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Saltwater Fishing in SW Florida--Naples,Bonita, Ft. Myers Beach

Fishbuster Charters, Bonita Beach, FL

Cap't. Dave Hanson

"they hatch 'em--we catch 'em!"

Who Ya Gonna Call?  Fishbuster!  (239) 947-1688 

                              No oil-no spoil; Our beaches are clean; our waters pristine                                

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                              Three-Month Fishing Report for January 20, 2014--April 20, 2014  

AN00022A.gif (2030 bytes) A special note: With oil having washed up on the shores in the Florida Panhandle a few years ago, we want to say that our hearts go out to our fellow fisherman and all the residents of the Gulf coast across the states that are still feeling the impact of the BP oil spill. Although we all experienced financial losses, we feel fortunate to have escaped the acute crisis of having oil on our shores here in southwest FL. We also want all our customers to know:

                                              “No oil—No spoil

                         Our Beaches are Clean—Our Waters Pristine!”

Check out this video one of our customers uploaded to YouTube, after his trip with us in July, 2010:


And this goliath grouper video shot by Captain Dave on May 20, 2011


And check out more fishing videos on our fishing video page


 Now to our three-month fishing report (hint: if you want to see the most recent trips, scroll to the bottom of the page, and read from the bottom up):          

Monday, 1/20/14, was the first day in about two weeks that was suitable for offshore fishing. Successive, relentless weather fronts had forced me off the water for about a week, then into the backwaters for the next week or so. Another front, predicted to bring high winds and seas again was on the horizon, but Monday presented a brief window of opportunity. I headed out about twenty miles west of New Pass to fish with long-time customer, Tom Batcheller and his friends, Duncan Keirnes, Dave Curry, and Garry Jacobson. The guys had a very productive trip—using live shrimp for bait, they caught and released five gag grouper, four of which would have been keepers, had they been in season. Those four measured 22, 25, 26 and 29 inches. The guys also released four red grouper shorts that were all about 18 inches, along with a 15-inch mutton snapper, an 18-inch Spanish mackerel, a few short triggerfish, and a half-dozen short porkfish. As for fish to take home, they landed four keeper hogfish, two at 14 inches and two at 17 inches, along with three keeper porkfish, a dozen nice mangrove snapper to 16 inches, and a half-dozen whitebone porgies to 14 inches. On our way back to shore, we saw some of the pilot whales that were stranded off Lovers' Key beach, and took a few photos of that sad sight.

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Tuesday, 1/21, I fished just ahaead of the next weather front. Winds and seas were calm until about 2PM, when they started kicking up in advance of a strong cold front due to hit our area in the evening. Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett, all frequent and long-time customers, fished 18 miles west of New Pass with me, using live shrimp. The group caught and released six gag grouper to 23 inches, along with a 30-pound goliath grouper that Eddie battled and caught on light tackle. For food-fish, the guys boxed two mangrove snapper, 16 inches and 17 inches, a 15-inch hogfish, six keeper porkfish, eight whitebone porgies, and a mess of grunts.

On Wednesday, 1/22, the chilly temperatures scared my planned inshore charter off, and they cancelled their trip. I must admit, it would have been cold on the water that morning, with lows of 38 degrees, and not much warming throughout the day. By Thursday, things weren’t much better temperature-wise, and they were decidedly worse as for conditions, with strong winds and rough seas offshore, and super shallow water in the bay. My planned offshore trip cancelled, as did Friday’s, when winds howled all day and seas were eight feet offshore.

 After three days of lost fishing time, I finally got out fishing Saturday morning, 1/25. Robert Plecki and his group decided it would be wiser to fish inshore than offshore, given the rough seas of the past couple of days and little faith that the two-to three foot seas predicted for Saturday would actually be the case. Bob Plecke, Jay Farrell, Alan Federman and Vince Slisz fished a catch-and-release trip with me, using live shrimp in lower Hickory Bay. The guys caught six sheepshead, two of which were especially nice ones at 17 and 19 inches. They also caught a 16-inch trout and a five-pound stingray.

So Monday, 1/27, after several days of cancelled offshore trips and only a couple of tide-worthy inshore trips, we finally saw some nice offshore conditions. Winds were calm, seas were smooth, and temps were climbing back into our normal range. I headed out eighteen miles west of New Pass with Tim Brunkhorst, Todd Darland, Jeff Danner, and Jeff Holiday. The guys used live shrimp to catch five keeper sheepshead to 19 inches, a 15-inch hogfish, and a 17 1/2-inch mangrove snapper, and whitebone porgies to 15 inches. They released seven gag grouper to 21 inches and half a dozen red grouper to 18 inches.

Tuesday morning, 1/28, offshore conditions remained favorable, so I headed out 19 miles from New Pass with Brett and Mandy Ewig. We did have heavy fog for the first part of the morning, with visibility about 50 feet during our trip out (thank goodness for radar!) and about 150 foot visibility on either side of the boat, once anchored. Eventually, the sun burned the fog off, and it turned into a nice, mild morning. The couple caught a keeper red grouper at 20 inches, four keeper sheepshead between 14 and 15 inches, a brace of 16-inch mangrove snappers, a brace of 16-inch whitebone porgies, and several grunts. They also caught and released two red grouper shorts, two 21-inch gag grouper, a hogfish that was inch short of keeper-size, and five triggerfish shorts.

Wednesday morning, just ahead of yet another weather front, which brought rain and wind and cooler temperatures that afternoon, I fished inshore in the Hogue Channel area with Richard Pyper and Ronald Dupont. The guys used live shrimp to catch a 21-inch black drum, four keeper sheepshead to 14 inches, and three keeper mangrove snapper in the 11-to-12-inch range. They released ladyfish.

Thursday, 1/30, was a complete wash-out. It rained from the wee hours of Thursday morning into early Friday morning. I remained in port until Friday, 1/31, when I fished inshore with Mike Connealy, his son-in-law, Brett Ewig, who had fished with me earlier in the week, and Rick Rosen. We had planned to head offshore, but with rain over the gulf from Naples to Port Charlotte, we changed plans and opted  to fish inshore. We had good luck with sheepshead, using live shrimp in lower Hickory Bay. The guys caught a dozen of them, six of which were keepers to 17 inches. They released the shorts, along with a 13-inch black drum and a pair of ladyfish.

Alejandro Miranda-Sousa, George Mestas, Orlando Fernandez, Pedro Martin, and Nate Swan had planned to fish offshore with me all day Saturday, but NOAA’s predictions for more moisture over the gulf, with rain and heavy fog on Saturday caused them to make alternate plans. As it turned out, Saturday morning was minimally foggy, and the rain was scattered and light, so it was disappointing to have canceled a trip that day. I offered to take the guys on Super Bowl Sunday, and we settled on a little more than a half-day trip offshore, which allowed us to get out about 27 miles. The guys caught two keeper red grouper, one 22-inch on a squirrel-fish, and one 20 inches on a live shrimp. They used shrimp to catch lots more red grouper, all of which were throw-backs. They added to the fish box one keeper lane snapper and twenty whitebone porgies to 16 inches.

Tuesday, 2/4/14, I headed out 35 miles from New Pass to fish with frequent customers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Dick Arnett. We used live shrimp to catch four snapper—one huge lane snapper at 19 inches and three mangrove snapper all 15 to 16 inches—along with a keeper hogfish at 14 inches, and fifteen whitebone porgies to 15 inches. The guys released lots of red grouper shorts to within an eighth inch of legal size, along with three 19-inch gag grouper. An 8-foot sandbar shark provided a fun battle when he bit one of the porgies that was being reeled in—we got some pics and video of that, and released him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAQV1Fb7BTw&feature=em-uploademail

Brothers, John and Jim Huss, accompanied by their two brothers-in-law, Mike Laine and Scott Hutchens, fished in lower Hickory Bay with me Wednesday, 2/5, and had a good, productive morning. The catch-of-the day was Jim’s 30-inch redfish, a beauty that we photographed and released, since slot-size maximum is 27 inches. The guys also caught nine keeper mangrove snapper, all around 11 inches, a brace of 15-inch black drum, and a 15-inch sheepshead. They release five smaller sheepshead.

Monday, 2/10, I fished between 18 and 26 miles west of New Pass with John Pound and friends, Dan and Ryan. Live shrimp worked well on red grouper to 20 inches—the guys released twenty-five of those, along with a few triggerfish shorts. They also caught ten keeper lane snapper, all around 11 inches, a half dozen grunts and a mess of whitebone porgies.

Tuesday morning, 2/11, Justin Badger and his father-in-law, John Schlashauser, fished lower Hickory Bay with me, baited with live shrimp. The guys caught a really nice pompano, at 20 inches, along with a brace of 14-inch sheepshead and three 11-inch mangrove snapper.

Wednesday, 2/12, was kind of a strange day offshore. There was a weather front approaching, not due until the evening hours, but seas were sloppy heading out, and the tide was low, so it was slow going getting out to where we were headed, about 25 miles west of New Pass, where I fished with long-time customers Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. Seas calmed down later in the morning, but the bite was slow, and all the red grouper we caught were shorts—the guys released about thirty of those, along with an equal number of small porgies. They ended up with enough food-fish, including a 14-inch mangrove snapper, seven keeper lane snapper all about 11 inches, and four 14-inch grunts. By the time we headed back to shore, winds were beginning to pick up, ahead of the approaching front that brought high winds and seas on Thursday, cancelling out my offshore trip for that day.

Friday morning, Valentines’ Day, I fished in lower Hickory Bay with Russ and Teresa Marquart. The tide was low, but the couple did well, using live shrimp to box six keeper sheepshead measuring between 14 and 17 inches. They released five smaller sheepshead, along with a couple of stingray.

Saturday, 2/15, I again fished in Hickory Bay, this time with brothers Robin and Irv Latham. They used live shrimp to catch a 15-inch black drum and three keeper sheepshead at 14 inches,16 inches, and 17 inches.

Monday, 2/17, I headed offshore from New Pass about 17 miles, with Jim Swanger and Ron Kaplan. Seas weren’t quite as calm as predicted early-on, but they calmed down nicely by mid-morning. The guys used live shrimp to box seven 13-inch mangrove snapper, two 14-inch porgies, a keeper porkfish, a brace of 22-inch Spanish mackerel, and a couple of grunts. They chose to release eight additional porgies and three additional grunts.

Tuesday, 2/18, I headed offshore 29 to 31 miles from New Pass with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Shawn Arnett and his son, Ben, and friend, Kay. The group wanted food-fish, and they caught their share on live shrimp, boxing fifteen 14-inch whitebone porgies, seven 13-inch mangrove snappers, and thirteen large grunts. They released twenty additional porgies, along with an equal number of red grouper shorts to 19 inches.

Wednesday, 2/19, Peder Engebretson and friend, John, fished with me about 22 miles west of New Pass, using live shrimp. They caught fourteen keeper lane snapper, all measuring about 10 inches, along with two nice sheepshead at 14 inches and 16 inches, and a couple of Spanish mackerel at 20 inches and 22 inches. They released mangrove snapper shorts, along with about twenty-five red grouper shorts.

I fished closer in on Thursday, 2/20, about eight miles off Naples beach on rocky bottom, targeting sheepshead with Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. The guys caught eleven keeper sheepshead to16 inches. They released a crevalle jack, about fifteen mangrove snapper shorts, numerous red grouper shorts, and one short gag grouper.

Friday, 2/21, a windy morning, Robin Latham and friends, Dave and Terry, fished a catch-and-release, backwater trip with me in lower Hickory Bay, where they used live shrimp to release mangrove snapper and sheepshead.

Saturday morning, 2/22, the bite was more active in Hickory Bay than it had been the day before. Clint Trousil and son, Jeff, used live shrimp to catch a keeper, 14-inch pompano and two nice sheepshead at 19 and 20 inches. They caught and released ten smaller sheepshead.

Monday, 2/24 was a beautiful day for fishing but, unfortunately, as happens rarely, but a couple times each season, my fishing clients cancelled their trip at the last minute, and I was unable to re-schedule the date with anyone on our cancellation list, at such short noice...hope the weather holds for the rest of the week! 

Tuesday, 2/25, I fished in the backwaters along the channel toward Wiggins Pass with long-time customers, the Heimrich family. Jeff, wife Beth, seven-year-old Maddie (who prefers to be called “Maddawg” ;-) and five-year-old Tanner used live shrimp to catch four nice sheepshead, ranging in size from 14 to 17 inches. They also caught fifteen mangrove snapper, including three keepers to 14 inches. They released a 20-inch snook, a 16 -inch redfish, and a stingray.

Jeannine Lamb and Kathy Kunce fished central Estero Bay with me on Wednesday, 2/26. They caught and released two 17-inch redfish and a stingray, and boxed a brace of 14-inch pompano, all on live shrimp.

Thursday, some rain moved through our area, with an approaching cool front, in the early morning hours. I had planned to charter a customer’s boat that day, but with an uncertain time-line on the weather front, he chose to cancel that trip. As it turned out, it probably would have been a decent day offshore. Sometimes, it is difficult to make the call in advance.

Friday, 2/28, I fished with Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who fish with me several times each February and March. This time, Jim brought his son, Steve, along. We fished at the near-shore reefs off Bonita Beach, using live shrimp to catch five keeper sheepshead to 15 inches, three 20-inch Spanish mackerel, and a 16-inch pompano. The guys released lots of mangrove snapper shorts, along with a dozen crevalle jacks, blue runners and ladyfish.

Leonard Kottman, nine year-old son, Jack, and brother-in-law, Mike, fished the near-shore reefs with me Saturday morning, 3/1, where they used live shrimp to catch seven keeper sheepshead to 16 inches, and released eight mangrove snapper shorts. Jack also had an interesting encounter with a remora, which he posed with for a picture.

Monday, 3/3, we had our second consecutive Monday mishap. Our offshore party had confused their travel dates and reserved the wrong day! We found that out at about 10PM Sunday night, so we were unable to re-shcedule the day for another party--too bad, since conditions were ideal.

Tuesday, 3/4, was a beautiful, calm day offshore. I spent it fishing with frequent customers, Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, and this time, Ron’s brother, Stanley Musick was in town to go with us. We headed out about 29 miles from New Pass, and had steady action all day. The red grouper bite was hot, and we caught more than fifty of those, but they were shorts to 19 inches, and had to be released. But a 44-inch king mackerel made our day, along with twenty-five keeper whitebone porgies to 16 inches.

Wednesday, 3/5, I fished along the channel toward Wiggins Pass, in the backwaters, with Roy Mittman, Bill Geronomo, and friend, Mike. The guys used live shrimp to catch five keeper-sheepshead to 15 inches and two keeper-mangrove snapper. The released smaller sheeps and mangs.

David Bloomfield and Dave Price fished with me in the central part of Hickory Bay Thursday morning, 3/6, just ahead of some threatening weather predicted to hit the area by about 3PM. I could tell those thunderstorms would be here sooner than predicted, but I figured we could get the morning in, which we did. Thunder began rolling right about noon, and we headed in. By that time, the guys had boxed a 21-inch redfish and a 15-inch mangrove snapper, caught on live shrimp. We never got a single sheepshead, which was strange, but a 15-inch mangrove was also kind of strange for the bay—those bigger mangs are usually offshore.

The front that dumped so much rain on us Thursday left windy conditions behind for Friday morning, 3/7, when I fished the backwaters near the channel by Wiggins Pass with Robin Latham and his brother-in-law, Pete. Fishing was tough that morning, but the guys caught two keeper sheepshead to 14 inches, and released a half dozen smaller ones. They also caught and released two big stingray to ten pounds.

Sunday, 3/9, I fished with a delightful family—the Baums—who were celebrating a graduation. Darlys, her daughter, Becky and son-in-law, Joel, and her grandsons, Mason, Brady and Luke (the graduate) fished with me in spots between 18 and 23 miles west of New Pass. Grandpa Jerry stayed behind, as we already had a maximum of six passengers. He gets a special shout-out for being the official chauffeur, and for helping with a computer issue my wife had that was preventing her from updating our website with the pics of the nice catches from the day’s trip. It was a calm day offshore, and the group did very well using live shrimp. They caught seventeen keeper lane snapper to 14 inches and seven keeper mangrove snapper to 16 inches. They added a 14-inch hogfish to the box, along with a 24-inch red grouper, a brace of 20-inch Spanish mackerel, a couple of whitebone porgies and a few grunts. Luke also battled and caught a 30-inch gag grouper, which had to be released due to closed season; nonetheless it was only right that the angler-of-honor caught the biggest fish! We released a dozen smaller mangrove snapper, about fifty red grouper shorts, and six porkfish shorts.

Monday morning, 3/10, I fished the backwaters along the channel toward Wiggins Pass with Mike and Sue Frantz and their grandson, Tyler. The group caught nine sheepshead to 15 inches. Sue also hooked a pinfish that was huge—13 inches—we had to get a pic of that one!

Tuesday morning, 3/11, I headed offshore 18 to 20 miles with the Latham family—Linda, her son John and his wife Shannon, and their two children, Ian and Elle. Ian also brought along a friend, Clifford Roepke. Elle got the biggest catch of the day—a 30-inch king mackerel. John landed a nice hogfish at 14 inches, and the group collectively caught five nice porgies and a mess of grunts, all on live shrimp. They released smaller porgies, along with fifteen red grouper shorts to 19 inches, just below keeper-size. A few lines got cut, probably by additional large kingfish.

Seas started to pick up on Wednesday, 3/12,and Brian and Marcia Wilson decided they’d rather fish the backwaters that morning, so we loaded up with live shrimp and fished in a few locations in central Estero Bay. The Wilsons caught three redfish at 24 inches, 21 inches and 18 inches. We released the smallest of those, which was right at the 18-inch mark (my theory is if in doubt, release!) The couple also caught a keeper pompano at 14 inches, and two nice black drum at 17 and 19 inches.

Thursday, 3/13, winds were strong and seas were rough, with small craft advisories in effect. The only safe place to fish was in the backwaters. I returned to the spots in Estero Bay that had been so active just the day before but, as I had suspected and advised my customers, the strong northwest winds had sucked much of the water out of the bay, and conditions were somewhat muddy. We made the best of it, and brothers, Charles and Jesse Sheppard had a good time catching and releasing a black drum that was just short of keeper-size, a redfish just short of keeper-size, and four short sheepshead. One of the guys lost a big red, after getting a little too enthusiastic about pulling it in. But we had fun, and did pretty well, given conditions.

Friday morning, 3/14, winds and seas were predicted to be much calmer that they had been on Thursday, but one look out the front door Friday morning proved those predictions false. There was no way it was going to be comfortable offshore yet, so Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett, who fish with me several times each winter, took my suggestion to fish inshore. We fished with live shrimp along the groups of islands in front of Little Carlos Pass, and did pretty well. Jim got a nice, 19-inch black drum, and the guys also caught six keeper sheepshead ranging 13 to 15 inches. They released ladyfish and a couple of sail-cats.

Peder Engebretson and Dan Facendin fished offshore with me Saturday morning, 3/15. Seas were still a little rough heading out 18 miles from New Pass, but they calmed down later in the day. The guys caught some nice sheepshead—eight of those to 18 inches including four right at 18 inches. They also caught a 14-inch keeper mangrove snapper, a 13-inch whitebone porgy, a 20-inch Spanish mackerel, and a half-dozen large grunts. They released red grouper shorts to 17 inches, along with some smaller porgies.

St. Patty's Day, Monday, 3/17, the leprechauns delivered some nasty weather. With winds and seas up to small craft advisory levels, and with probable rain on the way, I had to cancel my planned offshore trip and remain in port.

Winds were still gusting to 25 knots Tuesday morning, 3/18, after a gusty day Monday and heavy rain overnight. The only good news was that the wind direction was beneficial for the tide in the backwaters, where I fished the island groups by Little Carlos Pass with Steve Davis, his son Matt, and his son-in-law Eric. Anchoring and casting is challenging in 25-knot winds, but the guys did well with sheepshead, catching five keepers to 14 inches and releasing some smaller ones. They also released some, shall we say, unusual catches—mostly caught by Steve, to whom we awarded the “trash-can slam” trophy: He managed to pull in a couple rays, a couple sail-cats, a baby goliath grouper, a humongous blue crab, a starfish, and a leopard toad-fish—all released a lot more quickly than we stopped our teasing!

I fished inshore again on Wednesday, 3/19, not believing that the seas offshore would calm down so quickly, after days of high winds and disturbed weather. Doug and Ann Brady and their two teen daughters, McKenzie and Taylor, fished the islands by Little Carlos Pass, using live shrimp. Taylor got the catch-of-the-day, with a 19-inch keeper redfish. The group also caught an 11 -inch keeper mangrove snapper and a 14-inch keeper sheepshead. They released five smaller sheepshead, a couple of stingrays, and a couple of sail-cats.

Thursday, 3/20, Gary Mueller and his friend, Bob, fished the backwaters with me. We timed our trip to coincide with optimal tide conditions, but it didn’t do us a lot of good. I fished in the same areas that had been productive for nice sheepshead, redfish, and black drum for the past several days, but the bite was slow and the water was muddy, with so much boat traffic in the bay. The guys released sheepshead and a couple of rays.

Friday, 3/21, it was calm enough to get offshore, and I headed out to spots between 18 and 20 miles with frequent customers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Bob Meyer , and Richard Arnett. The guys used live shrimp for their many catches, which included three nice mangrove snapper that were all about 15 inches, three 11-inch lane snapper, six 13-inch whitebone porgies, five large grunts and an 18-inch Spanish mackerel. Gag grouper are currently out-of season, which was heart-breaking for this crew, since they caught three nice ones at 22 inches, 24 inches, and 28 inches. We released those, along with a dozen red grouper shorts to 18 inches and three lizard fish to 18 inches.

Saturday morning, 3/22, seas were a little choppy near the shore, but they were smooth 17 miles offshore, where I fished with Dr. Victor Luna, his six-year-old son Victor Jr., and friends Roberto Russi, Tom, Eric (with a c), and Erik (with a k). The group of six caught a brace of 14-inch sheepshead, a keeper porkfish, whitebone porgies, and grunts. But the catch-of-the-morning went to Dr. Luna, who reeled in a 48-inch king mackerel on light tackle. The group released smaller porgies, triggerfish shorts, and blue runners. In fact, it was a blue runner that caught the big kingfish. A couple of goliath grouper also got hooked, but broke off before they were reeled to the surface.

Keith Scharm and family hoped to fish offshore Monday, 3/24, in advance of some nasty weather that was predicted to come through the area later in the day. The weather forecasters had all concurred that we might see “a few, scattered, light sprinkles” early in the day, followed by some heavier rains in the late afternoon, evening, and over-night hours. As it turned out, that consensus was dead wrong. It rained on us for nearly the entire morning, and the predicted 2-foot seas were actually 4-foot seas, until we headed in around 1PM. It was still raining then, but winds, which had been howling 15-to-25 knots all morning had calmed, and seas were calming as well. Needless to say these were not ideal conditions for comfort nor for catching. But the family toughed it out 18 miles offshore, and caught a few porgies and grunts, along with a keeper sheepshead, all on live shrimp. They released red grouper shorts and triggerfish shorts, along with blue runners. We used one of the blue runners for goliath bait, and had an approximate 200-pound goliath grouper on the line for a while before he broke off, so the anglers got to feel what catching a big guy like that feels like.

Tuesday, 3/25, there was yet more rain over the gulf, along with strengthening winds and rising seas. I cancelled my planned offshore trip, and remained in port. Likewise for Wednesday, 3/26, with small craft advisories and seas of five-to-seven feet offshore.

Thursday morning, 3/27, I fished with Stuart Norris, who has fished with me each March for many years. Usually, we fish offshore, but with three-to-five foot seas persisting through today, we changed plans and fished the backwaters in the area of Little Carlos. Stuart caught a 16-inch sheepshead and a 17-inch black drum. He released two redfish to 17 inches, a few short sheepshead and one mangrove snapper short, all caught on live shrimp.

Friday morning, 3/28, Jim Novy and his four young children, Jacqueline, Julie, Jordan and Jimmy, who have fished with me each spring break for several years, were hoping for a calm day offshore, but that wasn’t   going to happen, with small craft advisories still in effect offshore. We opted for near-shore, and headed to the reefs but, even there, six miles off the beach, seas were pretty choppy. We ended up fishing most of the morning in more sheltered waters, behind Fish Tale Marina. The group caught three keeper sheepshead to 14 inches, and released a few smaller ones, along with a few stingrays and sail-cats.

Saturday morning, 3/29, long-time customer Rusty Hook and his sons, Charlie and Jeremy, had originally hoped to fish offshore. But with rain and rough seas in the early morning hours and more predicted for afternoon, the gulf was not a viable option. Our choices were to fish the bay on a revised schedule to miss the rain Saturday, or defer our trip until Sunday, when predictions were for 30 mph gusts, and the tide was not to be as favorable in the backwaters. We opted to wait out the early rains, depart at 10AM Saturday, and fish until about 2PM, returning to land before the afternoon rain storms hit. That plan worked well and, though it was very windy, we did pretty well fishing in lower Hickory Bay, using live shrimp. The guys caught two keeper redfish at 18 inches and 21 inches, and released four redfish shorts, along with a 17-inch crevalle jack. Charlie also caught a 16-inch sheepshead.

Monday morning, 3/31, it was a hard call on whether to fish offshore or inshore for the Frantz family--Mike and Sue, daughter Kim, and grandson Kevin. After many days of wind and high seas, predictions were for calmer conditions, with two-to three foot seas, but winds were still blowing pretty strong. The family had already fished one trip in the backwaters with me a few weeks ago and wanted to experience some gulf fishing. Another consideration was the low tide conditions in the bay. So we decided on the near-shore reefs. Even there, at three miles and six miles off the beach, conditions were sloppy in the early hours, and fishing was tough. It was the first time I had seen so many sail-cats at the reefs, perhaps because of the influx of fresh water with all the recent rain. The group caught and released several of those, along with some grunts, mangrove snapper shorts, and sheepshead to 12 inches.

Tuesday, 4/1, seas were calmer than they had been in a good while, and I got out 28 miles that April Fools’ Day with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and friend Wayne, along with Wayne’s son, Ryan. We had steady action all day, and the group caught a big yellowtail snapper at 17 inches, a 13-inch mangrove snapper, three keeper lane snapper, twenty porgies to 14 inches, and a 22-inch Spanish mackerel, all on shrimp. We could have caught more yellowtails, had it not been for the greedy goliath grouper that invaded our fishing hole! We used a blue runner for bait to catch and release a six-foot sandbar shark. The group also released twenty-five red grouper shorts.

Two father-son teams fished offshore, about 18 miles west of New Pass, with me on Wednesday morning, 4/2. The foursome, Rick and Matt Kuster and Scot and Cale Barnes, had a productive morning of fishing, boxing fifteen lane snapper keepers to 12 inches, two 13 -inch hogfish, grunts, porgies, and a 24-inch red grouper. They released fifteen red grouper shorts. All were caught on live shrimp, except the keeper red grouper, which bit a pinfish.

Thursday morning, 4/3, I fished on an outgoing tide in Estero Bay, by Horseshoe Key, with John and Toni Heinrich. The couple used live shrimp to catch two keeper sheepshead at 14 inches and 18 inches. They released smaller sheepshead, along with a 17 -inch redfish.

Friday, 4/4, I fished offshore, though seas were rougher than predicted. But my three hardy anglers, Tim Peterson, his son, Michael, and friend, Scott Hayes, didn’t mind the seas, and did well fishing with live shrimp 27 miles west of New Pass. The group caught a brace of keeper red grouper at 21 inches, and released numerous red grouper shorts, along with blue runners. Also added to the box were fifteen whitebone porgies to15 inches and two keeper lane snapper.

Saturday, 4/5, I headed offshore about 27 miles on a nice calm day, with Tom Anderson and his young sons, Chris and Ben. The guys used live shrimp to catch most everything, except for a 21-inch, keeper red grouper that bit a spot-tail grunt. They released twenty-five red grouper shorts to 19 inches, along with lots of blue runners. They also caught twenty keeper lane snapper to 13 inches and some large grunts, which they added to the box with the keeper grouper, and decided to release the rest of their catches, which included twenty whitebone porgies, and a 24-inch king mackerel.

As predicted, winds began picking up Sunday afternoon, and they grew stronger by Monday. Offshore fishing was nixed, with seas building to uncomfortable and eventually unsafe levels. So, Tom and Brenda Landrith and Brenda's dad, Larry Baumgartner, fished inshore with me on a windy Monday morning, 4/7. We fished around the islands just inside New Pass. The trio used live shrimp to catch two nice redfish at 24 and 24 inches. They released stingray and sail-cats, and were happy enough with the pair of keeper reds.

Tuesday morning, 4/8, it was even windier than Monday, and heavy rains were predicted to hit our area by about 1PM. I fished in lower Hickory Bay, just ahead of those rains, with two fifteen-year-old anglers, Clay Galagher and Devin Neuman. The boys used live shrimp to catch a keeper black drum at 19 inches and a 13-inch keeper sheepshead. They released a few shorts, including a 17-inch redfish and a 21-inch snook.

Wednesday, 4/9, winds howled all day, with near gale-force gusts, and even backwater fishing would have been more challenging than fun. I happened to have a cancellation for Thursday, so I advised my scheduled Wednesday trip to defer their excursion to Thursday morning, when winds were much calmer. John and Ann Piccolo and their two young sons, Connor and Justin, fished with me on Thursday in lower Hickory Bay’s backwaters, 4/10, where they used live shrimp to box eight keeper mangrove snapper to 12 inches, along with a 13 -inch sheepshead. The family released a half-dozen smaller snapper and a couple of stingray.

Friday, 4/11, I fished 28 miles offshore in calm seas with frequent fishers Ron Musick and Eddie Alfonso, and friend Mike Tobin. The lane snapper bite was on, and the guys caught twenty-four of those to 14 inches, along with fifteen keeper whitebone porgies and some grunts. We released some blue runners, and also put one of those on some heavier tackle, which caught a 50-inch-plus barracuda, estimated at 45 to 50 pounds. We photographed and released it, after it wore out both me and Eddie!

Saturday morning, 4/12, was reserved for my grandson, Cody Hennessey, who turned eighteen yesterday. We headed out 28 miles west of New Pass in somewhat sloppy seas that calmed down a little later, and had a great six hours of fishing. Cody will be feeling the soreness in his arms tonight when he heads to his high school prom! We caught a 55-inch, 50-pound king mackerel on a blue runner, with no steel leader: That battle lasted about 40 minutes, and we photographed the beast and released it. But the big-game battles weren’t over; an 8 -foot hammerhead shark bit a spot-tail grunt we had on heavy mono leader (again, no steel) with a big circle-hook, which was rigged for grouper. Another 45-minute battle ensued, and we got the shark to the surface for photos and then released him. As for food fish, red grouper were biting spot-tail grunts too, and we caught three keeper red grouper at 21 inches, 22 inches, and 27 inches. We released numerous red grouper shorts. Using live shrimp, we added to the box six keeper lane snapper, five whitebone porgies to 15 inches, and a mess of grunts to 14 inches. You can watch the hammerhead action video at the following link:


Monday morning, 4/14, I fished a catch-and-release trip about 12 miles west of New Pass with Carol Harris, her daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Jeff, and their teen-aged sons, Bradley and Alex. The group used live shrimp to catch four Spanish mackerel to 22 inches, six ladyfish to 20 inches, twenty red grouper to 19 7/8 inches, twenty-five lane snapper, six mangrove snapper shorts and two dozen grunts.

Tuesday, 4/15 and Wednesday, 4/16, were both windy days. Seas were rough and small craft advisories were in effect. Unfortunately both my scheduled trips for those days were with die-hard offshore men, with no interest fishing in the backwaters. I had to cancel both trips.

Thursday, 4/17, after two previous days of small craft advisories, it was still pretty sloppy in the gulf early on, but it calmed down nicely. I headed out twelve miles from New Pass with Mile Lorenz and friend, Brian, for a little big-game action, followed by a few food-fish for the cooler. The guys caught and released two goliath grouper, both about 80 pounds. I could see that they had been caught before on lighter line and broken off, because one of them had three hooks in its mouth and the other had two. I did them both a favor and removed the hooks from them before releasing them, and I am guessing they are much more comfortable now! Both of those bit bait-fish. The guys used live shrimp to catch everything else, which included ten red grouper shorts to 19 7/8 inches, just short of keeper size, fifteen keeper lane snapper, a brace of 20-inch Spanish mackerel, seven grunts all 12 to 13 inches, and eight bluefish, all around 14 inches. We released the red grouper shorts and bluefish, and boxed the lanes, mackerel, and grunts. We spotted a big shark of some kind while we were out there...and one of the guys thought he spotted a sailfish, which would be very unusual and only the second siting ever of one of those from my boat. We got in and got fish cleaned just before the skies let loose with some heavy rains.

Weather was a little iffy again on Friday morning, 4/18, when I headed offshore with Brody Thompson and friends, Al and John. We only got out about 12 miles from New Pass, with seas of three-to-four feet that close in. By the time we left our fishing hole, it was getting rougher, a wave breaking over the bow just before we pulled anchor to head in. But the fishing was good, and the guys caught twenty-four keeper lane snapper and a mess of grunts, a 22-inch Spanish mackerel, and the catch-of-the-day: A nice, 38-inch king mackerel. They released fifteen red grouper shorts.

Clement Wong and family fished lower Hickory Bay with me Saturday morning, 4/19. They had planned to fish for grouper offshore, but seas were four-to six feet, so we settled on fishing inshore. The group caught a 19-inch black drum, a 14-inch keeper sheepshead and an 11-inch keeper mangrove snapper. They released smaller sheepshead, five stingrays, a couple of sail-cats, and a 19-inch snook, all caught on live shrimp.

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     Good Fishing!

God Bless America


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