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SW FL-Bonita Beach: Grouper, Snapper, Sharks, Drum, Sheepshead

Capt. Dave Hanson
November 25, 2013
Bonita Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report

Tuesday, 11/12/13, I fished offshore with long-time customers Kari Vilamaa, George Dyer, and Paul Kikendall. We were one day ahead of a cold front that was predicted to bring strong winds and seas of six to eight feet offshore, but we had calm conditions all day, and we were able to fish in various spots ranging from 19 to 29 miles west of New Pass. The guys caught two keeper red grouper at 20 ˝ inches and 21 ˝ inches, and released a gag grouper that was just ˝-inch short of keeper-size at 21 ˝ inches, all of which bit pinfish. Fishing with live shrimp yielded a keeper hogfish at 14 inches, a brace of 13-inch yellowtail snapper, eighteen keeper lane snapper, a keeper mangrove snapper, and four Spanish mackerel to 25 inches. The group released porgy-shorts, along with two sharks, an 8-foot nurse shark and a 3-foot sharp-nose shark.

My scheduled offshore trip for Wednesday had to be canceled, as the windy cool front passed through over-night on Tuesday, with gale-force winds in the area by Wednesday morning. Thursday was less windy than Wednesday was, but a persistent 20-25 knot wind blew for much of the day. The tide was dead low first thing in the morning, so I waited until mid-morning to take John and Toni Heimrich fishing in the backwaters—the gulf was still way too rough, so the bay was our only option. I tried my best to keep us sheltered from the wind in spots that held some fish. The couple did very well with drum and sheepshead, caught on live shrimp. They landed three keeper sheepshead, all nice size to 17 ˝ inches. They also caught two keeper drum, one at 14 ˝ inches and one really nice one at 24 inches. They released a few smaller sheepshead and drum, along with four stingrays.

Click to Enlarge Photo

Friday was another windy morning of backwater fishing. The tide was higher than it was the day before, but the fishing wasn't as productive. Pat O'Neill and friend, Rick, had initially hoped to fish offshore for grouper but, foiled by high winds rough seas, they fished in Estero Bay instead. They caught three keeper-sized sheepshead, released a crevalle jack and a stingray, and had their lines broken by redfish three times on an oyster bar.

Monday, 11/18, I fished an offshore catch-and-release trip, using pinfish and live shrimp, from 18 to 22 miles west of New Pass, with Bill Doyle and his three friends, all of whom were named Dave! The guys released fifteen red grouper shorts to 19 ˝ inches, a 13 ˝ inch yellowtail snapper, a 14-inch mangrove snapper and a 14 ˝ inch lane snapper, along with a few whitebone porgies to 15 inches.

Tuesday, seas were flat smooth, and the grouper fishing was great 25 to 28 miles west of New Pass, where I fished with frequent customers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Dick Arnett and John Ebrecht. The guys landed five keeper red grouper, ranging in size from 21 inches to 25 inches. We used pinfish for four of them, but Eddie caught his 24-incher on a jig. John added to the fish box a 14-inch hogfish, and the guys also added a dozen keeper lane snapper, a keeper mangrove snapper, and seven whitebone porgies to 14 inches. We had two big sharks bite fish that were being reeled up. One of those sharks was big enough to destroy Eddie's reel—we didn't see what kind it was. The other one was a nine-foot tiger shark, which breached the surface close enough to the boat that we could see its stripes and identify it, before it broke the line.

The grouper bite was on again Wednesday, 11/20, when I headed out to 29 miles west of New Pass with John Rankin, Peter Tam, Stephan Arani, Bob Furlotte, Norm Grieves, and Farrell Fulkerson. The guys used pinfish to land five keeper red grouper, consisting of a brace of 20 ˝ inch, one 21-inch, one 25-inch and one 26-inch. They used live shrimp for their other catches, which included three dozen whitebone porgies that ranged 14 to 16 inches, a few keeper lane snapper, a keeper mangrove snapper, a keeper yellowtail snapper, and a mess of 13-to-14-inch grunts. The guys released some smaller yellowtail snapper.

Thursday morning, 11/21, I fished 18 to 22 miles west of New Pass with Mike Gengler, Sr. and son, Mike Gengler, Jr. The guys used pinfish to attract some red grouper, but the biggest ones they caught were 19 7/8 inches—in fact, they caught three of them that measured 19 7/8, just 1/8-inch short of legal size. They released those, along with a few yellowtail snapper shorts and a short hogfish. They did box three nice, keeper lane snapper to 14 inches, one keeper yellowtail snapper, a keeper porkfish, a keeper triggerfish at 14 inches, and a brace of 14-inch keeper hogfish, all on live shrimp.

The lucky run of smooth seas we had ended on Friday, when I fished 17 miles west of New Pass with Paul Dryden and his friends, Rich, Bill-1, Bill-2, and Greg. The winds blew 15 to 20 knots all morning, and seas were three-to-four feet. At one of our spots, there was a goliath grouper nuisance, which managed to eat seven nice sized catches as before they could be boated. So we vacated that spot, and went to a couple of others, where the guys used live shrimp to catch three 14-inch keeper mangrove snapper, ten whitebone porgies, all in the 13-14-inch range, and a mess of grunts. They released red grouper shorts.

Monday, 11/25, was the first windy, rough day of a week that is forecast to stay that way—with seas anywhere from six to fourteen feet during the week. Depending upon water levels in the bay, I might get a few backwater trips in, but offshore fishing isn't looking good until this weather system passes.

You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link:

Bonita Beach Fishing Forecast:

A weather front is over us for most of this week, with seas offshore predicted to range from six to fourteen feet for much of the week. Winds are gusting to 25 knots today. If the back-bay holds onto enough water, that will be the place to fish this week, until things calm down offshore.

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Private guided saltwater fishing trips, inshore and offshore, around Ft. Myers, Naples and Bonita Beach. Native guide with over 30 years local experience. Good species variety. Reasonable rates. Half and full-day trips offered. We book well in advance throughout the winter months, and slightly in advance during the summer months. Families welcome, and anglers of all ages and experience levels will have a good time.

Contact Info:

Fishbuster Charters, Inc.
Bonita Beach
Bonita Springs, FL 34134
Phone: 239-947-1688
Alt. Phone: 239-947-1688
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