SW FL-Bonita beach: Red Grouper Re-open Today! Big Sheepshead Moving in Too!

2016-01-01 15:54:58
Bonita Beach, Florida - Saltwater Fishing Report
Estero Bay flats and west of New Pass to 20 miles, gulf

Friday morning, 12/18/15, just ahead of a cold front that was about to bring rain to the area, I headed into the backwaters of Estero Bay with the Lang family--Reese and Kara and their two young children, Nicholas, and Brooklyn. The Langs did not mind if rain cut their trip short, as they mostly wanted the kids to have a couple hours of fun on the water. Not only did they have fun, but the family caught a few nice keepers on live shrimp, over the couple of hours we fished the central bay. They boxed a 22 -inch redfish and three keeper sheepshead to 13 inches. They released a couple of sheepshead shorts, along with three stingray, the largest of which was about ten pounds. We returned to the dock just ahead of a short but heavy squall, so our timing was good!

Leo Walsh, Jack Miller, Dave Hone, and Fadoul Pekhazis fished with me Tuesday, 12/22/15, about fifteen miles west of New Pass, using live shrimp. The grouper bite was hot, and the guys had fun catching and releasing them, even though it might have been more fun if they were in season! They released five keeper-sized red grouper to 27 inches and a pair of 23-inch gag grouper. They also released twenty additional short red grouper. As for boxed catches, they got fifteen nice lane snapper to 16 inches and eleven grunts to 12 inches.

I fished about 15 miles offshore on Wednesday, 12/23, with Frank Barry, joined by his daughter and family, Becky, Zach, Tim, and Pete Rivera. The family used blue runners to catch and release two would-be-keeper red grouper at 21 inches and 22 inches. They used live shrimp to catch and box a dozen keeper lane snapper to 16 inches, along with a couple of 12-inch grunts.

Ron Radosh and his grandsons, Sean, Jake and Jon, fished a catch-and-release trip with me Thursday morning, 12/24. Using live shrimp just outside the channel by Bonita Bay, the boys caught and released three stingray to 10 pounds and four sheepshead to 12 inches. They got broken off a time or two by bigger fish, most likely by larger sheepshead or redfish.

I was off the water for Christmas Day and the weekend, with out-of-town family visiting. Monday, 12/28, I fished in central Estero Bay, east of the water tower, with Erin Bowden, Kristen Bowden-McEnery and her husband, Kevin McEnery. We had a productive morning of fishing for trout, snapper, and sheepshead, using live shrimp. The group caught five keeper trout that measured 16 to 18 inches, three keeper sheepshead 15 to 18 inches, and two keeper mangrove snapper at 11 inches and 13 inches. They released a couple of crevalle jacks and stingray.

Tuesday morning, 12/29, I fished with long-time customer, Peder Engebretson, and his young grandsons, Travis and Will Haby, along the east wall of Estero Bay. With slightly cooler water temps, bigger sheepshead have begun to move in. Using live shrimp, the guys caught five sheepshead to 16 inches, three mangrove snapper to 12 inches, and three trout to 18 inches.

Wednesday morning, 12/30, there was a pretty hefty swell left over from a couple preceding days of high winds and rough seas offshore, but it was calming down, and once we got out about ten miles, it was not as rough as what NOAA had predicted. I fished with Brian Matlock and his two young sons, Eaman and Graham, along with friends Matt Wentzel and his two young sons, Gabe and Luke. The boys released fifteen red grouper to 20 inches, a couple of Spanish mackerel, and a yellowtail snapper short. They boxed five keeper lane snapper and a half dozen grunts.

I have been taking the Novy kids fishing since they were toddlers, usually each spring, when the four children and their dad fish with me. This year, two of the youngest, Jimmy and Julia Novy, were visiting their grandparents over the Christmas holiday, so grandpa, Jim Neville, arranged a back-bay, catch-and-release trip for himself and the two children. Using live shrimp Thursday morning, 12/31, fishing the islands in front of New Pass, the group had fun releasing ten trout, twenty ladyfish, and one sheepshead.

Red grouper season will be open when I fish tomorrow--HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!

The photo shown is of angler, Peder Engebretson with a 16-inch sheepshead caught on shrimp on a recent trip.

You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:


Fish Species: grouper, snapper, redfish, sheepshead, trout, tripletail, porgy, mackerel
Bait Used: live shrimp & bait-fish
Tackle Used: spinning
Method Used: flats fishing and bottom fishing
Water Depth: 1-3 ft. bayside; to 50 ft, gulf
Water Temperature: 78
Wind Direction: variable
Wind Speed: variable
16-inch sheepshead, on shrimp
16-inch sheepshead, on shrimp

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.

Click Here For Past Fishing Reports by Captain Dave Hanson