SW FL-Bonita Beach: Lane Snapper Plentiful. Red Grouper, Shark & Goliath Battles
Monday, 4/9, seas had calmed at last, and I headed out to fish in spots between 22 and 28 miles west of New Pass with Bill Conklin, his son, Eric Conklin, and friend, Rick Weigand. Bill caught a keeper red grouper at 21 inches, and we released lots of red grouper just short of keeper size. The group also caught fourteen keeper lane snapper. They released gag grouper and mangrove snapper shorts, along with two sandbar sharks, one at 38 inches and the other at 40 inches. We used live shrimp for all but the grouper, which ate bait-fish.
Tuesday morning, I headed out 21 miles from New Pass with Larry Baumgartner, his son, Chris, Larry's granddaughter, Hannah Stanfield, and Chris's daughter, Maddie, who was celebrating her birthday. We did great with lane snapper, catching thirty-four nice keepers to 14 inches, on shrimp. The group also caught a 23-inch Spanish mackerel, and released a 23-inch kingfish, along with some red grouper shorts.
Arno Trinkl and his girlfriend, Katherine, both from Austria, had been planning to fish with me this Wednesday, ever since early December, when they began planning their trip to the U.S. Arno really wanted the experience of catching something big, especially after watching a few of our goliath action videos. So, we headed out in search of bait to use for big fish. We caught some Spanish mackerel to 23 inches, about four whitebone porgies to 16 inches, some blue runners, some gag grouper shorts, and some crevalle jacks. We’d intended to use the blue runners for bait, but along came a goliath grouper as we reeled in a 16-inch porgy. The goliath ate the porgy, and Arno had a 200-pound goliath battle on his hands! We shot some video of that, released the goliath and all our other catches, and sent Arno home with a sore arms and a big story to tell!
Thursday, frequent anglers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonse, **** Arnett and Tom Collins, fished with me about 28 miles west of New Pass. The group caught a dozen keeper lane snapper to 12 inches, fifteen whitebone porgy-keepers to 18 inches, four grunts to 12 inches, four keeper mangrove snapper to 13 inches, and a Spanish mackerel. They had fun with a 4-foot sandbar shark and a 200-pound nurse shark, before releasing them, along with twenty-five red grouper to 19 7/8 inches and a half-dozen gag grouper to 19 inches.
Friday morning, I headed out of New Pass about 21 miles with Karai Vilamaa and Bernie Kirsh. The guys used live shrimp to catch two keeper red grouper at 20 ¼ inch and 20 1/8 inch, both just over the legal size limit. They also caught fourteen keeper lane snapper, a few large grunts, and a 23-inch Spanish mackerel. They released about twenty-five short red groupers, along with two gag grouper shorts and some short triggerfish.
The high winds and seas that had been promised earlier in the week finally made it into Saturday’s weather. Tom Monoghan and his dad, Brian, had planned to fish offshore with me, but the small craft advisories in the gulf forced us to change plans and fish the backwaters. The guys used live shrimp to catch two keeper sheepshead, 12 to 13 inches, a keeper mangrove snapper at 12 inches, and a 14-inch flounder. They released a five-pound stingray and crevalle jacks.
Monday morning, 4/16, NOAA had predicted two-to-three-foot seas, out to twenty miles. But, when I fished just six miles off the beach with Terry Hopkins and his daughter, Kelly, we had three-to-five footers, with winds blowing 20-25 knots. We used live shrimp to catch ten Spanish mackerel, a keeper mangrove snapper, and grunts. We released blue runners, red grouper shorts, and five of the mackerel that weren’t needed for dinner.
Tuesday, I had planned a full-day, offshore trip but, after the seas I faced on Monday, I advised my customer to reschedule that trip for Thursday, to allow seas to calm down additionally. Now that seasonal rush is slowing down, there are sometimes opportunities to reschedule for better conditions.
Wednesday's forecast was for calming seas of two-to-three feet out to 60 miles offshore, but the trip I had scheduled that day had little faith that would be the case, given the persistent winds, and they canceled their day.
Thursday, I headed offshore with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonse and Bob Mayer, on a trip we had rescheduled from Tuesday, due to rough seas. NOAA and local weather stations all predicted two-foot seas for Thursday, and we thought that all we’d have to worry about was a possible scattered shower or two. But, five miles off the beach, we had steady three-to-fours, with occasional five-footers—very rough. We toughed it out and caught nine whitebone porgies and four grunts. We released a gag grouper short and two red grouper shorts, all caught on shrimp.
By Friday, I’d had about enough of the week’s incorrect marine forecasts so, despite predictions for calm seas offshore, I advised frequent customers Steve Spitzer and Jalissa Reever to fish in the backwaters. Fishing was a little slow, but it beat getting tossed around in the waves. The couple caught two redfish, one of which was a 20-inch keeper, along with a 15-inch flounder. They released a 16-inch redfish, two short black drum, and a mangrove snapper short.
Saturday brought more gusty winds, along with some much needed rain. That pattern was predicted to persist throughout the weekend, so I remained in port. Monday was still too rough offshore and, though I could have fished inshore, I did not recommend doing so until the muddy conditions in the bay subside. This week's weather pattern was one we fortunately avoided most of the winter season this year, but it definitely played havoc with April's fishing schedule.