SW FL-Bonita Beach: Lots of Action!
<p>Saturday morning, 3/26/16, I fished 23 miles west of New Pass in calm seas with Bob Bockhorst, his son-in-law, Don Leesman, and Don's college-aged kids, Dave, Kevin, and Kristen. Dave used a pinfish to reel in a 31-inch gag grouper—it was a beauty, but had to be released after we took its picture, due to closed season. Kristen caught a keeper 23-inch red grouper, though, which also bit a pinfish. The family used live shrimp to add a dozen keeper lane snapper, a brace of 22-inch Spanish mackerel, a 13-inch porgy, and a few grunts to the fish box. They released twenty-some red grouper shorts, and lots of yellowtail snapper shorts, and enjoyed one heck of a battle with an 8-foot sandbar shark before releasing it.
Monday, 3/28, I headed offshore with Roy Mittman and his son, Zack, to fish with live shrimp 22 miles west of New Pass. The guys caught lots of red grouper, including one keeper at 22 inches. They also caught twenty keeper lane snapper to 12 inches, so they ended up with a pretty full fish box. Visibility was poor all day, with heavy clouds hanging over us, but no rain.
Ron Musick, friend Dick Arnett, Dick's son, Nate, and Nate's four young sons, Will, Jack, Henry and Ted, fished 20 miles west of New Pass with me, ahead of the rains on Tuesday, 3/29. The boys caught a nice variety of fish on live shrimp, including two keeper red grouper at 21 and 22 inches, twenty lane snapper to 12 inches, a brace of keeper 13-inch mangrove snapper, three porkfish, seven porgies, eight grunts, and a brace of 24-inch Spanish mackerel. They released short red and gag grouper.
Wednesday, 3/30, NOAA predicted calm seas of one-to two feet. But there was a stiff easterly wind blowing in the morning, which was forecast to subdue to 5 knots later: That never happened! I headed out 12 to 18 miles from New Pass with Bill Conklin and family, including a couple of young children. The ride out wasn't too bad, and seas were tolerable while we were fishing, but the ride back in was slow and tedious, with high surf and winds at 20-25 knots. Bill released a 27-inch (out-of-season) gag grouper, which barely made it to the boat, as it was literally being charged by dolphins. The dolphins were out in force, trying to steal all our fish, so we moved to another spot, where the family caught ten keeper food-fish, including lane snapper and grunts.
Thursday, 3/31, NOAA was still calling for calm seas but I knew better, after the experience of the previous day. The wind was slightly less than it had been, but seas were far from calm. So, I advised Frank Partee that it would be best to take him, his son-in-law, Joe Regan, and Frank's three young grandchildren, David, Jack and Michael, to near-shore spots, rather than venturing too far offshore. We fished about 8 miles west of New Pass using live shrimp. The group caught three keeper lane snapper to 12 inches, two keeper porkfish, a few grunts, and a 14-inch hogfish keeper. They released red grouper shorts, a couple of small gag grouper, and blue runners.
Friday, April 1st, seas were still three-to-four feet and winds blew 15 to 20 knots, defying NOAA's predictions, as they had all week. I headed offshore with Bill Conklin again, who had fished with me Wednesday. This trip, Bill brought his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Jan Ramge, and their daughter, Libby. The family used live shrimp about 10 miles west of New Pass to box three keeper lane snapper, a keeper mangrove snapper, four porkfish, three sheepshead all 14 to 15 inches, and a mess of grunts and porgies. They released four triggerfish shorts, four mangrove snapper shorts, and a 40-inch black-nose shark.
I advised Andy Chezem that seas were likely to be rough Saturday morning, 4/2, when he was scheduled to fish offshore with his fifteen-year-old son, Sam, and his eleven-year-old-son, Gabe, and I offered the option of fishing the backwaters. But, the boys had their hearts set on going offshore, and said they didn't mind the waves. So, we compromised on a near-shore excursion to the reefs just off Bonita Beach, where the guys used live shrimp in four-foot seas to catch a 16-inch seatrout, three keeper sheepshead to 15 inches, three keeper mangrove snapper to nearly 15 inches, and a half-dozen whiting. They released a few ladyfish and crevalle jacks.
Monday morning, 4/4, was drizzly and still on the windy side, but the light showers were widely scattered, and they did not stop Art Arvanites, his son-in-law, Mark, and Art's grandkids, Shannon and Adam, from heading out to the near-shore reefs to fish. Using live shrimp, the family caught six keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches and a mess of large grunts. They released lots of lane snapper shorts, and also got to feel the weight of a couple goliath grouper on their lines, until they broke off.
Bradley Miller and his friend, Darren, fished near-shore with me on Tuesday morning, 4/4/16. Seas were still too rough to get out too far, so we fished the near-shore reefs and a few other spots close in. Bradley reeled in a 27 ˝ inch snook, on shrimp, photographed it, and released it, as it was ˝ inch below legal size. The guys also caught an 18-inch sheepshead and a whiting. They released eight mangrove snapper shorts, two crevalle jacks, a pair of 17-inch ladyfish, and some grunts.
Winds were howling again on Wednesday morning, 4/6, so Mark & Jeanine Miller and Mark's dad, Gary, decided to fish the backwaters of lower Hickory Bay, rather than heading into the gulf. Using live shrimp, the family caught and released two snook at 17 inches and 20 inches. They caught a few keepers, including a brace of 14-inch sheepshead, along with a 16-inch trout. They also released five sheepshead shorts.
Winds and seas calmed down nicely for Thursday's (4/7) offshore trip with frequent fishers, Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, and we headed out about 22 miles west of New Pass. The guys did well with lane snapper, boxing thirty-five keepers to 12 inches. They added three nice porgies, and released grunts and short red grouper to 19 inches, all caught on shrimp.
Friday, 4/8, seas were still pretty calm, and I headed offshore 22 miles with Leo Walsh and friends. Two keeper red grouper, each 21 ˝ inches made their way to the fish box, after biting on pinfish. Live shrimp yielded twenty lane snapper to 14 inches, so the group ended up with plenty of food-fish. They released red grouper shorts and blue runners.
The photo shown is of Bradley Miller with a 27 ˝-inch snook, caught on shrimp at the near-shore reefs off Bonita Beach on a recent trip, and released, due to being ˝-inch short of legal size.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
27.5-inch snook released due to being 1/2 inch short of legal
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.