SW FL-Bonita Beach: Big game and Tablefare

2018-04-08 13:53:05
Bonita Beach, Florida - Saltwater Fishing Report

Long-time customers, Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, fished 19 to 23 miles west of New Pass with me on Monday, 3/19. They used squid and cut-bait to box fourteen keeper lane snapper and three 12-inch grunts. They released seventeen smaller grunts and sixteen red grouper shorts.

Tom Butts, Sr, his son, Tom Jr, and his grandson, Tommy, fished southern Estero Bay’s backwaters with me on Tuesday, 3/20, with live shrimp for bait. The guys caught six sheepshead, including one 15-inch keeper, eight mangrove snapper, including one 11-inch keeper, and a keeper redfish at almost 20 inches.

On a very windy Wednesday morning, 3/21, Keith Strum and his son, Luke, fished southern Estero Bay with me on a catch-and-release trip, using live shrimp for bait. The guys released seven black drum, ten mangrove snapper, and a half-dozen sheepshead.

Thursday, 3/22, I spent another windy morning in southern Estero Bay on a catch-and-release trip with the Griffin family—Bill and Michelle and their three children, Billy, Alex, and Avery. The family used live shrimp to catch and release twenty mangrove snapper, one sheepshead, and one black drum. We spotted some dolphin, and the family got to video four dolphins that escorted the boat as we headed in.

With seas still too rough to head offshore on Friday, 3/23, Steve Stroupe, Larry Pflederer, and their friend, Lou, fished the backwaters in the southern end of Estero Bay with me, using live shrimp. The tide was lower than it had been the past couple of days, but the guys caught quite a few fish, including twenty sheepshead, of which four were keepers to 17 inches. They also released eight short mangrove snapper.

Saturday’s seas were predicted to be two feet offshore but, after a week on high winds and seas, the gulf must have needed a little more time to calm down. It was choppy heading out to 19 miles west of New Pass on 3/24 with Lee Larsen and friends. The red grouper were biting, but none were keeper-size, so the group released a dozen of those, and they boxed some grunts to take home to eat. The dolphin invaded us a couple of times and, though fun to watch, they don’t help with the fishing!

Monday, 3/26, was supposed to be the only calmest day offshore this week, but Walt Barney and family faced some three-to-four-foot seas with me when we headed out 20 miles from New Pass. We stayed out a little longer to allow for a little calming of the seas for our trip back in. Fishing was a little slow too, but the family boxed a dozen keeper lane snapper, five 12-inch porgies, and a dozen grunts, all caught on squid and cut-bait. Two of the larger fish hooked were pursued and eaten by either a shark or a goliath grouper before we could boat them.

James Feres and his friend, Matt, fished southern Estero Bay’s backwaters with me on another windy morning Tuesday, 3/27. They used live shrimp to land four keeper sheepshead to 16 inches and a 14–inch whiting. They released seven smaller sheepshead, along with twenty mangrove snapper shorts.

Fishing inshore again in southern Estero Bay on Wednesday morning, 3/28, this time with Tom Gartland, his daughter, Erin Vollmer, and his three grandchildren, Buzz, Gus and Eloise Vollmer, we used live shrimp to catch and release three black drum, fifteen sheepshead shorts, and twenty-five mangrove snapper shorts. Buzz also landed a nice, 17-inch pompano (see first photo below.)

Winds were strong again on Thursday, 3/29, when I fished a catch-and-release trip in southern Estero Bay’s backwaters with Angelo Difeo, his son, Justin, his brother-in-law, Bill, and his nephew, Landon. The boys used live shrimp to catch a dozen sheepshead to 14 inches, along with two dozen mangrove snapper shorts and a three-pound stingray.

Seas were slightly calmer than they had been for many days, but still far from calm, when I headed out 24 miles west of New Pass with three dads and three sons on Friday, 3/30. Long-time customer, Rusty Hook, was joined by his son, Jeremy, and two of his brothers-in-law, Ryan and Matt, with their sons, Russ and Emmett, respectively. Cut-bait and squid worked well to lure the lane snappers, and the guys boxed eighteen keepers. They added three grunts to the box, and they released a dozen red grouper shorts to 18 inches.

Seas were just a little calmer on Saturday, 3/31, when I fished 19 to 22 miles offshore with Brett Wacker and family members, Jerry, Scott, Jack, Thomas, and Tripp. The guys used squid and cut-bait to box two dozen keeper lane snapper and grunts, and they released a dozen red grouper shorts, along with a 14-inch triggerfish.

Calm seas—what a treat and a novelty! Monday, 4/2, I headed offshore 22 miles west of New Pass with Bob Bockhorst and Don, Kevin and Kristen Leesman. The family used squid and cut-bait to land twenty nice keeper lane snapper to 15 inches, and a few 13-to-14-inch grunts. They released a 14-inch triggerfish and 27 red grouper shorts to 18 inches.

Seas were still calm on Tuesday, 4/3, when I headed out 35 miles with Paul Russell,  Jeff Hoffman Sr., and Jeff’s sons, Jeff Hoffman Jr. and Dylan. Using squid, cut-bait and bait-fish, the guys did great with snapper, boxing fifteen lane snapper to 16 inches, a 13-inch mangrove snapper, and two dozen vermillion snapper. They added to the box fifteen keeper porgies, and they released four short mangrove snapper, thirteen yellowtail shorts, five banded rudder fish that were all about 20 inches, and thirty-two red grouper shorts to 18 inches. They also battled a five-foot goliath grouper that they photographed and released boat-side.

Frequent customer, Mike Connealy, and his son, Brett, fished 15 and 19 miles offshore with me on Wednesday, 4/4/18. They wanted to tackle a goliath, so we headed to one of my goliath spots, hooked a blue runner to use as bait on a heavy rig, and reeled in a 90-pound goliath, which we photographed and released boat-side. After leaving that spot, we used squid to catch a 13-inch mangrove snapper and a trio of 14-inch grunts. Mike also caught an unusual snapper—an 11-inch schoolmaster snapper, which we also photographed and released (seesecond  photo below.

Winds and seas increased on Thursday, 4/5, but it was still tolerable for Roy Mittman and his son, Zach. They used cut-bait and squid to catch four keeper lane snapper and15 grunts all about 12 inches. They released two mangrove snapper shorts and a half-dozen red grouper shorts.

On Friday, 4/6, seas were actually a little calmer than predicted, and I was able to get out 22 miles from New Pass with Ashton Lockhart and his young daughter, Barrett, along with David Clayton and his young daughter, Baylee, and another friend, Paul. The group used cut-bait and squid to box twenty-one keeper-sized lanes to 16 inches, along with a couple of grunts, out of the eight they caught. They released twelve red grouper shorts.

Winds picked up dramatically on Saturday, 4/7, and I fished inshore in southern Estero Bay with Aaron Mead and his friend, Brett. They had a plane to catch after their fishing trip, and had no need for keeping fish, so we released two sheepshead measuring 15 inches and 17 inches, along with a half-dozen small mangrove snapper. We had an estimated 40-pound stingray hooked on light tackle, which finally broke the line, after circling the boat four times.  

You can view our fishing action videos at http://fishbustercharters.com/fishing videos.html

 

Fish Species: snapper, grouper, mackerel, trout, sheepshead, pompano, redfish, black drum
Bait Used: live shrimp, frozen squid, cut-bait, libve bait-fish
Tackle Used: spinning
Method Used: flats-fishing and bottom-fishing
Water Depth:
Water Temperature: 70-74
Wind Direction: variable
Wind Speed: variable
17-inch pompano
17-inch pompano

schoolmaster snapper released
schoolmaster snapper released

Dave Hanson

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.

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