SW FL-Bonita beach: Grouper, snapper, big sheepshead, trout
<p>Saturday morning, 2/27, was chilly at 48 degrees, with a pretty hefty wind blowing and low tide conditions in the backwaters, where I fished a catch-and-release trip with Richard Plum. He caught and released two sheepshead, a 16-inch trout, and a dozen ladyfish, all on live shrimp.
Monday, 2/29, Mike McCarthy and Ken Hubbell fished with me 22 miles west of New Pass, using live shrimp. We had a good morning of fishing in warmer temps and calmer seas than have been the case in recent days. The guys boxed a 24-inch keeper red grouper, six nice keeper mangrove snapper to 17 inches, two sheepshead to 20 inches, and four porgies to 17 inches. They released five red grouper shorts, two gag grouper shorts, and a 26-inch bonito.
Tuesday, March 1st, I began the new month right, fishing with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso and Dick Arnett, in spots ranging from 18 to 35 miles west of New Pass. We caught a few blue runners and used them for grouper bait, which landed us three keeper red grouper, a 21 ½-inch, 22 ½ inch, and 24-inch. We used live shrimp for the rest of our catches, which included three keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches, a keeper lane snapper, ten nice porgies, and a few grunts.
Wednesday, 3/2, was another calm morning offshore, which I spent fishing with George Sloan, Alan Ladd, and Ken Zurich, 22 miles west of New Pass. The guys used live shrimp to catch eight keeper mangrove snapper to 15 inches, three keeper sheepshead to 18 inches, and a half dozen large grunts. They released seven red grouper shorts, along with a 22-inch, out-of-season gag grouper.
Thursday, 3/3, winds picked up a bit over the dead calm we had seen the two previous days, and there was a pretty good roller offshore, where I fished 20 miles west of New Pass with long-time customer, Mike Conneally, his brother Paul, and Paul's son, Connor. The guys used live shrimp to box ten porgies around 14 inches each, three sheepshead to 16 inches, a keeper mangrove snapper, and six grunts, of the twenty grunts they caught. Along with the surplus grunts, they released a couple of porkfish, two mangrove snapper shorts, a 17-inch gag grouper, and eight red grouper shorts to 19 ¾ inches.
Friday morning, 3/4, began with some widely scattered showers, which I managed to dodge as I rode out to 22 miles west of New Pass with Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett to fish for snapper. The guys used live shrimp to catch twenty keeper lane snapper, and also got a couple of nice sized porgies and grunts. They also caught five keeper sheepshead to 18 inches, added the two largest of those to the fish box, and released the other three. They released a 23-inch, out-of-season gag grouper, along with three red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches.
Saturday morning, 3/5, winds had picked up and seas were about 3-foot when I headed 20 miles offshore with Marvin Colona and his friend, Rodney. As the morning progressed, the wind and seas calmed down, and the bite got better mid-morning than it was early on. The guys used live shrimp to catch a half dozen mangrove snapper keepers to 15 inches, twenty grunts, of which they boxed a dozen, six porgies, and four sheepshead keepers to 17 inches. They released a 21-inch gag grouper, along with ten red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches.
Monday, 3/7, father and son team, Harry and Bill Easom had planned to fish all day in the backwaters, but the tide was low, and the winds were whipping at about 25 knots—It was tough to anchor and tough to fish, so we decided to get the most out of the best tide, and then call it a day. We fished at the south end of Ft. Myers Beach, but the deeper holes there had two foot seas—yes, even in the bay. The guys used live shrimp to catch three sheepshead to 18 inches, and they released four stingray.
Tuesday morning, 3/8, didn't appear too windy at first, but there was a small craft caution in effect for the early morning. In actuality, it got rougher later in the morning than it was initially. Hardy Texans, father and son Cameron Hickman and Cameron, Jr. fished twenty miles offshore with me in two to four foot seas, mostly fours. It was tough to anchor, but we managed okay, and the guys caught three keeper lane snapper and three mangrove snapper keepers to 14 inches, along with three porgies, two porkfish, and a 12-inch grunt. They released four mangrove snapper shorts, as well as lots of red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches.
Winds and seas continued to build, and there was no way I was advising Ernie Bedford and Mark Krueger to go offshore on Wednesday morning, 3/9. I suggested we fish in the backwaters, which we did in various spots of Estero Bay, staying as sheltered as possible from the wind. The guys did well, using live shrimp to box four keeper trout to 18 inches and four keeper sheepshead between 14 and 19 inches each. They released six additional sheepshead, most of which were keeper size, but the guys had no need for that many fish. They also released four stingray, a lady fish, and a few crevalle jacks.
Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who book several trips with me each winter season, have only gone offshore with me once this season, thanks to numerous days of high winds and seas. Friday, 3/11, was no exception. With winds blowing hard once again, we opted to fish the backwaters of upper Estero Bay, where the guys used live shrimp to catch four keeper sheepshead to 15 inches. They released a 16-inch trout, a ladyfish, and six smaller sheepshead.
The first photo shown is of angler Eddie Alfonso with a 29-inch gag grouper, one of three nice ones he caught on baitfish and released on a recent offshore trip.
The second photo shown is of angler Mark Krueger with a 19-inch sheepshead, caught on shrimp on a recent inshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
29-inch gag grouper, on a baitfish-released
19-inch sheepshead 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.