SW FL-Bonita Beach: Grouper & Hogs, Sheepshead & drum
Capt. Dave Hanson
February 6, 2014
Bonita Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report
Monday, 1/20/14, was the first day in about two weeks that was suitable for offshore fishing. Successive, relentless weather fronts had forced me off the water for about a week, then into the backwaters for the next week or so. Another front, predicted to bring high winds and seas again was on the horizon, but Monday presented a brief window of opportunity. I headed out about twenty miles west of New Pass to fish with long-time customer, Tom Batcheller and his friends, Duncan Keirnes, Dave Curry, and Garry Jacobson. The guys had a very productive trip—using live shrimp for bait, they caught and released five gag grouper, four of which would have been keepers, had they been in season. Those four measured 22, 25, 26 and 29 inches. The guys also released four red grouper shorts that were all about 18 inches, along with a 15-inch mutton snapper, an 18-inch Spanish mackerel, a few short triggerfish, and a half-dozen short porkfish. As for fish to take home, they landed four keeper hogfish, two at 14 inches and two at 17 inches (see photo), along with three keeper porkfish, a dozen nice mangrove snapper to 16 inches, and a half-dozen whitebone porgies to 14 inches. On our way back to shore, we saw some of the pilot whales that have were stranded off Lovers' Key beach, and took a few photos of that sad sight.
Tuesday, 1/21, I fished just ahead of the next weather front. Winds and seas were calm until about 2PM, when they started kicking up in advance of a strong cold front due to hit our area in the evening. Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett, all frequent and long-time customers, fished 18 miles west of New Pass with me, using live shrimp. The group caught and released six gag grouper to 23 inches, along with a 30-pound goliath grouper that Eddie battled and caught on light tackle. For food-fish, the guys boxed two mangrove snapper, 16 inches and 17 inches, a 15-inch hogfish, six keeper porkfish, eight whitebone porgies, and a mess of grunts.
On Wednesday, 1/22, the chilly temperatures scared my planned inshore charter off, and they cancelled their trip. I must admit, it would have been cold on the water that morning, with lows of 38 degrees, and not much warming throughout the day. By Thursday, things weren't much better temperature-wise, and they were decidedly worse as for conditions, with strong winds and rough seas offshore, and super shallow water in the bay. My planned offshore trip cancelled, as did Friday's, when winds howled all day and seas were eight feet offshore.
After three days of lost fishing time, I finally got out fishing Saturday morning, 1/25. Robert Plecki and his group decided it would be wiser to fish inshore than offshore, given the rough seas of the past couple of days and little faith that the two-to three foot seas predicted for Saturday would actually be the case. Bob Plecke, Jay Farrell, Alan Federman and Vince Slisz fished a catch-and-release trip with me, using live shrimp in lower Hickory Bay. The guys caught six sheepshead, two of which were especially nice ones at 17 and 19 inches. They also caught a 16-inch trout and a five-pound stingray.
So, Monday, 1/27, after several days of cancelled offshore trips and only a couple of tide-worthy inshore trips, we finally saw some nice offshore conditions. Winds were calm, seas were smooth, and temps were climbing back into our normal range. I headed out eighteen miles west of New Pass with Tim Brunkhorst, Todd Darland, Jeff Danner, and Jeff Holiday. The guys used live shrimp to catch five keeper sheepshead to 19 inches, a 15-inch hogfish, and a 17 1/2-inch mangrove snapper, and whitebone porgies to 15 inches. They released seven gag grouper to 21 inches and half a dozen red grouper to 18 inches.
Tuesday morning, 1/28, offshore conditions remained favorable, so I headed out 19 miles from New Pass with Brett and Mandy Ewig. We did have heavy fog for the first part of the morning, with visibility about 50 feet during our trip out (thank goodness for radar!) and about 150 foot visibility on either side of the boat, once anchored. Eventually, the sun burned the fog off, and it turned into a nice, mild morning. The couple caught a keeper red grouper at 20 ˝ inches, four keeper sheepshead between 14 and 15 inches, a brace of 16-inch mangrove snappers, a brace of 16-inch whitebone porgies, and several grunts. They also caught and released two red grouper shorts, two 21-inch gag grouper, a hogfish that was ˝ inch short of keeper-size, and five triggerfish shorts.
Wednesday morning, just ahead of yet another weather front, which brought rain and wind and cooler temperatures that afternoon, I fished inshore in the Hogue Channel area with Richard Pyper and Ronald Dupont. The guys used live shrimp to catch a 21-inch black drum, four keeper sheepshead to 14 inches, and three keeper mangrove snapper in the 11-to-12-inch range. They released ladyfish.
Thursday, 1/30, was a complete wash-out. It rained from the wee hours of Thursday morning into early Friday morning. I remained in port until Friday, when I fished inshore with Mike Connealy, his son-in-law, Brett Ewig, who had fished with me earlier in the week, and Rick Rosen. We had planned to head offshore, but with rain over the gulf from Naples to Port Charlotte, we changed plans and opted to fish inshore. We had good luck with sheepshead, using live shrimp in lower Hickory Bay. The guys caught a dozen of them, six of which were keepers to 17 ˝ inches. They released the shorts, along with a 13-inch black drum and a pair of ladyfish.
Alejandro Miranda-Sousa, George Mestas, Orlando Fernandez, Pedro Martin, and Nate Swan had planned to fish offshore with me all day Saturday, but NOAA's predictions for more moisture over the gulf, with rain and heavy fog on Saturday caused them to make alternate plans. As it turned out, Saturday morning was minimally foggy, and the rain was scattered and light, so it was disappointing to have canceled a trip that day. I offered to take the guys on Super Bowl Sunday, and we settled on a little more than a half-day trip offshore, which allowed us to get out about 27 miles. The guys caught two keeper red grouper, one 22-inch on a squirrel-fish, and one 20 ˝ inches on a live shrimp. They used shrimp to catch lots more red grouper, all of which were throw-backs. They added to the fish box one keeper lane snapper and twenty whitebone porgies to 16 inches.
The photo shown is of angler Duncan Keirnes, with a 17-inch hogfish, caught shrimp on a recent offshore trip.
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Bonita Beach Fishing Forecast:
Calm seas, decent tides, and warm temps--woo-hoo! That is the case this entire week...maybe some rain by week's end.
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