SW FL-Bonita Beach: two weeks of excellent fishing offshore
<p>Seas were choppy Saturday morning, 1/28, when brothers, Nick, Andy, and Ken Eckle, fished with me 17 miles west of New Pass, using squid for bait. The guys decided to brave some rougher than ideal conditions offshore, rather than fish the backwater in the extreme low tide that accompanied a cold front that arrived over-night.The guys caught fifteen keeper lane snapper and a half dozen grunts, and released a few red grouper shorts.
I was off the water for a few days, but headed 22 miles offshore in nice conditions on Friday, 2/3, to fish with Scott Matchette, his son, Aiden, and friend, Will. The guys used squid to catch fifteen lane snapper keepers, including some really nice ones at 15 inches. They also caught a mess of grunts, but chose to keep only a few of those. They released 23 red grouper shorts, and were about to give up on landing a keeper grouper but, with a bait fish rigged up, they landed a keeper at almost 24 inches.
Mike and Mary Campbell fished 17 miles west of New Pass with me on Saturday morning, 2/4, using squid for bait. They were after some food-fish, and they achieved their goal, with fifteen keeper lane snapper and a mess of grunts. They kept a dozen of the 25 grunts they caught. We also landed a very unusual catch: An 11-inch black seas bass, which we photographed and released. That was only the second one of those I have ever caught in local waters.
Seas were choppier than predicted Monday morning, 2/6, when I headed 17 miles offshore with Pat Cunningham and friends, Mitzy and Dave. The group used squid to box a dozen keeper lane snapper and a half dozen grunts. They released red grouper shorts.
I fished inshore in southern Estero Bay with long-time customers, Bill and Terri Tank on a windy Friday morning, 2/10. Using live shrimp, the couple caught and released eight black drum to 20 inches, a crevalle jack, a stingray, and a sheepshead short. They kept a 20-inch redfish and an 11-inch mangrove snapper for dinner.
The wind laid down nicely overnight Friday, and I was able to get offshore Saturday morning, 2/11, to fish with John Rabe, his son, Mike, and Mike's son, Ryan. We fished spots from 17 to 22 miles west of New Pass, using squid, and baitfish. The guys landed two keeper red grouper on baitfish, one 22 inches and one 25 inches. Squid yielded twenty keeper lane snapper, which we added to the fish box.
The photo shown is of young angler Ryan Rabe with a 25-inch red grouper, the larger of two keeper red grouper he and his family caught on squid 22 miles west of New Pass.
Monday morning, 2/13, I fished offshore 17 to 22 miles west of New Pass with long-time customers, Bill and Nicki Conklin and their friends, Mark and Julia. Using squid for bait, the group caught twenty-five keeper lane snapper to 14 inches, and released fifteen red grouper shorts.
Seas were calm on Tuesday morning, 2/14, which allowed me to get 24 miles offshore with Ralph Marino and his friends, Bud Mulchy and Ron and Debbie. The group fished with live squid, and caught twenty-four red grouper, including one keeper at 23 inches. They also caught twenty-five keeper lane snapper to 15 inches and a half-dozen grunts to 14 inches. They released two remoras.
The timing on a weather front predicted to bring high winds and seas for Wednesday, 2/15, was for late afternoon, so Paul Russell, his son-in-law, Jeff Hoffman, and Jeff's two sons, Jeff, Jr., and Dillon decided to head offshore with me to fish as long as conditions would allow. It was sloppy heading out, first thing in the morning, so we tried fishing the near-shore reefs for a while, but the action was slow there. A little later, winds calmed enough that we could head out further, and we fished between 17 and 26 miles west of New Pass, using squid and cut-bait. The guys caught twenty-five lane snapper, and kept fifteen of those to 17 inches. They also caught a half dozen grunts to 14 inches, and two keeper porgies. They released twenty-six red grouper shorts, along with a 14-inch black sea bass, which is the second black sea bass I have seen caught this week.
By Thursday morning, 2/16, winds were howling, and seas were four-to-six feet offshore. I canceled my gulf trip for that day.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
25-inch red grouper on squid
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.