SW FL-Bonita Beach: Shark, grouper, big lane snapper
<p>Wednesday, 5/25, I headed 18 miles offshore with Dr. Paul Martz and Christian LeClerc. Seas were choppy heading out, but comfortable once anchored, and the guys used baitfish to catch numerous red grouper, including one 21-inch keeper. We also caught a beauty of a hogfish at 19 inches, which bit on live shrimp, along with a keeper lane snapper and four good sized grunts.
The Mazzola family (a combination of brothers and cousins) fished offshore 36 miles with me on a full-day trip Saturday, 5/28. Calm seas allowed us to get out to some good spots, and the guys caught three keeper red grouper on baitfish, consisting of a brace of 21-inch and one 22-inch. Using live shrimp, they caught a mess of lane snapper, and kept a dozen of those to 12 inches, along with a 13 ½-inch keeper mangrove snapper. They added to the fish box a couple of nice porgies, and released ten more of those, and also kept a couple of 13-inch grunts, out of a mess of grunts they caught. They caught a nice triggerfish at 15 inches, but triggers are currently out of season, so we released that, along with twenty yellowtail snapper shorts. It was a productive and fun day of fishing for all!
I returned to fishing on Tuesday, 5/31, after some family events over the Memorial Day weekend, and was happy to see calm seas as I headed offshore with Steve cook, his son, Kullen, and Steve's father-in-law, Denziel Sturgeon. We fished 20 miles west of New Pass, with baitfish and live shrimp. The red grouper bit on baitfish, and we caught fifteen of those, including one keeper at 21 inches. Live shrimp brought us twenty-two keeper lane snapper to 14 inches, along with a brace of 13-inch porgies. We released a 40-inch sharpnose shark, as well as a 13 ½-inch triggerfish.
Steve Cook and friends had initially planned to fish offshore Tuesday and in the bay on Wednesday, but after so much fun and catching success offshore on Tuesday, they decided to head back into the gulf on Wednesday, 6/1. Their morning was nearly a carbon copy of the previous on. They used baitfish to catch another 21-inch red grouper keeper, and released lots of grouper shorts. They also caught fourteen keeper lane snapper to 14 inches on shrimp, along with a 25-inch Spanish mackerel. They again caught a sharpnose shark, about 40 inches, as was the one the previous day. They released the shark, along with a bunch of yellowtail snapper shorts. They also got to see some dolphin up-close, when those notorious fish-stealers invaded our snapper hole!
Thursday morning, 6/2, I fished inshore in lower Hickory Bay with Will and Melissa Tucker and Melissa's parents, Bobby and Laura Davis. Using live shrimp, the group caught a 20-inch keeper redfish, and released a 17-inch red. They added to the box five keeper mangrove snapper and a 13-inch sheepshead. They released five stingray.
Walter Mistak, his son and daughter, Walter, Jr. and Monica, fished offshore with me Friday morning, 6/3, about 20 miles west of New Pass, using shrimp for bait. The family caught eleven keeper lane snapper to 15 inches, and released lots of lane shorts. They also released lots of red grouper shorts to 19 inches, as well as three triggerfish, all about 13 inches, and a 25-inch king mackerel. They added to the fish box a couple porgies, and released five additional porgies.They also fought and released a 30-inch bonnethead shark.
Long-time customer, Jeff Heinrich, was scheduled to fish offshore for a full day on Monday, 6/6, but the tropical depression making its way toward Florida was due to arrive on Monday, and to bring rainy weather and rough conditions for much of the week. We tried our best to beat all that by fishing on Sunday, 6/5, when Jeff was joined by his young daughter, Maddie, and by Jeff's brother, Scott, and his young daughter, Lacey. NOAA had predicted two-foot seas within 20 miles of shore, and two-to-four foot seas beyond 20 miles. We ventured out 20 miles from New Pass, and we encountered three-to-four footers, with a steady 15-20 knot wind. So, we ventured no further than 20 miles. Using live shrimp, the family caught and released fifteen red grouper to 19 7/8 inches, just shy of keeper-size. They did get some fish to eat, though, with a total of twenty lane snapper keepers, one 13-inch keeper mangrove snapper, and a few grunts. They released several yellowtail snapper shorts. About 11AM, rain could be seen over the gulf, and we knew we had to start toward shore, a bit shy of a half-day excursion and nowhere close to the full-day excursion originally planned. Sometimes, Mother Nature throws a wrench into the works. But, at least the family had some fun catching, and will have a couple of fresh fish dinners during their stay.
After that trip, there was nothing but rain and stormy weather for nearly a week. I finally got out fishing again on Saturday morning, 6/11, and headed 23 miles offshore with Darren Rachman, Mike Saxinger, and Mike's dad, Jere Saxinger. We caught baitfish for grouper fishing, and used live shrimp for everything else. The group caught lots of red grouper, including one keeper at 21 inches. They caught a total of 24 keeper lane snapper to 18 inches, along with a 22-inch Spanish mackerel. They released a triggerfish, as well as four sharpnose shark that were all about 35 inches.
The photo shown is of Alana Augustine with a 23-inch gag grouper, caught on a baitfish and released (closed season) on a recent offshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
23-inch, out-of-season gag grouper 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.