SW FL-Bonita beach: grouper, snapper, shark, trout
<p>Monday, 4/11, I headed offshore with Tom Breyer, his son Scott, grandson Reid, and Reid's friend, Logan. Winds were hefty, and NOAA's prediction for two-to-three-foot seas was about a foot short of reality. We tried fishing a few spots close-in but the bite wasn't great, so the group decided to brave the three-to-four-foot seas to get out 22 miles, where snapper fishing with live shrimp has been good. They caught twenty-five keeper lane snapper to 11 inches, and released twenty-four red grouper shorts to 18 inches. At one point, they almost had a keeper red grouper that bit a pinfish, but it was barely hooked in the lip and popped off just before it got boat-side.
Frequent customers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett were joined by their friends, John and Lauren Smith, Tuesday, 4/12, when we headed offshore 25 miles west of New Pass in calm seas. The group caught four keeper red grouper, three at 21 ½ inches and one at 22 inches. They also caught two dozen keeper lane snapper to 17 inches, along with a few nice-sized grunts. They released lots of red grouper shorts, along with two sharks, one four-footer and one six-footer. The grouper bit on baitfish, and everything else took live shrimp.
Wednesday, 4/13, in calm seas once again, I headed offshore, this time with Russell and Sherri Marcus and their friend, Tony Stinson. Pinfish yielded four keeper red grouper, all between 21 and 22 inches. Live shrimp worked well for snappers, and the group boxed twenty keeper lanes to 14 inches, along with a 14-inch mangrove snapper. They released a 19-inch gag grouper, eleven red grouper shorts, and nine mangrove snapper shorts.
Fishing was pretty slow in Estero Bay's backwaters Thursday morning, 4/14, when I fished a catch-and-release trip with Leed Hutchinson and his son, Bill. The guys released a mangrove snapper, two stingray and a crevalle jack.
Clint Malikowski, Matt Dubiel, and Alex Grilde took advantage of some time off while their wives attended a professional conference in our area on Friday, 4/15. We headed out twenty miles west of New Pass, where Matt got to feel the pull of an 80-pound goliath grouper, which bit a large baitfish, and provided a good battle before being released. He also landed a keeper, 21-inch red grouper on a pinfish. The group collectively caught and released twenty-five red grouper shorts, seven of which were just ¼-inch short of legal size. Using live shrimp, they caught two dozen keeper-sized lane snapper, but chose to release them, all but the largest one at 14 inches, and they released a half dozen mangrove snapper shorts.
Saturday morning, 4/16, Clint Malikowski fished with me again, this time joined by his wife, Ashley Nord, and friend, Mike Jabara. Seas were significantly rougher than they had been the day before, and we only went out about 15 miles from New Pass. The guys caught and released two goliath groupers, estimated at 60 pounds and 100 pounds, which bit on blue runners. They also released all their other catches, which included a dozen lane snapper, a 13-inch mangrove snapper, blue runners, bluefish, and a gag grouper short.
Winds persisted for the next couple days, and seas remained too rough offshore for my Monday, 4/18, trip with Remi McKinnon, his two young sons, Mark and Luke, and the boys' grandfather, Ian. So I advised the family to fish the backwaters of lower Hickory Bay, where they used live shrimp to catch an 18 ¼ -inch trout and an 11 ½-inch mangrove snapper. They released a 40-inch bonnethead shark and a ten-pound stingray.
Mike Beverstock a, along with family and friends, Frank, Bridget and Liz, managed a near-shore trip with me, as seas began to subside on Tuesday, 4/19. Fishing at the reefs just a few miles off Bonita beach with live shrimp, the group caught and released a 22 ½-inch gag grouper, along with lots of mangrove snapper shorts and grunts. They also caught three nice sheepshead to 17 inches, a 16-inch Spanish mackerel, and a 15-inch flounder.
Jennifer and Shawn Bull, along with teenaged son, Jared, and Jared's friends Mark and John Polymeros, had hoped to get well offshore on Wednesday, 4/20, but seas were not real cooperative, and we had to stay within 12 miles of shore. Dolphins invaded one of the best spots, which ruined our chances of catching fish there, so we went to several other close-in spots to fish with live shrimp. As for food-fish, the group ended up catching 13 grunts and two keeper lane snapper. They released numerous red grouper shorts.
Seas weren't much calmer Thursday morning, 4/21, though they did calm down some as the day progressed. Frequent customer, Ron Musick, has only a couple more opportunities to get out fishing this season, and it was worth braving some sloppy conditions to him to ride out 25 miles and go after grouper. Ron brought his friends, Eddie Alfonso, Dick Arnett, and Dick's brother-in-law, Jim Mix. Each of the four guys ended up with their own keeper red grouper, all measuring between 21 and 22 inches and biting on pinfish. They added four nice porgies they caught on shrimp to the fish box.
Friday morning, 4/22, NOAA got it wrong again, with predictions for two-foot seas out to 20 miles. I headed out with Casey Miller and friends, and seas were a lot rougher than predicted, with a steady wind blowing across the gulf. We fished the near-shore reefs off Bonita Beach, using live shrimp. The group caught three sheepshead to 14 inches, and released four gag grouper to 20 inches, along with some grunts. They had a few snappers on the line too, but the barracuda got to those before they could be boated.
The photo shown is of angler, Dave Leesman with a 31-inch gag grouper, caught on a baitfish and released, due to closed season, on a recent trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
31-inch gag grouper, released due to closed season
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.