SW FL-Bonita Beach: Shark-Battles, Big Snapper, Sheepshead, Hogs
<p>After a couple days off the water, due to a cold front that brought frigid temps, high winds, low tides and rough seas, I headed to the near-shore reefs Monday, 2/13/12, to fish a catch-and-release trip with Richard and Trish Burdow. Seas had calmed to two-to-three feet near-shore, and the sheepshead bite was strong. We released a dozen of those all large, to 20 inches. We also released two 20-inch Spanish mackerel and some ladyfish, all caught on live shrimp.
Wednesday, I headed further offshore, with seas calm, to about 20 miles west of New Pass, where I fished in 45 feet, using live shrimp, with long-time customers Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. The duo caught a keeper hogfish at 14 inches, four keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches, and four 14-inch porgies (joltheads and whitebone.) They released grunts, smaller porgies, porkfish, and scamp, red and gag grouper shorts.
Thursday, I fished in 30 feet, using live shrimp, with frequent customer, Ron Musick, and friends, Eddie Alfonse, Bob Mayer, and Kay Daugherty. The group caught fourteen big sheepshead to 19 ½ inches, thireteen nice mangrove snapper to 16 ½ inches, two keeper hogfish at 14 and 15 inches, two keeper porkfish, and grunts. They released fifteen smaller sheepshead, along with a 22-inch gag grouper, which is currently out-of-season.
John Pound, son-in-law, Dan Bow, and friends Al Armstrong and Troy Bouchard spent Friday fishing with me, in 70 feet, about 36 miles west of New Pass. We encountered another big sandbar shark, as I'd done on an offshore trip the previous week. This one was another 200-pounder, and we videoed the ensuing battle, then released the monster, which had eaten a blue runner. We also released a half-dozen amberjacks, all about 20 inches, a 22-inch bluefish, ten triggerfish shorts, a dozen porgies, and a bunch of grunts, all caught on live shrimp. The guys did keep one big whitebone porgy that measured 18 inches. They also caught ten nice mangrove snapper, the biggest of those also measuring nearly 18 inches.
Saturday morning, Gary Hested, eight-year-old grandson, Nathan Faga, and eleven-year-old grandson, Kade Faga, fished Estero Bay with me. Using live shrimp, the trio caught three redfish, two of which were keepers at 19 inches, two pompano, one of which was a 15-inch keeper, and a 19-inch trout. We released a 25-inch snook, a puffer-fish and a few ladyfish.
Monday morning, 2/20, looked good on shore but, offshore, small craft advisories and five-to-seven-foot seas thwarted the gulf fishing trip I had scheduled.
By Tuesday morning, seas were calming and, though it was still a little sloppy heading out, it calmed down considerably by noon. I headed out of New Pass to fish in 30 feet with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonse, Dick Arnett, Bob Mayer, and Larry Laudick. We did very well with snapper and sheepshead, ending up with twenty-five nice mangrove snapper to 17 inches, eighteen good-sized sheepshead to 17 inches, and one keeper triggerfish at 13 inches. The group released gag grouper to 21 inches, red grouper shorts, small porgies, grunts, and blue runners.
Wednesday, I headed offshore, about 20 miles west of New Pass, with John Rankin, Bert VanKooten, Peter Crego, Gary Jackson, Norm Grieve, and Brian Ostrowski. We mixed a little sport-fishing with a lot of food-fishing. We got our sports-fix with another one of the big sandbar sharks that have been biting lately. This one was another 200-pounder, and we videoed the fight before releasing it. The rest of our fishing was devoted to mostly snapper and sheepshead. The group caught ten nice mangrove snapper to 17 inches, six large sheepshead to 20 inches, a 14-inch, keeper triggerfish, porgies and grunts. They released gag grouper to 20 inches, along with two hogfish shorts.
Frequent customer Mike Connealy fished with me Thursday morning, along with his nephew, Quinton Connealy and his wife, Jill. The winds had changed direction and picked up speed since the day before, so we decided to stay near shore and fish the reefs off Bonita Beach. Even there, we had three-to-four foot seas most of the morning. We did well with snapper and sheepshead, though, catching ten nice-sized sheepshead to 17 inches and fifteen mangrove snapper to 11 inches, along with a 14-inch triggerfish-keeper and five Spanish mackerel, all caught on live shrimp. We released two gag grouper shorts.
Friday, winds and seas were even rougher than Thursday, but my three hardy anglers, Karl Buckholz, Matt Brady, and Mike Bramwell, wanted to fish the near-shore reefs, rather than the back-bay, so we headed out there with plenty of live shrimp. The gag grouper were thick out there, and the group caught and released many of those to 23 inches. We also had several break-offs, most likely by bigger gags. We caught seven nice sheepshead to 17 inches, three Spanish mackerel to 18 inches, and a 14 ½-inch flounder.
Saturday and Sunday brought a cool front with seas of five-to-seven feet and 25-knot winds. I remained safely in port. My Monday, seas were predicted to calm to two-to-four feet; however, my party scheduled to fish the gulf did not think it would be calm enough for them, and canceled their trip.
The photo shown is of angler, Dan Bow, with an 18-inch mangrove snapper, caught on live shrimp, on a recent offshore trip.
To view our action videos with goliath grouper and shark, check out the following link:
18-inch mangrove snapper
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.