SW FL-Bonita Beach: Grouper, Snapper, Kingfish & More
Our Beaches are Clean—Our Waters Pristine"
Monday morning, 4/4, I fished the near-shore reefs off Bonita Beach with Tim and Stephanie Cobb and their two children, Spencer and Sydney. We were fishing just ahead of a weather-front predicted to kick winds up to 25 knots by early afternoon, and to bring some rain to the area the next day. Even close-in, it was beginning to get rough, but we did well using live shrimp. The group caught two keeper flounder, two 24-inch Spanish mackerel, three keeper mangrove snapper and a 22-inch black drum.
Tuesday, winds were strong and seas were high, in advance of thunderstorms predicted to hit our area about 11 AM. I canceled my fishing plans and remained in port for the day.
Wednesday morning, long-time customers Andy Ungar and Al Layton, along with their friend, John, fished Estero Bay with me. Andy and Al usually fish offshore, but rough seas prohibited that, so we spent the day in the backwaters, fishing with live shrimp. We caught four redfish in all, including one keeper at 21 inches. We released the other three, along with two snook, 23 inches and 24 inches, sheepshead, rays, and crevalle jack.
Thursday, the bay fishing was not as active as it had been just the day before. I fished with Doug Zak, his girlfriend, Jeannie, and her brother, Jay. We released two snook, a couple of sheepshead and a few rays. There was a slow, incoming tide all morning that didn't serve us real well.
Friday, I fished a catch-and-release-trip near-shore, about 8 miles west of New Pass in 27 feet, with Dave Kempston and his two young sons, Brandon and Connor. We used live shrimp to catch a 28-inch, nine-pound gag grouper, which was definitely photo-worthy, a 14-inch hogfish, whitebone and jolthead porgies, grunts and sheepshead.
The next time I fished was Monday morning, about 22 miles west of New Pass, with Doug Sapp, Homer Smith, and four of their friends. Seas got a little sloppy later in the morning, as the winds picked up, but we caught three nice hogfish, a pair of 14-inch mangrove snapper, and some grunts. We released lots of red grouper shorts, and also had some fun with goliath grouper, after we quit competing with them for our catches!
Tuesday, I fished in 63 feet, about 27 miles out of New Pass with Mike McDonald. We did well fishing for snapper with live shrimp. We caught a half dozen yellowtails, all 15 and 16 inches, four 14-inch mangrove snapper and fifteen keeper lane snapper. We released lots of red and gag grouper shorts. At the last spot we fished, the barracudas were abundant. Between 'cudas, goliaths, and porpoise, it was a challenge to get our fish reeled in before anything else got to them!
I had an excellent day of fishing Wednesday with Greg Bauer and friends, John and Bob. We fished several spots out to 38 miles west of New Pass, in depths of 65 to 75 feet. The action was steady--We had no time to even get photographs--but the group caught eight nice yellowtail snapper keepers to 17 inches, some keeper mangrove snapper, and whitebone porgies. That's all they chose to keep. We released a lot more porgies, along with some short mangs, about thirty red grouper, just short of keeper size, to 19 1/2 inches, gag grouper shorts, five almaco jacks, seven banded rudder fish, nine vermillion snapper, short triggerfish, and two big remoras. All were caught on live shrimp.
Thursday, I captained Ron Musick's boat with Ron and friends, Eddie, Dick, Tom and Bob, out to about 70 feet, 37 miles west of New Pass. Again, action was good, but the 30-plus red grouper we caught were all just short of keeper size. We did bring home about 25 whitebone porgies and keeper mangrove snapper. We released some triggerfish shorts. Two of the guys were broken off each one time by something very large, but couldn't tell what it was.
It was another exceptional day well offshore on Friday, when I fished with Chris Lemonis, his sister, Argie Lemonis, and their dad, George. We fished several spots between 28 and 37 miles west of New Pass, in depths of 55 to 72 feet. We came back with 43 fish and we also released even more than that. We caught a keeper red grouper at 21 inches, and released about 40 grouper in all, including reds to 19 ˝ inches and gags to 21 inches. We also caught a 36-inch king mackerel, 25 keeper lane snapper, two keeper yellowtail snapper at 13 inches each, and a mess of nice whitebone porgies that ranged 16 inches to 19 inches. We used shrimp for those catches, but then we switched to using some spot-tail grunts, which was the ticket for some shark. We released a 38-inch sharp-nose shark and a sandbar shark that was over six-feet long and estimated at over 100 pounds. We also released about fifteen mangrove snapper shorts.
Saturday morning, 4/16, I headed out about 17 miles and fished in 38 feet with Marty Gmeiner, Mike LaForte, and Bill Murphey. We used live shrimp to catch twenty keeper lane snapper, a keeper yellowtail, a keeper Spanish mackerel, a keeper porkfish, and some whitebone porgies and grunts. We released smaller yellowtails, short mangrove snappers, a small hogfish, and red grouper to 18 ˝ inches. We also wrestled with a 60-pound goliath grouper that bit a porgy as we were reeling it in.
The photo shown is of angler Argie Lemonis, with a 36-inch king mackerel, caught on shrimp, on an offshore trip this week.
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.