy. Seas were three feet or more, about 18 miles west of New Pass, and we actually cut the morning of fishing short, as a couple of anglers were feeling a bit seasick. The family managed to catch a few keepers, though, before we headed back to terra firma. They boxed a keeper-sized mangrove snapper, porkfish, and five grunts. We also had a goliath on that broke the line.
Tuesday morning, 4/14, there were some leftover swells from Monday's unsettled weather, but it calmed down offshore, with no early rains, and I fished 19 miles west of New Pass with long-time customer, Robin Latham, his niece and her husband, Jolene and Andrew Davis, and family friend, Chris McFarland. The group kept the twenty largest of thirty-five keeper porgies to 17 inches, along with a few of the fifteen 13-inch and 14-inch grunts they caught. They also released four red grouper shorts to 18 inches, one lane snapper short, and lots of blue runners. Everything bit on live shrimp.
Carl and Sharon Simonin and son, Austin, along with friends, Gina and her son, Logan, fished 18 miles offshore with me Wednesday morning, 4/15, using live shrimp. The group caught fifteen nice porgies to 16 ˝ inches, along with a half dozen good-sized grunts. They released ten red grouper shorts.
Frequent customers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Richard Arnett, fished 29 miles offshore with me on Thursday, 4/16. The guys wanted to fish for grouper, and we used shrimp and a few pinfish to catch a bunch of red grouper--forty in all--but they were short of keeper size, with a few of them only 1/4 to 1/8 inch short. We had fun catching and releasing, even if we didn't get to box any of them. The guys did get five keeper lane snapper and five porgies to keep, along with a 32-inch king mackerel. They released a three-foot sharp-nose shark.
Friday, 4/17, seas were rougher than predicted and definitely choppier than they had been all week. I fished 18 miles west of New Pass with John Pear and three of his friends. The guys used live shrimp to catch twenty keeper lane snapper to 14 inches. They caught one keeper porgy before the dolphins showed up at our porgy spot, putting an end to adding any more porgies to the box! The guys released five red grouper shorts and lots of blue runners.
Saturday, 4/18, Donnie Miles, son-in-law, Orry Andrew, and friend, Brad Wheeler, fished the east wall of Estero Bay's backwaters with me, from Mound Key to the Imperial River, using live shrimp. The guys released three redfish to 17 inches, along with three sheepshead to 14 inches, and eleven mangrove snapper. They kept four of the good-sized snapper for dinner.
Monday morning, 4/20, I had planned an offshore trip with the family and friends of Tom Rylander, but an unsettled weather pattern with rain over the gulf and increasing winds and seas required that we change plans and fish inshore in Estero Bay's backwaters. The group fished the bay down toward Wiggins Pass, using live shrimp. They caught a couple keeper mangrove snapper, and released some smaller ones, along with six stingray to 8 pounds.
Tuesday morning, 4/21, there was widespread rain over the gulf, and my offshore trip cancelled.
Wednesday morning, 4/22, there were still a few residual rain showers to dodge, but nothing as widespread or heavy as we'd seen the previous day. Prepared with rain slickers on board, I headed out 18 miles to fish with long-time customer Tom Batcheller and his friends, Gary and Steve. The guys used live shrimp to catch as many as forty lane snapper, fifteen of which were keepers to 14 inches. They released lots of blue runners, a Spanish mackerel, and a dozen red grouper shorts to 18 inches.
Larry Leach and Wayne Bauman scheduled two days of offshore fishing with me on Thursday, 4/23 and Friday, 4/24. Thursday, we headed out to about 36 miles west of New Pass, where the guys fished with live shrimp. They boxed fifteen nice-sized mangrove snapper to 16 inches, along with three yellowtail snapper, all 14 to15 inches. They chose to release a brace of 32-inch king mackerel, along with twenty must-release-red-grouper-shorts, a few of which were just 1/8 inch short of keeper size. The guys hooked two nice red grouper that probably would have been about 26 inch keepers, based upon the ten pound heads that were reeled up, after a big shark decided to make have dinner on us!
Larry and Wayne, returned to fish again on Friday, and we had hoped to get back out to catch that demon shark who ate our big groupers the day before—or at least catch some big grouper! But we didn't have the calm sea conditions we'd had on Thursday. The winds had picked up considerably, and seas were pretty rough, even relatively close to shore. So we decided to do some goliath-grouper sport fishing at one of my spots just 14 miles offshore. We caught a bunch of blue runners, which we used for goliath bait, and we photographed and released two goliaths, estimated at 150 pounds and 320 pounds. Goliaths must be released while still submerged in the water, so the guys couldn't pose with their catches, but they got a few good pics of the fish. Those goliath battles were enough to give the guys some sore arms and, after that excitement and also catching a 14-inch pompano, they decided to head in a bit early to relax before catching their flight back to Michigan.
Saturday, 4/25, was windy again and, although NOAA's prediction remained for two-foot seas, I knew it would be rougher than that. I headed out 19 miles from New Pass with Peter Halunen and his son, Clinton, where we fished with live shrimp in mostly three-foot seas. The guys caught three nice porgies, all 14 inches, and a half dozen 13-inch grunts, along with two keeper porkfish and a keeper lane snapper. We would have managed a few more lanes if the dolphin hadn't showed up on our spot to feast! We also released six red grouper shorts to 17 inches. On the way back in, we encountered mating sea-turtles, which we stopped to video.
The photo shown is of angler Bill Crockett, with a 19 ˝-inch sheepshead, caught on shrimp.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link.
19 1/2-inch sheepshead, on live shrimp
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.