SWFL-Bonita Beach: Cobia, Shark, Snapper, Goliaths & Grouper
Tuesday, 5/8, I headed out 38 miles west of New Pass for a full day of fishing with Phil Griffo, his son, Chris Griffo, and Phil's nephew, Jeff Miller. We had a great day of fishing, using live shrimp and bait-fish. The guys caught about 75 groupers in all, including a 25-inch red grouper keeper. We released a couple more red groupers that were just at 20 inches, but allowing for shrinkage made give those up. We also caught what would be a keeper-sized gag grouper, if gags were back in season, which they are not. So we released that 23 inch gag, along with all the rest of the groupers, except for the keeper red, which weighed 7 1/2 pounds. The guys also caught a dozen keeper mangrove snapper to 14 inches, a dozen keeper lane snapper, a bunch of white-bone porgies, of which they kept six, along with a half-dozen big grunts. We also got to experience a few cool sightings, including several big sharks and sea turtles. And, the best sighting of all was a whale--I have no idea what kind--it had a blunt nose, was about twenty feet long, and came up right by the boat, so I got some video of that, and I'm eager to see how visible it is in the video clips.
With a seasonal slack-off in trips, coupled with some rainy weather, I was off the water until Thursday, 5/17, when I fished the backwaters with frequent customer Steve Spitzer and his son, Jeremy. We fished various spots in Estero Bay, using live shrimp. The guys caught a keeper 15-inch trout and a keeper 14-inch flounder. They released two undersized sheepshead, an undersized trout, ladyfish, and a redfish-short.
Friday, I headed out in pursuit of catch-and-release big game with Casey Miller, Bob Fejfer, and Jake Annonson. We fished in 56 feet, using shrimp at first, and saving some Spanish mackerel we caught for big-fish bait. The guys caught three cobia on shrimp, all 32 inches, just an inch short of keeper-size, so we released those. We hooked two of them simultaneously, which was a neat trick and photo-op! We also released a 14-inch pompano, Spanish mackerels to 21 inches, and crevalle jacks. We used some Spanish macks to lure a few goliath grouper, and the guys got to battle an 80-pound goliath and a 150-pound goliath to the surface. A third goliath we hooked was a monster that snagged on the rocky bottom and eventually broke the line.
Monday morning, 5/21, I fished Estero Bay with Jim Dean, who was planning to fish a couple of backwater trips on Monday and Tuesday with me. But, the fishing was very tough and slow in the bay Monday, so we decided we'd fish offshore on Tuesday. There was an abundance of glass minnows and a variety of live baits in the bay, so the fish weren't real interested in our baits. They scaled a few of our pinfish, mostly holding bait but not eating it; that is, all but the ever-present catfish!"
Tuesday, Jim Dean fished offshore with me, in depths between 35 and 42 feet, west of New Pass. Offshore fishing sure beat the slow fishing we'd experienced in the backwaters the day before. We used live shrimp to catch and release fifteen gag grouper to 23 inches, two of which would have been keeper-size, if it were not for closed harvest. We also caught two 22-inch Spanish mackerel, a 14-inch keeper pompano, seven keeper mangrove snapper to 12 inches, a keeper porkfish at 13 inches, a few grunts, and a keeper hogfish at 17 inches. We released blue runners and crevalle jacks. Next, we used a mackerel and a jack on a big-rig, and caught and released a 100-pound goliath grouper. Jim got to feel a monster goliath too, which eventually broke the 275-pound steel cable, and got away, sparing us the sore muscles that we'd have had if we had wrestled him to the surface.
Wednesday, I fished all day with Terry Novak, his sons, Ryan and Kyle, and family friend, Trapper Rudd. We headed out about 36 miles from New Pass, with about 250 live shrimp in the bait well, and we used every last one of them! The guys caught sixteen keeper mangrove snapper—nice ones to 15 inches—along with a couple of 13-inch yellowtails, and twenty-five keeper-sized lane snapper. We released all but three of the biggest lanes, since we had an abundance of fish. The group also caught and released over thirty red grouper to 19 inches, and landed one keeper red grouper at 21 inches. They caught and released fifteen gag grouper to 21 inches. They also caught two pompano, including a 15-inch keeper, along with a couple of 24-inch Spanish mackerel. They caught a total of twenty-five white-bone porgies to 15 inches and kept four of those, along with a few big grunts at 15 inches. They released about ten additional grunts and two small, 22-inch kingfish. We switched to bait-fish after a while to lure some bigger fish our way, and got more than we asked for, with Kyle battling and releasing a 250-pound goliath, and also releasing a 45-inch sharp-nose shark. At one point, the goliath grouper were so abundant, they caused ten break-offs as we were reeling in other fish.
Thursday, I fished in 40 feet with Bob Ganger, using live shrimp. Seas were sloppier than predicted, but we did pretty well. We caught and released two 32-inch, 15-pound cobia, a 15-inch scamp-grouper, red and gag grouper shorts, mangrove snapper shorts, a 15-inch bluefish, and ten Spanish mackerel to 22 inches. We had something big hit a couple of times: one that ate a crab and broke the hook, and one that broke 30-pound braided line.
**** Bromby and Paul Gilbert fished offshore with me all day Friday, about 37 miles west of New Pass. We did well with snapper, using live shrimp—the guys caught ten yellowtail snapper to 16 inches and four mangrove snapper to 16 inches. They also caught a dozen white-bone porgies to 15 inches, and we used three of those for goliath grouper bait, which worked well—we caught and released three goliaths, at 60 pounds, 80 pounds and 175 pounds. We also released ten gag grouper to 21 inches and about fifty red grouper to 19 7/8 inches, just short of keeper size. We released a triggerfish short and a 3-foot long remora.
Saturday morning, I fished in Estero Bay on a catch-and-release trip with Bill and Alyce Geronimo and their daughter, Tori. The family has recently relocated to our area, and wanted to see Estero bay and catch a few fish. We used live shrimp to catch and release fifteen mangrove snapper, two stingray, and a sheepshead.
Sunday and Monday of the long Memorial-Day weekend was reserved for family events, but I’ll be fishing again on Tuesday.
The photo shown is of angler, Casey Miller, with a 32-inch cobia, caught on shrimp, on a recent offshore trip.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link: