SW FL-Bonita beach: Bull-red inshore; Nice grouper, snapper, hog offshore
<p>Tuesday morning, 6/14, I fished a catch-and-release, inshore trip in Estero Bay with Mark Basrap and Shannon Featherman. The guys did well using live shrimp. Catches included a 32-inch bull-redfish, a 19-inch redfish, a 17-inch sheepshead, eleven mangrove snapper ranging 11 to 12 inches, a six-pound crevalle jack, and two stingrays, one weighing two pounds and the other twenty pounds. So there was plenty of variety and plenty of muscle exerted!
After a lot of rainy days in port, I was looking forward to an offshore trip scheduled for Monday, 6/20. But there were 20 knot winds and small craft advisories that morning. I had nothing on the books for Tuesday, so I asked Greg Rundy and his son, Jacob, if they could fish Tuesday, 6/21 instead. That was a better day, by far, though still a bit choppy. We managed to get out 28 miles, where the guys used baitfish to catch lots of red grouper, including two keepers at 21 inches and 22 inches. They added to the fish box a brace of 13-inch porgies, along with ten of the twenty-five keeper-sized lane snapper they caught on shrimp, and released the rest, along with some yellowtail snapper and mangrove snapper shorts. They released ten 3-foot sharpnose sharks, and battled and released a 9-foot nurse shark. They also had a couple of big fish break their lines, most likely goliath grouper.
Wednesday, 6/22, I spent the day fishing offshore, 28 miles west of New Pass, with long-time customer Russ Maavich, his three sons, Alex, Brett, and Ryan, and two of their friends, Nathan Hovlovic and Brenton Payne. The guys had a great day of fishing, boxing four keeper grouper, including a 28-inch gag grouper, a 21-inch red grouper, and two 22-inch red grouper. Those all bit on baitfish. The group released 30 additional red grouper that were short of keeper size, along with some yellowtail snapper and triggerfish shorts. They caught so many keeper lane snapper that they ended up releasing eighteen of those, keeping twelve of the largest to 17 inches.
On Monday, 6/27, I headed offshore with Larry Jack, his son, David, and his brother-in-law, Tony Russo. Larry usually fishes with me each summer for a couple of days, usually once offshore and once inshore. We headed out 26 miles from New Pass on Monday in calm seas. Shrimp were in short supply, so we used mostly squid, octopus and grunts for bait, along with some frozen shrimp I had on hand. I guess the fish liked the bait well enough because the guys caught five keeper red grouper ranging 21 to 23 inches and a 15-inch porkfish. They released seventeen red grouper shorts. The guys also caught thirty-five lane snapper, fifteen of which were keepers to 15 inches. So arms were tired, and the fish box was full!
Larry, David and Tony fished again with me Tuesday morning, 6/28, this time in lower Hickory Bay, where the action was nothing comparable to our offshore action of the day before. Lots of rain has dumped fresh water into the bay, which doesn't help with catfish control! But the guys caught and released a 17 ½-inch redfish, along with a sheepshead short and four mangrove snapper shorts. They also released a two-pound stingray.
Wednesday, 6/29, long-time customers Brian and Julie Clark fished thirty-six miles offshore with me, along with their friend, Rob. We used an assortment of baits, including shrimp, squid, and Spanish sardines. There were lots of red grouper biting, but most of those had to be released, since they were short of legal size. We did get one keeper red grouper, though, at 21 inches. The prize fish of the day was a nearly 21-inch hogfish—yum! The group also boxed six keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches, a dozen nice whitebone porgies all 14 to 15 inches, six lane snapper, and five large grunts to 14 inches. They released lots of mangrove snapper and yellowtail shorts, along with five triggerfish, all around 15 inches. The goliath grouper came around at one point, trying to eat our bait, and we actually hooked two of those simultaneously. The lines crossed, and one got off, but we battled a 50-pounder and released it. We had our lines broken six times by those monsters!
Brad Hayes and his son, Jackson, fished 22 miles west of New Pass with me on Thursday, 6/30. We used a cravalle jack to lure a goliath onto the line for a fun battle with one that weighed about 350 pounds, which we photographed it in the water and released. Another fun battle was had with an 8-foot sandbar shark that bit a pinfish. As for table-fare, the guys caught two keeper red grouper at 22 inches and 23 inches, which bit baitfish, along with nine keeper lane snapper that bit live shrimp.
Tai Wallace, his ten-year-old son, Xavier, and Tai's friend, Nick, had planned to fish a full day offshore with me on Saturday, 7/2. But by the half-day mark, the heat was starting to get to Xavier, with water temperature at over 93 degrees, and the air temp about the same. The guys had caught plenty of fish by then, so we decided to call it at the half-day. Using squid for bait 22 miles west of New Pass, the threesome caught three keeper red grouper at 21, 22 and 23 inches. They also caught fifteen keeper-sized lane snapper, and chose to release all but five of those. Added to the fish box were two additional snapper: a keeper yellowtail and a 13-inch mangrove.
The first photo shown is of Shannon Featherman with a 32-inch bull-redfish caught on shrimp on a recent inshore trip.
The second photo shown is of Brian Clark with a 21-inch hogfish caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
32-inch bull-redfish, released
21-inch hogfish on 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.