SW FL-Bonita Beach: Snapper abundant offshore; Trout inshore
<p>Monday, 2/15, was a windy day, and seas offshore were about three feet and sloppy when I headed out to 22 miles west of New Pass with Brian and Marcia Wilson. The couple used live shrimp to catch six keeper mangrove snapper that ranged 14 inches to 17 ¾ inches. They also caught a 14-inch hogfish, seven porgies to 14 inches, three porkfish, and a half-dozen grunts around the 13-inch mark. They released six short mangs and a few yellowtail shorts, along with a short triggerfish, several red grouper shorts to 19 inches, and a 20-inch gag grouper.
My charter for Tuesday was scared off by the predictions for thunderstorms, and canceled the evening ahead. Actually, the storms had already moved through by early morning, and it turned out to be a nice day.
Wednesday, 2/17, Sue Augustine and her two children, Mitchell and Alana, fished 22 miles offshore with me. Seas were two-to-three feet early, but calmed to one-to-two feet as the morning progressed. The family caught lots of fish, choosing to keep only a few for meals, and releasing all the rest. Catches on live shrimp included thirty keeper-sized mangrove snapper to 18 inches, a pair of 12-inch lane snapper, three porgies to 15 inches, six keeper-sized sheepshead to 19 inches, twenty-five grunts, yellowtail snapper shorts, red grouper shorts to 18 inches, and an out-of-season gag grouper at 23 inches.
Thursday morning, 2/18, was windy and it was tough anchoring on my target spots, but we managed to get out 22 miles and anchor-up for some snapper fishing. Marshall Swain, joined by friends, John, Paul and Jim, used live shrimp to catch a dozen nice mangrove snapper keepers to 16 inches, along with a 14-inch lane snapper. They added a half dozen porgies to 14 inches and a few grunts to the box, and released some red grouper shorts.
Friday brought very gusty conditions, and prohibited my taking the family of six who had scheduled an offshore trip. By Saturday morning, 2/20, winds had subsided considerably, and I headed offshore to fish with Gary Hested and his two teen-aged grandsons, Kade and Nathan Faga. Seas were still on the rough side, but we made it out 22 miles, where the family used live shrimp with good success. They caught five keeper-sized sheepshead to 17 inches, kept the largest three of those, and released the other two. They also caught porgies to 18 inches and twenty grunts, and chose to keep just a few of each. Added to the box were four mangrove snapper to 15 inches, which were the largest of the seven keeper-sized mangs caught. The group also released nine red grouper to 19 7/8 inches, just 1/8-inch short of keeper-size, along with some yellowtail snapper shorts and a 20-inch gag grouper.
Tim Baker and friend, Barry, fished inshore with me Monday, 2/22, using live shrimp in lower Big Hickory Bay. The guys caught three keeper sheepshead at 16 inches, 14 inches, and 13 inches. They released six sheepshead shorts, along with a dozen mangrove snapper shorts and four stingray to seven pounds.
Bill and Teri Tank fished inshore, using live shrimp in lower Hickory Bay with me Tuesday morning, 2/23, once the early rains cleared out. They hit the trout just right, and limited out on those, with eight keepers ranging 16 to18 ½ inches. They released three additional trout, three would-be-keeper mangrove snapper to 11 inches, and a half dozen sheepshead to 14 inches.
Derrick Axell planned to celebrate his son, Evan's, fourteenth birthday with a full day of fishing offshore on Wednesday, 2/24, but an approaching weather front that was preceded by four-to-six-foot seas precluded that. We decided upon a half-day of inshore fishing in lower Hickory Bay, with plans to return to the dock before any severe weather arrived. So, we fished with live shrimp in very windy conditions, but did well with seatrout. The guys caught ten keeper trout to 18 ½ inches, and released two of them, per mandated limits. They added to the box a brace of 16-inch pompano, along with two keeper sheepshead at 13 and 14 inches.
Thursday, 2/25, my planned offshore trip canceled due to gusty winds and seas of four-to-six feet.
Friday, 2/26, the tide wasn't as favorable as it had been earlier in the week in lower Hickory Bay, where I fished with long-time customers Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. The guys kept two trout at 16 and 17 inches and one 13-inch sheepshead.
Saturday morning, 2/27, was chilly at 48 degrees, with a pretty hefty wind blowing and low tide conditions in the backwaters, where I fished a catch-and-release trip with Richard Plum. He caught and released two sheepshead, a 16-inch trout, and a dozen ladyfish, all on live shrimp.
The first photo shown is of angler Ralph Marino with a 26-inch bonito, caught on shrimp and released on a recent offshore trip.
The second photo shown is of angler Evan Axell with an 18 ½-inch trout, one of ten 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:
26-inch bonito, released
18 1/2-inch trout
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.