SW FL-Bonita Beach: Grouper, Snapper, Porgies, Red & Black Drum, Sheepshead
<p>Monday, 3/2/15, I headed offshore in calm seas—what a treat that was, after a couple of battling or surrendering to windy, rough conditions. Long-time customers, Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett had a good morning of fishing 22 to 25 miles west of New Pass. They caught two keeper red grouper, both 23 inches, and released a 24-inch gag grouper, along with twenty-five red grouper shorts and several undersized mangrove snapper. One of the keeper red grouper bit a shrimp, while the other keeper red and the gag both bit on bait-fish. The guys added to the fish box a dozen keeper lane snapper
Tuesday, 3/3, I fished with frequent anglers, Ron Musick, Dick Arnett and Eddie Alfonso, in various spots out to 35 miles west of New Pass. Oddly, there was no snapper bite, but the guys caught sixteen nice porgies, all 14-to15-inches, and some grunts. They released twenty red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches, along with two out-of-season gag grouper, including one short and one 23 inches. Everything bit on live shrimp.
Brothers Greg and Jeff Meyer and friend, Nick Neher, fished the backwaters of central Estero Bay with me on Wednesday, 3/4. The guys caught three redfish on live shrimp, including two keepers at 19 inches and 22 inches, and a 17-inch red that they released. They added to the box a 13-inch sheepshead, and they released a half dozen stingray, all of which were two to three pounds.
Thursday, 3/5, I fished the east wall of Estero Bay with father and son anglers, Harry and Bill Easom. The first fish caught was a bull red at 31 inches, which had to be released, but the guys also caught a keeper redfish at 18 ½ inches and released two shorts at 17 inches and 17 ½ inches. They also caught eight keeper-sized sheepshead, and boxed the six largest of those, which ranged 13 ½ to 18 inches. They released nine sheepshead shorts. We also had a huge stingray bite and run about 100 yards before breaking the line.
Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who fished offshore with me on Monday, fished the backwaters with me on Friday morning, using live shrimp along the east wall of Estero Bay. Sheepshead action was good, and the guys boxed ten keepers ranging in size from 13 ½ inches to 19 ½ inches. They released six shorts.
Saturday, 3/7, in the aftermath of another weather front that rolled through over-night, seas were three-to-five feet offshore, with small craft advisories issued. My six-man offshore trip had to be cancelled, due to those conditions.
Monday, 3/9, seas were predicted to be two feet or less, but they were two-to-four feet just 19 miles offshore, where I fished with Steve Davis, his son, Matt Davis, and friend, Eric Goodmanson. Matt caught the only keeper red grouper, at 21 inches, which bit a bait-fish, but the group released twenty additional red grouper in the 18-to 19-inch range. Those smaller grouper bit on live shrimp, as did the two 13-inch triggerfish we released, due to closed season. Also on shrimp, nine nice porgies to 14 inches were boxed, along with ten 12-inch grunts, and a pair of 17-inch sheepshead. The group released ten additional smaller grunts and fifteen smaller porgies.
Tuesday morning, 3/10, I fished inshore in lower Hickory Bay with Tim Ellis and Ken Anderson, using live shrimp. The guys caught a 25-inch black drum, along with seven nice sheepshead ranging in size from 14 inches to 19 ½ inches. They released an additional fifteen sheepshead that were short of keeper size.
Wednesday morning, 3/11, Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who fished inshore with me last Monday, headed offshore to 19 miles west of New Pass, where they fished with live shrimp. They caught twenty-eight porgies in all, thirteen of them keepers to 14 inches. They also caught a dozen keeper-sized grunts, of which they kept the six largest, and released the rest. They topped off the fish box with a 15-inch lane snapper, and they released twenty-five red grouper shorts to 19 inches.
Thursday, 3/12, I fished from 18 to 25 miles offshore with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Dick Arnett and Bob Meyer. The guys used live shrimp to catch and release twenty red grouper shorts to 19 inches. They boxed six h keeper porgies, three keeper lane snapper, and a few grunts. We noticed lots of bait fish on the bottom, especially squirrel fish.
Friday, 3/13, Joe Watton and Wayne Bauman had planned on a full-day offshore, but with the winds having increased substantially, they decided a morning of backwater fishing would be best this time. The guys used live shrimp in central Estero Bay to catch eight sheepshead, one of which was a 15-inch keeper. They released the shorts, along with a 15-pound stingray, fishing on an outgoing tide all morning.
Saturday, 3/14, seas were still a little sloppy, but not rough, and I fished 27 miles offshore with Dave and Judy Eckrich, their son and daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. The family used live shrimp to catch and release twenty-two red grouper shorts to 18 inches. They boxed sixteen porgies to 14 inches, three mangrove snapper to 15 inches, and some good-sized grunts.
The first photo shown is of angler, Harry Easom with a 31-inch bull redfish, caught on shrimp and released in Estero Bay on a recent inshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link.
The second photo shown is of angler, Jim McGrath with a 24-inch gag grouper, caught on shrimp and released 25 miles west of New Pass on a recent offshore trip.
24-inch gag grouper on shrimp, released
31-inch bull redfish on shrimp, released
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.