SW FL-Bonita Beach: So now that gag season closed...
Capt. Dave Hanson
December 9, 2013
Bonita Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report
Tuesday, 11/26/13, I fished on a very windy morning in Estero Bay with Al Tooley and his two sons, Jeff and Aiden. The tide was up, making for favorable conditions in the bay, and the guys did well, fishing with live shrimp. Catches included a 25-inch keeper redfish, an 18-inch keeper black drum, and five keeper sheepshead, two at 13 inches and three at 14 inches.
Wednesday, a strong weather front arrived on schedule, with rain, gusty winds and seas of 14 to 16 feet offshore. I rescheduled my trip planned for that day, deferring to Saturday.
Friday morning, the day after a day off the water for Thanksgiving with family, I fished again in Estero Bay and again in very windy conditions. Jack Glendenning, his son John, and two grandsons, Tommy and Jack Jr., fished with live shrimp and did pretty well with redfish and sheepshead. They caught a keeper red at 19 ˝ inches, and released a 17-inch redfish. The boys caught sixteen sheepshead in all, four of which were keepers to 18 inches. Tommy also caught a 14-inch black drum, and the group released smaller drum, some ladyfish and a couple of stingrays.
As it turned out, my Wednesday trip, which had deferred to Saturday, could not get offshore Saturday either, with persistent rough seas of three-to-five feet, so we had to cancel that one for good.
Over Sunday, winds and seas subsided, and Monday, 12/2, brought much better conditions, with seas of two feet. I fished with Andrew Combes and John Vassilakas in spots 18 to 22 miles west of New Pass. We used pinfish to lure some grouper, and we used live shrimp for everything else. As luck would have it, with gag grouper season closed as of December 1st, the guys caught two gags that would have been keepers had they not caught them on December 2nd! Those two measured 22 ˝ inches and 24 inches. The guys released those, and caught about twenty red grouper, which were shorts and had to be released also. The snapper fishing was good, though, and the guys landed eight nice, keeper mangrove snapper to 15 inches, six keeper lane snapper to 12 inches, and a keeper, 13-inch yellowtail snapper. They released triggerfish shorts, a six-pound crevalle jack, and a bunch of porgies.
Tuesday, though seas were predicted to be one foot, they were three-to-four feet 18 miles west of New Pass, so II ventured no further than that when I fished with frequent customers, Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso. Just like the day before, it was as if the gag grouper spread the word that it was safe to bite now, since season closed as of December 1st. The guys released two of those, a 23-inch and a 24 ˝-inch, which bit pinfish. They also released fifteen red grouper shorts and ten triggerfish shorts, and hooked two big sharks, one that broke the line before we could tell what kind it was, and the other a 9-foot tiger shark, which ate a porgy. As for table-fare, the guys boxed seventeen whitebone porgies to 17 inches, which were caught on live shrimp.
Wednesday morning, 12/4, heading out 18 miles from New Pass, seas were a little sloppy, but they calmed down, and I had a good morning of fishing with Tony Bowlen, A.J. Dohall, and Rick Simpson. The guys boxed an 18 ˝-inch mutton snapper, fifteen mangrove snapper to 17 inches, ten porgies about 15 inches each, two keeper yellowtail snapper at 14 inches each, and a 21-inch white margate, all caught on shrimp. They released a 22 1/2-inch, out-of-season gag grouper, along with some triggerfish shorts.
Thursday, I headed back to the same spots that were so lucky for lots of nice snapper the day before, this time with Shaun and Paige Stevens. The seas were calmer and conditions were nicer, but the snapper bite just wasn't there. We were plagued with goliath grouper and shark nuisances that ate five of our biggest catches. But the couple brought home food-fish, including a 14-inch yellowtail snapper, five whitebone porgies, and five good-sized grunts. They released triggerfish shorts and three red grouper shorts.
Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, who fished with me Tuesday, did so again on Friday, in some rougher seas, in various spots between 18 and 28 miles west of New Pass. Using live shrimp, the guys caught fourteen keeper lane snapper, nine whitebone porgies to 14 inches, six grunts to 14 inches, and a 15-inch hogfish, all boxed for good table-fare. The red grouper were biting like crazy, but we didn't get any keepers—the guys released 55 red grouper shorts, all the way to 19 7/8 inches, just short of keeper size.
The photo shown is of angler Rick Simpson with an 18 ˝-inch mutton snapper, caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:
Bonita Beach Fishing Forecast:
Seas are 2-3 feet today, but winds are calmer tomorrow. Later in the week, they pick up again, so offshore fishing will be good for those who don't mind a little chop. Inshore should be productive on favorable tides.
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