Sheepshead Predominate, Inside & Out
<p>Another windy week began on Monday, 3/24. I fished in Estero Bay with Joe Goodall and seven-year-old son, Alex, Dave Bixby and Fred Irish. Alex has fished with me every year since he was about three years old, and he has turned out to be a full-fledged fishing enthusiast. We fished with live shrimp along the channel toward Wiggins Pass. Alex caught the biggest of four keeper sheepshead at 18 inches. He also released a 17 inch snook. Dave released a 25 inch cravalle jack. We also caught a 15 ½ inch trout and a keeper mangrove snapper, and released smaller sheepshead, jacks, ladyfish and a three-foot bonnethead shark.
Ross Christenson had been trying to get several sets of vacationing grandchildren out fishing for two weeks. Two dates had already cancelled due to weather and our final shot at a trip was Tuesday. With seas still kicked up and unsafe offshore, we opted for a catch-and-release backwater fishing trip with four of the Christenson grandchildren. Temperatures were in the forties when we headed out and a cold wind blew hard all morning. The tide was outgoing until it started coming in at the pass about 11:30 AM. The bay was extremely shallow. We saw several boats on the other side of the bridge waiting for the tide so they could head in. The water level was only about one foot behind Lely Barefoot Beach. Given those conditions, we were happy to have caught and released seven sheepshead (four of which were keeper-sized) and a ladyfish. We were thankful the kids were able to catch that many and also thankful that we were able to navigate back in without hitting bottom!
The Timbers family fished the artificial reefs off Bonita Beach with me on Wednesday, when seas were still pretty choppy in the morning. It calmed down some later in the morning. The group caught seven nice sheepshead, about 15 inches, as well as two keeper Spanish mackerel and two keeper mangrove snapper. They released blue runners and cravalle jacks.
Thursday morning seas were calmer than they have been in a while. I got out about 12 miles from New Pass with Stuart Norris and friend, Mike. We caught a 14 inch hogfish, a 15 inch sheepshead, Spanish mackerel to 20 inches, porgies, grunts and triggerfish, all on shrimp. We released gag and red grouper shorts.
Friday morning, Tim & Angela Cavanaugh wanted to play it safe in the backwaters with their eight-year-old daughter, Leah, onboard. They fished, along with a family friend, using shrimp along the channel by Wiggins Pass. The water was clear as could be and we saw lots of sheepshead, but they were reluctant to bite. We ended up with three keepers to 16 inches and we released smaller sheepshead, snapper and a cravalle jack.
Saturday, I fished a catch-and-release trip with Wayne & Nanon Foote, Dave & Dora Bush, Georgia Hulac and Diane Albright. We fished out to 35 feet, from New Pass, and used live shrimp. We caught seven yellowtail snapper, all around 15 inches, one 12 inch mangrove snapper, a 17 inch scamp grouper, large whitebone porgies, a small amberjack, blue runners and gag and red grouper to 19 inches. It was a beautiful day on the water without those gusty winds we have had lately.
The photo shown is of a 30 inch gag grouper, caught by angler Butch White on shrimp on an offshore trip before the windy fronts started to arrive.
30 inch gag grouper, offshore Bonita Beach, SW FL
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.