SW FL-Bonita Beach: snook, redfish, sheepshead, Spanish, goliaths
<p>I ended up fishing the bay last Saturday, 3/17, since the tides were still higher than expected, with the wind out of the north. My anglers, who had planned to fish offshore but were thwarted by 5-8 foot seas, decided to swap their gulf plans for a morning of fishing in Estero Bay. Leon Dargis, sons Kurt and Brett, and nine year old grandson Blake fished with me up toward New Pass. We had good success with sheepshead—caught seven of those to 16 inches—and we also got an 18 ˝ inch redfish, and released a 20 inch snook.
Monday brought low tide conditions back to Estero Bay, and I couldn't even fish my usual oyster bars with Scott and Jeanine Nelson and their children, Olivia and Conner. We managed to catch a few fish in places where I found enough water, and kept two 14 inch sheepshead and a keeper trout. We released smaller sheepshead and lots of ladyfish.
The winds and seas picked up Tuesday, and I encountered some 4-footers in only 17 feet of water, fishing with Jerry Rangaard and Tom and Gerry Palen. We hung in there, and caught a dozen sheepshead to 17 inches. We lost two big ones to a goliath grouper, and we released a 21 inch gag grouper, at the reefs off Sanibel and Bonita Beach.
That windy weather front kicked seas offshore up to 3-5 feet on Wednesday. Thursday was only marginally better offshore, and tides in Estero Bay were very low. I canceled my trips those days. So far, though, weather has been pretty fishing-friendly this season, so although I felt bad for my scheduled anglers, I really can’t complain.
Seas calmed enough to at least get out to the near-shore reefs on Friday, with Michael Azar and his three children. We caught Spanish mackerel to 23 inches and keeper sheepshead to 14 inches, on live shrimp.
Saturday, I fished a catch and release trip with Dean Stanton and his son, Dean Jr. We headed to one of the reefs off Bonita Beach to fish for sheepshead, and released seven of those to 17 inches before the goliath grouper moved in. I had my big Ambassador rigged with a small blue runner, hoping a gag grouper might bite it. Instead, a huge goliath hit it, and stripped the gears off my reel as well as the skin off my thumb! We surrendered to the goliaths, and moved to another reef closer in, where we had steady action with Spanish mackerel. We released twenty of those.
The photo shown is of angler Larry Laudick, with a 22 ˝ inch gag grouper, caught on shrimp, offshore from Bonita Beach.
22.5 inch gag grouper
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.