Fishing Report: 03/04/13- SW FL-Bonita Beach: Near-shore Reefs Productive
After a cancelled trip on Monday, I got out fishing Tuesday, 2/19, as winds and seas finally began to calm down from their week-long highs of 30 knot gusts and 4-12 foot seas. It was still a little sloppy so I stayed near-shore, about 12 miles off Naples Beach, where I fished with frequent customers Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, joined by friend Kay Daugherty. The group used live shrimp to catch eleven nice, keeper mangrove snapper to 15 ˝ inches and ten nice sheepshead keepers to 16 inches. They released five would-be-keeper gag grouper to 29 inches, but had to release them all, due to closed season.
Larkin Hosmer, friend Eric, and Eric\'s son-in-law, Merrill, fished a catch and release trip with me in Estero Bay on Thursday, 2/21, where they used live shrimp to catch a dozen sheepshead and a 13 1/2 inch black drum.
Friday morning, I fished near-shore, about 5 miles out of New Pass, with long-time customers Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. The guys used live shrimp to catch thirty-five sheepshead, releasing all but fifteen of those, which were between 14 and 16 inches long. They also caught a keeper hogfish at 17 inches, and released lots of short mangrove snapper. Lines were broken off four times by something big, but we never got to see what it was.
Saturday morning, seas kicked up somewhat, though not as much as they are predicted to do for much of the following week. I fished a catch-and-release trip at the Bonita Beach near-shore reefs with Greg Haas and Rick John. The guys used live shrimp to catch sixty sheepshead to 15 inches, mangrove snapper to 12 inches, red grouper and triggerfish shorts, and a 21-inch gag grouper.
Monday, 2/25, I fished the near-shore reefs with frequent customer, Mike Connealy, his daughter, Mandy Ewig, and her husband, Brett Ewig. The sheepshead bite was on, and the group used live shrimp to catch twenty-four of those in all, keeping the nine largest ones in the 15-to-16-inch range. They also caught grunts, and released mangrove snapper shorts, puffer-fish, and two gag grouper at 25 1/2 inches and 23 inches.
By Tuesday, a very windy weather pattern was here, with seas building to seven feet offshore, along with low tides and gusty winds in the bay, and I remained in port. The seas forecast was just as bad for Wednesday, though the winds had subsided quite a bit. John and Jane Vilkaitis traded their original offshore fishing plans for a morning of fishing the backwaters of Estero Bay. The couple used live shrimp to catch seventeen sheepshead in all, keeping two of those and releasing the rest.
Thursday, 2/28, seas were calmer than they had been and calmer than they were predicted to be in a few days. So, I took that window of opportunity to fish about twelve miles west of New Pass, where we had about a three-foot swell, but tolerable seas, for most of the day. Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso and friends, Bob and Jack, used live shrimp to box sixteen mangrove snapper to 14 inches and seven sheepshead to 15 inches.
Friday, seas were rougher, but Dennis page, Arnie Sancaitier, Jack Scott, and Jack’s son, Kevin Scott, were hardy enough to fish the near-shore reefs on a catch-and-release trip, using live shrimp for bait. They caught and released eleven sheepshead to 16 inches, two Spanish mackerel at 22 inches and 24 inches, and several gag and red grouper to 20 inches.
Saturday brought hard winds and seven-foot seas. I cancelled my planned trip for that day, and remained in port through the chilly and blustery weekend. Monday’s 43-degree temps weren’t too enticing to many anglers, but I am happy to see warmer temps and calm seas predicted for Tuesday.
The photo shown is of angler Brett Ewig with a 16-inch sheepshead, caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip. These larger sheepshead are one of the best parts of winter fishing.
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