SW FL-Bonita Beach: Challenging conditions, big porgies, grouper, lanes & more
<p>Monday, 2/2/15, brought a cold front, right on the heels of a previous front. It was raining by early in the day, and winds and seas kicked up to small craft advisory levels—not a happy way to begin a new month of fishing!
Tuesday, 2/3, brought an even more blustery day, with seas of 4-6 feet offshore, which canceled out my planned offshore trip for that day.
Wednesday morning, 2/4 Randy Peterson and his friend, Al, had an inshore trip scheduled with me. Tides are super low right now, but we planned on a later departure to get the best of a bad tide. Still, fishing was tough in lower Hickory Bay, where the guys used live shrimp to catch and release two sheepshead shorts, two mangrove snapper shorts, and a stingray.
Winds and seas were relentless all week, and Thursday also brought rain and thunderstorms. I cancelled both my Thursday and Friday offshore trips, due to rough and miserable conditions. Bay fishing was also compromised by dead low tides, the north wind adding to the shallowness there.
By Saturday, 2/7, winds were somewhat calmer. Seas were a little sloppy, but had subsided to two-to-three feet. I headed 18 to 22 miles offshore to fish with long-time customer, Leonard White, who was accompanied by his son, Steve, his teen grandson, Colin, and two family friends, Henry and John. Colin got the catch-of-the-day, a keeper red grouper at 22 inches, which bit a pinfish. The group released twenty red grouper shorts to 19 inches, caught on shrimp. They boxed a few good-sized grunts, a couple of porgies, a 13-inch sheepshead, and a keeper lane snapper, also caught on shrimp.
I don't generally fish on Sundays but, having canceled several trips, due to rough conditions, I offered the calmer conditions on Sunday to the anglers who had been forced to cancel a trip that had been scheduled for Friday. So, Sunday, 2/8, I headed offshore with Gary Liesmann, Lenny White and Ted Davies. Seas were a little sloppy heading out, but calmed down nicely, as predicted, and we made it to 35 miles west of New Pass, where the guys fished with live shrimp. They caught and released thirty red grouper shorts to 19 ˝ inches, along with two 23-inch gag grouper, which are currently out of season. Boxed fish included some huge porgies—ten of those were 19 to 19 1/2 inches—along with an 18-inch mangrove snapper and a 13-inch yellowtail snapper. The guys released about ten additional porgies that were slightly smaller than the ones they boxed.
Monday morning, 2/9, rains were predicted for the afternoon, but seas were relatively calm, and the morning looked like a good opportunity to get offshore with John and Carla Vepraskas and friends, Mark Miller and Michelle Tate. We did have some light rain earlier than expected, but nothing that we couldn't handle. On the way back in, however, we had some heavier rains chasing us. The group used live shrimp 22 miles west of New Pass, and caught twenty-six red grouper, including one keeper at 21 inches. Many of the shorts we released were just short of the 20-inch legal size by about ˝ inch. The group also caught thirty-four porgies, and kept a couple of the largest ones at 14 inches. They added to the fish box five 13-inch grunts and fifteen keeper lane snapper.
Tuesday, 2/10, the winds from the cold front that arrived on the heels of the previous day's rain were gusty, and seas were four to seven feet offshore. My fishing trip canceled, and hoped to reschedule form a better day.
Wednesday, 2/11, was moderately windy, much less so than the day before. But seas were in the three-to-four foot range offshore, too rough for Don Kalmey and friends, Jim and Bill, especially with Bill's young grandson along. The tide in the back-bay was supposed to be incoming all morning, with high tide at noon, but we fished a very low tide that first started to come in around noon. The guys released a half dozen undersized sheepshead, caught on shrimp in lower Hickory Bay.
Thursday, 2/12, winds and seas were much calmer until late afternoon, so fishing in two-foot seas, 22 miles west of New Pass with frequent fishers Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, joined by friends, Fred, Kay, and Liz, was no problem. The ride back in, however, was a slow one, as winds picked up considerably by then. The group used live shrimp to catch four nice mangrove snapper to 14 inches, as well as a big lane snapper at 16 inches. They added to the box a dozen porgies to 14 inches, along with a few 13 and 14-inch grunts. They released fifteen red grouper shorts to 19 inches, along with an 8-foot sandbar shark that bit a bait-fish.
Friday, 2/13 brought rough seas of three-to-five feet back again, and my offshore trip canceled.
My trip for Saturday, 2/14, deferred to Sunday, 2/15, when seas were predicted to be slightly calmer than the two-to-four feet predicted for Saturday, and temperatures would be far warmer than the 41 degrees of Saturday morning.
So, Sunday, 2/15, I headed 19 miles offshore with Alec Bayer, his uncle, Bob Snyder, Bob's son, Zack Snyder, and friends, Buck Bachura and Cameron Kovach. Winds were calm at first, and seas nicer than they had been but, by late morning, conditions were getting a little sloppier, as winds again picked up speed. The guys used live shrimp to catch and release fifteen red grouper shorts to 18 inches, and two out-of-season triggerfish at 14 ˝ and 15 ˝ inches. They boxed a dozen keeper lane snapper to 15 inches and a half dozen grunts.
The photo shown is of angler Lenny White, with a 19 ˝-inch porgy, 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.
19 1/2 inch porgy
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.