SW FL-Bonita beach: Lots of variety offshore and inshore
<p>Saturday morning, 3/12, I fished 22 miles west of New Pass with Mike Wickman and his friend, Paul. The guys used baitfish to land two keeper red grouper at 21 ½ inches and 24 inches. They released numerous red grouper shorts. Using live shrimp, they added to the fish box five keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches, along with a few porgies and grunts. They released a 22-inch Spanish mackerel.
Monday, 3/14, I had planned to fish but received a last minute cancellation that did not allow me enough time to re-book the day with another interested party. Fortunately, these situations occur only rarely.
Tuesday, 3/15, I headed offshore 30 miles with frequent customer, Ron Musick, along with his friends, Eddie Alfonso, Dick Arnett, and Kevin. Eddie caught a 23-inch red grouper on a baitfish, and the guys used live shrimp to land twenty porgies, a few grunts, and a half-dozen keeper lane snapper. They also caught five mangrove snapper, but only one of those was slot-size at 13 inches. The fish box was plenty full, however, and it was a great day of fishing in calm seas.
Wednesday, 3/16, I headed offshore twenty miles with Lee Larsen and friends, Bud, Pete, and Dick. The guys used live shrimp to catch four sheepshead to 16 ½ inches, a 14-inch hogfish, three keeper porkfish, five porgies, a mess of grunts, and one keeper mangrove snapper. They released a just-short triggerfish at 13 7/8 inches, along with four red grouper shorts.
I spent St. Patrick's Day morning fishing the backwaters with Paul Damphousse and family. The bite was on the slow side in lower Hickory Bay, but the guys caught two keeper sheepshead to 15 inches, and released five smaller ones. They also released a redfish short, and got broken off once by something unknown.
Friday morning, 3/18, I fished in lower Hickory Bay on a catch-and-release, inshore trip with Russ Miller, his friend Bill Griffin, and Bill's three young children, Avery, Alex, and Billy. The kids had a good time using live shrimp to catch and release four sheepshead to 15 inches, a 17-inch redfish, and an 18-inch snook.
Saturday morning, 3/19, Reese Lang took his seven-year-old son, Nicholas, fishing with me in the backwaters of lower Hickory Bay. Nicholas had a great time reeling in four keeper sheepshead to 19 inches. He hooked a big redfish too, had quite a few fun runs with that, and nearly got it to the boat on his kiddie-pole before it broke the line. He also released a stingray. All in all, there was plenty of action, adventure and fish to bring home for dinner.
A cold-front came through the area over-night Sunday, bringing gusty winds and rough seas for Monday, 3/21. Frank Partee, his son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Ginger, and their daughter, Katie, fished in the backwaters of lower Hickory Bay with me instead of heading offshore. The family used live shrimp in whatever active spots we could find that were somewhat sheltered from the wind. They caught four sheepshead to 14 inches, an 18-inch trout, and a keeper mangrove snapper. They released short sheepshead, a crevalle jack, and two stingray weighing two pounds and six pounds.
Michael Want and his twelve-year-old son, Kevin, just wanted to wet a line in the backwaters Tuesday morning, 3/22, and catch a fish or two on a catch-and-release trip. So they were happy to release a 17-inch seatrout, five ladyfish, a big, five-pound sail-cat, and a stingray that weighed over ten pounds. All were caught on live shrimp.
Wednesday, 3/23, NOAA predicted calm seas of two feet, and I headed offshore with Robert Miller, his son, Tim, and Tim's young children, Cami and Drew. A short time into our journey we knew that seas were rougher than predicted, with a stronger wind factor than predicted also. We decided to fish near-shore in spots ranging 8 to 10 miles west of New Pass, using live shrimp for bait. The kids caught lots of fish, including a few keepers. They released ten bluefish to 18 inches, caught nine Spanish mackerel to 24 inches and kept four of those, caught thirty lane snapper including four keepers, and caught twenty grunts, of which they kept two.
Seas were still a little sloppy on Thursday morning, 3/24, when I headed out of New Pass with Ken and Amy Pucel and their ten-year-old son, Joe. We decided to try our luck near-shore, and the family did very well fishing spots 10 to 12 miles out. Joe caught a mangrove snapper, but before he could reel it in, a 23-inch red grouper bit it, and he reeled in the grouper instead, considering it a more than fair trade! Ken caught a near 19-inch flounder on a live shrimp. The family added three keeper lane snapper to the box, and released several lane shorts, along with red grouper shorts and a small gag grouper. They also caught and chose to release a dozen Spanish mackerel in the 22 to 23-inch range.
Friday morning, 3/25, we awoke to thunderstorms and rain. Radar showed a break in the rain for just a few hours before another batch of even heavier storms were due to roll in off the gulf. Dodging rain might have been okay, but with lightening already in the AM storm activity, I had no choice but to cancel my offshore trip for that day.
The first photo shown is of angler Ken Pucel with a 19-inch flounder caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip.
The second photo shown is of young angler Nicholas Lang 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:
19-inch flounder on shrimp
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.