SW FL-Bonita Beach: grouper & snapper & shark, oh my
<p>After a couple days off, I was back on the water Tuesday, 4/26, when I headed 28 miles offshore in calm seas with frequent fishers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett, joined by friend, John. This was the last fishing trip of the season for Ron, so we had to finish off with at least one keeper grouper, and we got that—a 20 ¾ inch red grouper. We released numerous red grouper shorts, five of which were 19 7/8 inches, just 1/8 inch short of legal size. The guys added to the fish box a mess of keeper lane snapper and a few grunts. The groupers bit baitfish, and we used live shrimp for the snapper.
Wednesday and Thursday, 4/27 and 4/28 were reserved for Barry Garner and his friend, Brad. Barry had thought about fishing the gulf one day, and the bay the next, but after seeing steady action offshore on Wednesday, he and Brad decided to spend both of their mornings fishing the gulf. The guys had no facilities for cooking fish while visiting our area, and were interested only in catch-and-release. On Wednesday, we headed out 20 miles from New Pass, where the Barry and Brad caught two dozen keeper-sized lane snapper, all around the 11-inch mark, ten grunts, all 11 to 12 inches, seven porgies in the 13 to 14-inch range, twenty red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches, a few yellowtail snapper shorts, and big blue runners that weighed about 4 pounds. The larger red groupers bit on baitfish, while everything else bit live shrimp. On Thursday morning, we headed out to 23 miles west of New Pass, and the guys had pretty much the same kind of action they'd had the day before. They released lots of red grouper shorts to 19 ¾ inches, along with fifteen lane snapper that were keeper-size, 25 yellowtail shorts, a dozen mangrove snapper shorts, three porgies to 14 inches, and a brace of 14-inch triggerfish. The larger red grouper bit baitfish, and everything else bit shrimp.
Patrick Dryer, Josh Langelane, and Ronan Banahan fished 23 miles west of New Pass with me in calm seas, which was a treat, on Friday morning, 4/29. The guys used live shrimp to catch 48 lane snapper, keeping 23 of those to 17 inches, and releasing the rest. They also released twenty-five red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches. They added to the fish box three grunts to 12 inches and four 24-inch Spanish mackerel, and released four additional mackerel.
Friday's calm seas turned out to be short-lived. Though predictions were for two foot seas or, at worst, two to three foot seas on Saturday, 4/30, conditions were rougher than that when I headed offshore with Dave and Diane Carey and their friends, John and LuAnn Petterson. We managed to get out 22 miles, in hopes of catching grouper, but the six red grouper we caught on shrimp were shorts to 19 ½ inches, just shy of keeper-size. We released those, along with ten of the twenty keeper-sized lane snapper we caught (the group had no need for more than ten.) We used a blue runner we'd caught as shark bait, and battled a nurse shark estimated at 150 pounds, before photographing it in the water and releasing it.
The winds continued to blow Monday, 5/2, defying NOAA's two-to-three foot seas predictions for offshore. But, hardy anglers Patrick Dryer and Ronan Bonahan, who had fished with me in calm seas the previous Friday, got a taste of three-to-five foot seas on Monday, 23 miles west of New Pass. They were joined on this trip by Ronan's dad, David Bonahan. The group used baitfish to catch lots of red grouper, two of which were keepers at 21 ½ inches and 25 inches. Using live shrimp, they caught twenty-five lane snappers to 14 inches, along with one keeper mangrove snapper at 13 inches. They released six additional mangrove snappers that were shorts.
Tuesday morning, 5/3, I fished 13 miles west of New Pass on a near-shore trip with Roger Meir and his son and daughter, Roger, Jr. and Melanie. Using live shrimp, the family caught six keeper lane snapper. They released lots of blue runners, a red grouper short, a triggerfish short, and a 35-inch sharpnose shark.
I had planned to fish offshore Wednesday morning, 5/4, but predictions of severe weather cancelled out those plans, with rains expected by mid-morning, and severe thunderstorms to follow by mid-afternoon. For the next couple of days, seas were predicted to be 4-to-6 feet offshore.
The photo shown is of Patrick Dryer with a 25-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:
25-inch red grouper, on a baitfish
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.