SW FL-Bonita Beach: Reds & Drum Inshore; Grouper & Snapper Offshore
<p>Long-time customer Kari Vilamaa, along with three of his friends, George, Don, and Dick, fished 22 miles west of New Pass with me on Friday, 2/17. The guys used squid to catch a mess of keeper lane snapper, and kept forty of those, releasing an additional twenty. They also boxed a 13-inch keeper mangrove snapper and a 15-inch jolthead porgy. They released two red grouper shorts and two mangrove snapper shorts.
Saturday, 2/18, I headed 28 miles offshore with long-time customers, father and son, Mark and Patrick Dwyer. This time, Mark also brought his brother and sister-in-law along, Bruce and Kathleen. Using squid and cut-bait, the family caught over fifty lane snapper, and kept thirty-five of those. They added to the fish box two 14-inch keeper mangrove snapper, one porgy (of half a dozen caught) and a 24-inch keeper red grouper. They released twenty-four red grouper shorts.
Jeff and Beth Heinrich and their children, Maddie and Tanner, are part of an extended family of folks who have all fished with me for many years. Monday, 2/20 offered up some perfect conditions for their offshore trip, so we ventured out nearly 29 miles, with squid and cut-bait to feed the fish. The family caught two keeper red grouper at 21 inches and 23 inches, and released nearly fifty red grouper shorts. They also caught twenty-four keeper lane snapper to 15 inches, and fifteen grunts, of which they kept five. The kids also enjoyed examining and releasing a blowfish that Maddie caught.
Seas were not nearly as calm on Tuesday 2/21 as they were the previous day. But, eight-year-old, Lucci Beattie toughed it out with his dad, Peter, his grandfather, Bruce, and family friends, Eric and George. We fished with squid and cut-bait, 22 miles west of New Pass, and caught twenty-five lane snapper keepers and ten grunts. The group released fifteen red grouper shorts.
Tim Clifford and his two sons, Johnny and Chris, were rained out of their planned fishing trip on Wednesday, 2/22 but, fortunately, I had a cancellation for the following day, so the Cliffords fished lower Hickory Bay's backwaters with me Thursday morning, 2/23, using shrimp for bait on their catch-and-release trip.. The guys released nine black drum to 20 inches, along with a crevalle jack.
As winds and seas continued to be substantial on Friday, 2/24, Sue Augustine and her young daughter, Alana, traded their offshore fishing plans for a catch-and-release trip in southern Estero Bay's backwaters, where they used live shrimp to release a 15-inch seatrout, a half dozen mangrove snapper shorts and two stingray.
Saturday morning, 2/25, seas were pretty calm heading offshore with Quentin and Jill Connealy and Jill's mom, Linda Connot, all from Nebraska. Mid-morning, some fog rolled through, it got chillier, and seas picked up, but we were able to snapper fish about 16 miles west of New Pass, where the group used squid to box fifteen keeper lane snapper and a few grunts. They released a 22-inch Spanish mackerel and a 15-inch bluefish.
Monday morning, 2/27, was a windy one, and I fished a catch-and-release trip in southern Estero Bay's backwaters with Mike Woods and his friend, Scott. The guys released five black drum, five sheepshead shorts, two crevalle jacks, a stingray, and a sand bream, all of which bit on live shrimp.
Offshore action was steady Tuesday, 2/28, when I fished various spots out to 35 miles with Mike McCarthy and his step-dad, Ken. We caught more red grouper than we could count, but they were all shorts, many of them 19 ˝ inches, just short of keeper size. The guys did catch plenty of keeper food-fish, though, including lane snapper, big grunts to 15 inches, and porgies. They released fifteen yellowtail snapper shorts and a few mangrove snapper shorts. Everything bit on squid and cut-bait. Once the table-fare was taken care of, the guys had fun battling a couple of goliath grouper until they ran off.
Seas were sloppy heading offshore Wednesday morning, 3/1, so I ventured only 17 miles with Robin Latham, Dave Ricardi, and Ricky Cross. The guys had fun catching and releasing fifteen red grouper shorts to 18 inches, and managed to fill the fish box with a mix of lane snapper and grunts, all caught on squid and cut-bait.
Seas calmed down nicely for my offshore trip on Thursday, 3/2, although conditions are predicted to deteriorate over-night. But John and Holly Lischer and son, Kruz, had a perfect window of opportunity to fish 36 miles offshore, using squid, cut-bait, and baitfish. The family hauled in three keeper red grouper, two at 22-inches and one at 21 inches. They added twenty-five additional food-fish to the box—lane snapper and grunts to 16 inches—and released a few red grouper shorts. With plenty of table-fare caught, Kruz decided he'd like to battle a big fish, so we moved to one of my goliath grouper holes, where he battled one to the surface that was over 400 pounds. Kruz might have wanted a dose of Advil with his fish dinner that night!
Winds blew hard on Friday, 3/3, when I fished southern Estero Bay's backwaters with Paul Stanek and his friends, Rich and Jill. The group used live shrimp to catch two keeper mangrove snapper at 12 inches and a black drum at 15 inches. They released half a dozen smaller drum, along with a 24-inch lady fish and three stingray, all about two pounds.
Winds howled throughout the weekend, producing rough seas offshore and dead-low tides in the backwaters. I remained in port.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
The first photo shown is of young angler, Maddie Heinrich, with a 23-inch keeper red grouper, caught on squid on a recent offshore trip.
The second photo shown is of Bill Tank with a 20-inch, keeper redfish, caught on shrimp on a recent inshore trip.
23-inch red grouper
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.