SW FL-Bonita Beach: battling winds and tides, but catches good!
After a few days of cold temperatures, high winds, and rough seas, causing me to cancel a couple of trips, Saturday, 1/20/18, was finally calm enough to get offshore. I fished in spots from 18 to 28 miles west of New Pass with Joe Hahn and his friends, Bob, Mike, David, and George. The guys used cut-bait and squid to catch and release a bluefish, twenty-some red grouper shorts to 18 inches, as well as five sharks, consisting of four blacktips and one sharpnose, all of which were around the 40-inch mark. We also had a huge shark (variety unknown) grab a piece of cut-bait, run, and break off, exploding the water around us. As for dinner, the guys boxed eighteen keeper lane snapper.
Monday morning, 1/22, I fished 22 miles west of New Pass with Frank Dwyer and his son-in-law, Ryan. The guys used cut-bait and squid to catch and release twenty-six red grouper shorts, and to cull ten keeper lane snapper to 13 inches, along with a half-dozen 13 to 14-inch grunts.
Tuesday morning, 1/23, I headed out in a light drizzle with Drew VanWerden and his two young sons. Seas were calm, and we headed out 22 miles, but the rain persisted, at one point turning into a heavy shower. We had enough wet-weather gear to keep us dry, and the boys didn’t mind fishing in the rain and in the fog that followed. They used squid and cut-bait to catch and release a 17-inch cobia, twenty-one red grouper shorts to 18 inches, and lots of grunts to 12 inches. The lane snapper were biting well, and the guys caught twenty-seven keeper lanes to 13-inches.
Winds picked up ahead of another cool front moving into the area, and that produced some choppy sea conditions on Wednesday, 1/24. But, long-time customers and hardy father-son anglers Larry and Chris Baumgartner weren’t intimidated! They fished 22 miles west of New Pass with me in a stiff 20-to-25 knot wind most of the morning, and used squid and cut-bait to catch a variety of fish. They lost one big grouper that swam to the bottom and cut the line, and they released red grouper shorts, an 18-inch gag grouper, and a 14-inch scamp grouper. They also caught five mangrove snapper, three of which were keepers ranging 13 inches to 15 inches. They caught over twenty grunts, and boxed a few of the largest of those, along with four porgies in the 13-to-14-inch range.
Frequent customer Mike Connealy and his son, Clint, had to trade their offshore plans for some inshore, catch-and-release fishing on a very windy Friday morning, 1/26. There were small craft advisories offshore, and even the bay presented some challenges in a relentless wind of about 25 knots. The guys used live shrimp to catch and release thirteen sheepshead to 13 inches, two crevalle jacks that were each about 12 inches, and a 15-inch black drum.
Winds persisted through the weekend. I fished inshore in southern Estero Bay on Sunday, 1/28, with Stan and Jean Dzedzy and their son and daughter-in-law, Dave and Debbie. The family used live shrimp to catch three keeper sand bream, a 15-inch drum, a 17-inch drum, and a 17-inch pompano. They released fifteen sheepshead shorts and two mangrove snapper shorts. The photo shown is of Dave Dzedzy with a 17-inch pompano, caught on shrimp on his inshore trip 1/28/18.
Monday, 1/29, I awoke to light rain and fog, with another cold front expected to arrive over-night and into Tuesday. Seas were choppy first thing in the morning, and it remained misty after the fog lifted, but seas calmed a little by mid-morning. I began fishing at the near-shore reefs with Lee Larsens and his friends, Carey, Jerry, and Rick, but there was very little action there. So, as seas calmed down a bit, we ventured out further to about fifteen miles offshore. Fishing was tough everywhere, and I can’t recall the last time I saw such slow action at several of my typically productive spots. The guys used squid and cut-bait to catch and release two whitings, a few blue runners, one red grouper short, and a few grunts.
With small craft advisories issued for Tuesday, 1/30, and predictions for seas of four-to-six feet, I canceled my planned offshore trip, which had already been rescheduled from the previous week’s rough weather!
By Thursday, 2/1, seas were finally calm enough to get out about 23 miles west of New Pass, where I fished with frequent customers, Ron Musick, Richard Arnett, and Eddie Alfonso. There were tons of little bait fish everywhere, and lots of undersized fish biting, but the guys were able to box some food-fish, consisting of three keeper lane snapper, a 13-inch mangrove snapper, two porgies, and a few nice-sized grunts. They released twenty-plus red grouper shorts and four mangrove snapper shorts. Everything bit on squid and cut-bait.
Friday morning, 2/2, seas were calm when I fished a catch-and-release trip 19 miles west of New Pass with William Connors, Mike Connors, and friends Dan, Mark, and Pat. The guys used squid and cut bait to catch and release twenty-four red grouper shorts, a mess of grunts, and mangrove snapper to 16 inches. The photo shown is of Mike Connors with a 16-inch mangrove snapper, caught on squid on his offshore trip 2/2/18.
Winds picked up on Saturday, 2/3, and we were back to choppy seas offshore, with a small craft advisory issued. So, Roman Jahnke and his dad, Tom, who were treating Roman’s son, Roarke, to a fishing trip for his tenth birthday, traded offshore plans for some inshore fishing on the flats of southern Estero Bay. The family used live shrimp to catch five keeper black drum to 16 inches, and they released ten sheepshead shorts, a crevalle jack, and two stingray that were each about three pounds.
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