As a windy weather front approached the area on Monday, 1/5/15, small craft advisories were issued, and my anglers, Allen Jacobs, Phil Corey, and friend, Lenny traded their offshore plans for a morning of fishing in central Estero Bay. Using live shrimp, the guys caught a half dozen nice sheepshead to 18 inches. The reds were biting too, but all five redfish that the guys caught were short of keeper size, at about 17 inches, so we released those.
Fishing in various spots ranging from 18 miles to 29 miles west of New Pass with anglers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, Dick Arnett, Tom Collins, and Jim Mix Tuesday 1/6/15, proved productive for table-fare catches, all of which bit on live shrimp. The guys boxed a brace of keeper red grouper at 21 inches, eight keeper lane snapper, ten porgies to 15 inches, and a half-dozen 12-inch grunts. They released lots of red grouper shorts, and a few mangrove snapper shorts.
Wednesday and Thursday, 1/7 and 1/8, brought winds and high seas, with the second weather front in a week arriving. Bay conditions were shallow and muddy and far from ideal, and I remained in port. Friday morning, 1/9, the bay was still shallow, and seas were slightly calmer offshore, though still a little sloppy. Chris Baumgartner, his dad, Larry, and Chris’ daughter Madeline decided they would rather deal with some sloppy conditions offshore than fish in the mud inshore, so we headed out 18 miles from New Pass, with a bait cooler of shrimp. The trio caught thirty nice porgies to 16 inches, kept about half of those, and released the rest. They also caught and released two gag grouper, one at 19 inches and the other at 22 inches, along with a dozen red grouper shorts. They added to the fish box two keeper mangrove snapper at 13 inches and 15 inches. A shark bit off a couple of the groups’ catches, but we never got to see what kind of shark it was.
The next weather front came through Friday night into Saturday, and winds and seas again increased, making for rough conditions offshore, and continued shallow conditions inshore.
Monday morning, 1/12/15, there was scattered rain predicted in the morning, with an increased chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. It looked like a safe bet to get a morning of fishing offshore, with seas calm. Brothers, Loren and Hib Doe, joined by friends, Andy Hoadley and Jim Greene, headed out to 20 miles west of New Pass with me, where we fished with live shrimp. Andy caught a keeper red grouper at 23 inches, and the group released lots of red grouper shorts. Hib landed a nice 15-inch triggerfish, along with an 18-inch hogfish, and released one short trigger. Jim caught the only keeper mangrove snapper of the morning, but it was a good one, at 16 inches. Loren landed the largest porgy and grunt. Collectively, the group caught ten grunts to 14 inches, of which they kept a few, along with twenty-seven porgies, of which they kept a dozen.
I fished about 20 miles west of New Pass again on Tuesday, 1/13, as I had on Monday, but the grouper and snapper bite was dampened by a few dolphins that chased us off two of my most productive spots. The waters were crowded with boats, unlike the day before when the threat of rain had kept many anglers in port. Still, frequent customer, Mike Connealy, along with his friends, Greg Eaton, Chris Meyer and Kevin Christenson, had a good morning catching a dozen nice porgies and some large grunts. The guys released lots of red grouper shorts to 19 ½ inches, along with a few mangrove snapper shorts.
Wednesday morning, 1/14, was cloudy and windy, and seas were a little sloppy, but still calm enough to head offshore 19 miles, which I did with Marshall Swain and friends, Paul Roundtree and John and Suzanne Charnes. The group used live shrimp to catch 13 red grouper, including one keeper at 20 ½ inches. Along with the red grouper shorts, they released six gag grouper, two of which were 22 inches and would have been keepers, had it not been for closed gag season. The anglers boxed five porgies, a keeper mangrove snapper at 12 inches, three 12-inch lane snapper keepers, and some grunts. They released lots of short mangrove snapper, along with ten smaller porgies. We had what appeared to be a big sandbar shark bite off a few of the biggest porgies before we could boat them.
Frequent fishers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso and Dick Arnett, joined by friends Jim Lynch and Tom Youtsos, fished all day with me Thursday, 1/15. It was a cloudy day, but winds were light and seas were calm, even 30 miles west of New Pass, where the guys fished with live shrimp and pinfish. They caught lots of red grouper, including two that were keepers at 20 ½ inches and 21 inches. They also caught a couple of triggerfish keepers at 14½ and 15 inches, as well as a half dozen lane snapper keepers. They added to the box five porgies to 15 inches, a 15-inch hogfish, and a 37-inch king mackerel, the first king I have seen in a while. It bit on a pinfish, while everything else took live shrimp.
Bob Graham and friends, Phil and Kelley had their hopes set on an offshore trip Friday morning, 1/16. The forecast called for two-to-three foot seas, and I offered them the option of fishing the backwaters, knowing that it might be even choppier than predicted offshore. But the guys said they would tough it out in the gulf, so we headed out to fish in spots between 18 and 20 miles west of New Pass. It wasn’t bad running out but, by about 11AM, winds picked up significantly, and seas built rapidly. It took us a long time to return to shore, traveling home in 4 to 4 ½ foot seas, trying to make it as comfortable as possible. The guys boxed seven porgies to 14 inches, along with a half dozen12-inch grunts, and a keeper lane snapper at 12 inches. They released twenty red grouper shorts to 19 inches, along with ten mangrove snapper shorts.
Saturday morning, 1/17, predictions for seas of two to three feet were not to be believed, after the rough conditions I had encountered the previous day, given that very same prediction. Winds were still blowing mightily, and I advised Nick Visnich and his fifteen- year-old son, Nicholas, to fish the backwaters. We fished in lower Hickory Bay, using live shrimp, in pretty low-tide conditions. But the guys landed two keeper sheepshead, one at 13 inches and one really nice one at 19 inches. They released smaller sheepshead, several mangrove snapper shorts, and a 3-pound stingray.
The photo shown is of angler Jim Lynch, with a 37-inch king mackerel, caught on a pinfish on an offshore trip this past week.
You can check out all of our shark and goliath grouper action videos at the following link.