SW FL-Bonita Beach: Offshore Report
<p>Monday, 7/4, Tony Herring, son Jacob, friend, Josh Schneider, and Tony's two nephews celebrated the Fourth of July with a fishing trip offshore. We fished in 60 feet, using live shrimp and cut-bait. We caught a 13-inch keeper mangrove snapper at our first spot, but the dolphin showed up right after that and forced us to move. At the next spot, we managed to catch eight keeper lane snapper before the dolphin began harassing our catches again. Our third spot was great for red grouper, and we released over forty of those that were short of keeper-size, before Jacob caught a 21-inch keeper. Tony released a 22-inch gag grouper, due to closed season for those.
The next time I planned to fish was Thursday, 7/7, but the rain that began in the early morning hours never stopped throughout the entire day. I had no choice but to disappoint my anglers and scrap plans to fish anywhere that day.
Friday morning was better in terms of rain, but with small craft cautions issued beyond twenty miles, Ron Simon and his sixteen-year-old son, Cameron, had to give up plans for a full day of deep-sea fishing. We decided to try our luck at the near-shore reefs, where seas were predicted to be two- to-four feet. We soon found out that prediction was seriously flawed! In only eighteen feet of water, we endured steady four and five foot seas, with occasional six-footers. Since that was neither comfortable nor safe, we moved in toward the bay, but bay fishing is difficult, even with high tides, in the offshore boat. We did as best we could, catching and releasing small bonnethead shark, while trying to avoid all the catfish that the influx of rainwater had caused.
I hadn't fished for about a week, but finally got back offshore on Friday, 7/14, when I headed out of New Pass to depths of 38 to 51 feet to fish with Stu Silverman and his group of friends and family. The water was so clear, we could see bottom in 51 feet. We fished with live shrimp and cut-bait, and caught a dozen whitebone porgies, a keeper porkfish, three keeper mangrove snapper, and two keeper lane snapper to 13 inches. We released half of the porgies, along with five smaller mangs, three yellowtail shorts, forty red grouper to 19 1/2 inches, a pufferfish and a barracuda. We saw a ten-foot tiger shark, which circled the boat a couple of times, then hung out about 4 feet below the surface for a short while, before swimming off.
Monday morning, 7/18, I headed offshore with Mike and Dana McConnell, their son, Brody, and friend, Dylan. The group wanted to catch something to eat for dinner, but most of all, they wanted to sport-fish for something big. We achieved mission one first, catching porkfish, grunts and whitebone porgies to throw in the cooler. Next, we began catching bait-fish to use for luring goliath grouper. The group caught and released two goliaths, an eighty-pounder and a 150-pounder. We also released gag grouper and mangrove snapper shorts, along with a couple of puffer fish.
I was off the water for over a week, thanks to slow time in SW FL, along with quite a bit of rain. But I got back offshore on Thursday, 7/28, when I fished with Mike and Peggy Weldon, their daughter, Alex, and her boyfriend, Ross. There is a stalled tropical depression over us right now, and seas were kind of sloppy even just twelve to fifteen miles offshore, where the wind blew about twenty knots and seas were three-to-four feet. We used live shrimp to catch snapper and porgies, and ended up with four keeper mangrove snapper, three nice lane snapper, and four nice whitebone porgies. We released about fifteen additional smaller mangs, along with some yellowtail shorts, a half dozen smaller porgies, and three gag grouper shorts. We also caught and released an eighty-pound goliath grouper, which grabbed a pinfish that had bitten a shrimp. We were broken off about fifteen times by goliaths, as we reeled in snapper that they bit.
The photo shown is of angler, Andrew Williams, with a 26-inch gag grouper, caught on shrimp and tearfully released (due to closed season) on a recent offshore trip.
26-inch gag grouper, released
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.