SW FL-Bonita beach: Big Game & Food Fish
Capt. Dave Hanson
May 12, 2014
Bonita Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report
Monday, 4/28, I fished a full day offshore with Bob Donelson, Kent McCarthy, Chuck Babcock, and Skip Hamilton. The guys wanted to go after big, catch-and-release fish, so we headed out to spots between 28 and 36 miles from New Pass. We released four goliath grouper, each angler getting a chance to wrestle one of those, which were all between 40 and 100 pounds, and bit blue runners. We also wrestled with a big shark for a while, but it had bitten on one of the smaller rods, and eventually broke the line before we identified its type. The guys also released three 27-inch king mackerel, five yellowtail snapper to 13 inches, and whitebone porgies, along with a dozen red grouper shorts.
Tuesday, 4/29, I fished the last trip of Ron Musick's season here for this year. He and Eddie Alfonso headed out twenty miles from New Pass with me to fish for grouper and snapper. Ron caught a keeper red grouper at 23 inches, and we released a bunch of red grouper shorts. With gag grouper out of season, we shed a few tears as we released a 23 inch gag and a few more tears when we released a 31-inch gag! But they were still fun to catch. We also released a hogfish that was just short of keeper-size. We added to the fish box ten yellowtail snappers to 15 inches, some whitebone porgies and grunts. We caught everything on shrimp, except for the gag grouper, which bit pinfish.
Winds picked up a lot Tuesday evening into Wednesday, 4/30. I fished inshore Wednesday morning with Bob and Jo-Ellen Exby on a catch-and-release trip that yielded ten stingray, five mangrove snapper to 11 inches and an18-inch snook, all caught on shrimp and released.
Thursday morning, 5/1, frequent customer, Scott Saveraid, and friends, Brian Bettini, Tim Chen, and Ron Wesler, hoped to have fun battling some big fish. We set out for goliath grouper catch-and-release fun, but the two-foot seas NOAA had predicted were actually four-to-five foot seas, mostly fives, with a steady 25 mph wind, and all the goliath spots we could access, which had recently supplied fun battles for several recent customers, yielded no goliath bites at all. All was not lost though, since a rig baited with a blue runner and crevalle jack, intended for a goliath grouper, brought us a nine-foot tiger shark, which Brian battled for 45 minutes before getting it to the surface and releasing it. It ran 1/8 mile north, then ended up ¼ mile past where we hooked it, and gave Brian a real run for his money--We captured that event on video! The guys also released a 28-inch cobia, a dozen blue runners, a couple of crevalle jacks, and four mangrove snapper shorts.
Friday, 5/2, winds were still howling, and the seas we encountered Thursday were bound to be every bit as rough on Friday. I informed my scheduled offshore trip that it would be rough offshore, and suggested we fish inshore instead. But the guys had their hearts set on fishing the gulf, and decided to defer their trip to another time.
Saturday, 5/3, there were still rough seas and lots of wind, along with lots of moisture over the gulf, as this weather system that wreaked havoc in northern Florida earlier in the week stalled over our area, thankfully in a weakened state. I advised Terry Mooney, daughter Beth, and Beth's boyfriend, Lou Burgess, that our best bet would be to fish the morning in the backwaters. The trip caught a keeper sheepshead at 13 ½ inches and four keeper mangrove snapper that were all 11 inches. They released a half-dozen mangrove snapper shorts and three stingrays, and had lines cut twice by something we didn't get to see. We were fishing in wind-sheltered areas, mostly around the little islands inside New Pass.
Monday morning, 5/5, I fished 21 miles west of New Pass with Mark and Jackie Travis and their daughter, Alexa. The family did very well fishing for snapper with live shrimp, boxing twenty lane snapper to 14 inches and releasing lots of lane shorts. They also caught and released fifteen red grouper, three of which were irritatingly close to keeper-size, at 19 ½ inches! The larger of the red groupers bit small blue runners, and the smaller ones bit live shrimp. Seas were refreshingly calm, following a few days of windy, rough conditions.
Tuesday, 5/6, I headed offshore about 25 miles west of New Pass with father-son anglers, Doug and Wade Shephard, who have fished with me before. When we started out, seas were a lot choppier than what had been predicted, but they did calm down some as we got further out, and we had an awesome day of fishing! We caught two limits of keeper red grouper, all between 21 inches and 27 1/2 inches. As if that wasn't enough excitement, we hooked, battled and released an 8 ½-foot hammerhead shark that nearly killed all three of us before we got it to the surface! We took some video of that, and kept fishing, that is, after we recovered some strength in our arms. The red grouper all bit on bait-fish, but we used live shrimp to lure the snapper, and we caught twenty keeper lane snapper to 17 inches to add to the box. We released an equal number of smaller lanes.
Wednesday and Thursday, 5/7 and 5/8, I was off the water. As our seasonal residents return home, fishing trips won't be daily occurrences for the next few months--Time to do those home and boat maintenance chores that have been awaiting my attention. I'd rather be fishing, of course, and I still will be whenever I can!
Friday morning, 5/9, I fished inshore in lower Hickory Bay with brothers Craig and Jeff Sable. Using live shrimp, the guys caught two nice black drum at 19 inches and 26 inches, along with a keeper sheepshead. They released five stingray and an 18-inch snook.
I was scheduled to fish all day offshore on Saturday, 5/10, but the winds and seas kicked up and caused a caution to be issued. It wasn't safe or comfortable to take a family of six out there, so we had to cancel those plans.
The photo shown is of angler Ron Musick, with a 31-inch gag grouper, caught on a small snapper that was being reeled in and released (due to closed season) 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:
Winds are still blowing strong. Looks like the calmest day this week is likely to be Thursday, with predictions for 2-foot seas then. Inshore fishing will be good in favorable tides, and offshore for the hardy.
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