SW FL-Bonita Beach: Big Sheepies Rule!
Capt. Dave Hanson
March 3, 2014
Bonita Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report
Monday, 2/17/14, I headed offshore from New Pass about 17 miles, with Jim Swanger and Ron Kaplan. Seas weren't quite as calm as predicted early-on, but they calmed down nicely by mid-morning. The guys used live shrimp to box seven 13-inch mangrove snapper, two 14-inch porgies, a keeper porkfish, a brace of 22-inch Spanish mackerel, and a couple of grunts. They chose to release eight additional porgies and three additional grunts.
Tuesday, 2/18, I headed offshore 29 to 31 miles from New Pass with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Shawn Arnett and his son, Ben, and friend, Kay. The group wanted food-fish, and they caught their share on live shrimp, boxing fifteen 14-inch whitebone porgies, seven 13-inch mangrove snappers, and thirteen large grunts. They released twenty additional porgies, along with an equal number of red grouper shorts to 19 ˝ inches.
Wednesday, 2/19, Peder Engebretson and friend, John, fished with me about 22 miles west of New Pass, using live shrimp. They caught fourteen keeper lane snapper, all measuring about 10 inches, along with two nice sheepshead at 14 inches and 16 inches, and a couple of Spanish mackerel at 20 inches and 22 inches. They released mangrove snapper shorts, along with about twenty-five red grouper shorts.
I fished closer in on Thursday, 2/20, about eight miles off Naples beach on rocky bottom, targeting sheepshead with Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. The guys caught eleven keeper sheepshead to16 inches. They released a crevalle jack, about fifteen mangrove snapper shorts, numerous red grouper shorts, and one short gag grouper.
Friday, 2/21, a windy morning, Robin Latham and friends, Dave and Terry, fished a catch-and-release, backwater trip with me in lower Hickory Bay, where they used live shrimp to release mangrove snapper and sheepshead.
Saturday morning, 2/22, the bite was more active in Hickory Bay than it had been the day before. Clint Trousil and son, Jeff, used live shrimp to catch a keeper, 14-inch pompano and two nice sheepshead at 19 and 20 inches. They caught and released ten smaller sheepshead.
As happens just a few times each season, my Monday trip canceled at the last minute, and I was unable, on such short notice, to reschedule with a party on my waiting list. So, though it was a picture-perfect day for fishing, I reluctantly used the day to do some maintenance chores.
Tuesday, 2/25, I fished in the backwaters along the channel toward Wiggins Pass with long-time customers, the Heimrich family. Jeff, wife Beth, seven-year-old Maddie (who prefers to be called "Maddawg" ;-) and five-year-old Tanner used live shrimp to catch four nice sheepshead, ranging in size from 14 to 17 ˝ inches. They also caught fifteen mangrove snapper, including three keepers to 14 inches. They released a 20-inch snook, a 16 ˝-inch redfish, and a stingray.
Jeannine Lamb and Kathy Kunce fished central Estero Bay with me on Wednesday, 2/26. They caught and released two 17-inch redfish and a stingray, and boxed a brace of 14-inch pompano, all on live shrimp.
Thursday, some rain moved through our area, with an approaching cool front, in the early morning hours. I had planned to charter a customer's boat that day, but with an uncertain time-line on the weather front, he chose to cancel that trip. As it turned out, it probably would have been a decent day offshore. Sometimes, it is difficult to make the call in advance.
Friday, 2/28, I fished with Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who fish with me several times each February and March. This time, Jim brought his son, Steve, along. We fished at the near-shore reefs off Bonita Beach, using live shrimp to catch five keeper sheepshead to 15 inches, three 20-inch Spanish mackerel, and a 16-inch pompano. The guys released lots of mangrove snapper shorts, along with a dozen crevalle jacks, blue runners and ladyfish.
Leonard Kottman, nine year-old son, Jack, and brother-in-law, Mike, fished the near-shore reefs with me Saturday morning, 3/1, where they used live shrimp to catch seven keeper sheepshead to 16 inches, and released eight mangrove snapper shorts. Jack also had an interesting encounter with a remora, which he posed with for a picture.
Monday, 3/3, was a gorgeous day but, unfortunately, my party on schedule to fish offshore had confused their flight dates when they booked their trip, and didn't realize it until the last minute. They were still up north! So, I got stuck at home painting the deck instead of fishing—I hate when that happens!
The photo shown is of angler Tom Batcheller, with a 29-inch gag grouper, caught on a bait-fish and released 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:
Looking good up until Thursday, when rain and high winds and seas are predicted, at least through Friday or Saturday. So, offshore should be good until mid-week; after then, stick to the backwaters.
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