SW FL-Bonita beach: Gotta love the grouper bite!
<p>Saturday, 1/2/16, my first day of the new year on the water, was spent in the backwaters with Ann McManus, her brother, Phil Arnes, and their friends, Roger and Maureen Paruie. The group opted to fish the bay instead of the gulf, since a cool front approaching promised some windier conditions and building seas offshore. Fishing the islands in front of New Pass with live shrimp, the group caught three nice, keeper sheepshead, one that was 14 inches, and two at 17 inches. They also boxed a 22-inch redfish.
Monday and Tuesday, 1/4 and 1/5/16, I had offshore trips planned, which both had to be cancelled due to a weather front that brought high winds and seas of four to seven feet. By the time I got out on Wednesday, 1/6, there was a calming trend beginning, but it was still pretty rough heading out in the morning to about fifteen miles west of New Pass with long–time customer Chris Baumgartner, his dad, Larry, and his daughter, Madeline. The family was after red grouper, now in season, and they were willing to endure some rougher than optimal conditions in order to get some. Using live sand perch and pig-fish for bait, the group boxed five keeper red grouper, a 21 ½-inch, a 22-inch, two 23-inch and a 24-inch. They released seven red grouper shorts, along with a 12-inch triggerfish short and some grunts. They added to the box a pair of 12-inch lane snappers, which were caught on shrimp.
Thursday morning, 1/7, I headed out to fifteen miles west of New Pass to fish with father-son anglers, Jim and Reid Dixon. Once again, as had been the case the previous day, sand perch and pig-fish proved to be good baits for red grouper. The guys caught six keeper-sized red grouper to 23 inches, but had to release two of them, due to per-person limits. They also release an out-of-season, 23-inch gag grouper, as well as a 13-inch triggerfish short. They added five keeper lane snapper to 14 inches to the fish box, along with the four red grouper we kept, making for a nice morning's haul.
Pat Cunningham and her son, Darren Rachman, along with friends, Rick Speicher and John Adams, braved four-foot rollers as we headed offshore Friday morning, 1/8. Despite NOAA's predictions for seas of two-foot or less, it was a rough ride out to about fifteen miles west of New Pass. But, the group boxed some nice fish, including two keeper red groupers between 21 and 22 inches and ten keeper lane snapper to 13 inches.
Saturday, 1/9, was the calmest day offshore that I have seen in a while. I headed out fifteen miles with Greg Grimes, Matt Morgan, Christian Siard, and Justin Stane. The red grouper bite was hot again, and the guys caught three nice keepers on baitfish, one at 27 inches and two at 23 inches. They released fifteen red grouper shorts to 19 7/8 inches, along with one triggerfish short. Using live shrimp, they also caught three keeper lane snapper and a mess of grunts.
The beginning of the next week saw another cold front that brought more windy and rough conditions offshore, along with low tides in the backwaters. I remained in port until Thursday, 1/14, when NOAA predictions called for 15 knot winds, diminishing to 5 knots, and seas of two feet out to 60 miles. So, Roy Mittman and I were a little surprised to see 20 knot winds and some seas as high as four feet all morning, while we fished fifteen miles west of New Pass. But Roy's trip was worthwhile, all the same. He boxed a 27-inch red grouper that he caught on a baitfish, two keeper lane snapper and a mess of grunts, caught on live shrimp, and he released several red grouper shorts and an 18-inch gag grouper.
And that was the last day to get out on the water for this week. Friday brought lots of rain and wind, which kicked up seas through Saturday, even though the weather was nice on Saturday. Over-night Saturday, we had torrential downpours, with gusty winds that persisted into Sunday, and promise to persist over at least the first part of this coming week. Parts of SW FL even saw some severe weather events this past week and weekend, including several tornadoes to the north of us.
The photo shown is of angler Greg Grimes, with a 27-inch red grouper caught on a baitfish on a recent offshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
27-inch red grouper
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.