Tuesday, 3/4/14, 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 ½ 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 ½ 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 ½ 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 ½ 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, 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.
The photo shown is of angler Eddie Alfonso, with a 44-inch king mackerel, 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.