The week of 1/30/12 began with a cold-front that brought high winds and seas and small-draft advisories, which forced me to cancel both offshore trips planned for those days. Wednesday morning, 2/1, began a little rough offshore, but quickly calmed down and was flat by afternoon. I fished about 20 miles west of New Pass with Kari Vilamaa, Gary Wilson, Paul Kikendall, and George Dyer. The group caught two keeper hogfish, 14 inches and 17 inches, along with five nice mangrove-snapper keepers to 17 inches, a 17-inch mutton snapper, two 15-inch sheepshead, eight nice-sized whitebone porgies, and a mess of large grunts, all on live shrimp. They released porkfish, triggerfish and yellowtail snapper shorts, along with about twenty-five grouper: Reds to 19 inches and gags to 21 inches.
Thursday, I fished with frequent customers Dick Arnett, Eddie Alfonse, Fred McNeal and friend, John. We fished with live shrimp, twenty miles west of New Pass in 43 feet, where the group caught thirteen nice mangrove snapper to 17 1/2 inches, a 15-inch sheepshead, a 22-inch king mackerel, two keeper porkfish, a 15-inch hogfish, a mess of whitebone porgies to 15 inches, and some large grunts. They released lots of gag grouper to 21 inches and red grouper to 18 inches, along with a couple of puffer fish and two ramoras.
I had high hopes of duplicating Thursday’s trip when I headed offshore Friday morning with long-time customer, Mike Connealy, and three of his friends. But the weather had changed, with the winds kicked up to 15 to 20 knots, which made for some sloppy conditions. Fishing wasn’t nearly as productive as it had been Wednesday and Thursday. The foursome managed to catch a few keeper mangrove snapper and lane snapper, three keeper porkfish, and some grunts. All the porgies were smaller than they have been lately, so we released those, along with three gag grouper to 20 inches and two 18-inch red grouper. We tried to do some sport fishing, with blue runners as bait, but even the goliaths weren’t interested. We did get to see a turtle skillfully eat the bait off one of our hooks without getting hooked himself—whew!
Saturday morning, the winds were howling once again. I fished a catch-and-release trip inshore, in Estero Bay, with John Boulger, Jimmy Hessel and two of their friends. We released ten sheepshead, a 24-inch ladyfish and a puffer fish.
Monday morning, 2/6, I fished Estero Bay in a light drizzle part of the morning, with John Kimmins, his brother, Brian Kimmins, and John’s son, Tom Kimmins. We used live shrimp to catch five redfish, three of them keepers between 18 ½ and 21 inches long. We released two stingrays, an 18-inch Gaftail Sailcat, five sheepshead to 12 inches, and a 19-inch snook.
Frequent customers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonse, Dick Arnett, Fred McNeal and Bob Mayer fished with me Tuesday, using live shrimp in 43 feet. The big mangrove snapper were biting well again, and the group caught five of those to 17 ½ inches, along with five keeper porkfish, a keeper sheepshead at 15 inches, a 14-inch keeper hogfish, and a mess of large grunts. We released one smaller hogfish, lots of triggerfish shorts to 13 ½ inches, and lots of red and gag grouper shorts to 18 inches. We had a seven-foot sandbar shark hanging around for a while, harassing our catches, but he never managed to bite any of them.
Wednesday morning, I delayed my departure time with Jim and Marge Jambor and friends, Bill and Joan Fabian, in order to catch the best tide in Estero Bay. We fished an incoming tide, but it was a slow one, and not ideal. Jim caught a 21-inch black drum and Bill caught a 13-inch keeper sheepshead. We released stingrays, puffers, and some undersized others.
Thursday, Terry Howell and friends, Fred and Jerry, had planned to fish the gulf. But the weather had other plans, with high winds and seas of three-to-five feet offshore. So, we switched tracks and fished a catch-and-release trip in Estero Bay, where we used live shrimp to catch five sheepshead and three crevalle jacks. The bite was slow, and the bay was on the muddy side that morning.
Friday morning, seas calmed temporarily, and I got out offshore 19 miles to fish with Roger Gordon, Rich Nelson, and Rich Pearson. We caught a mess of about thirty grunts to 12 inches and a keeper triggerfish at 14 inches. We released three smaller triggerfish, three porkfish, a few porgies, and a hogfish-short. Our most exhausting and exciting catch was an 8-foot sandbar shark that weighed about 200 pounds--we shot some video of that one before releasing it. By the time we headed in, there was a sizable swell building in advance of the next cold-front, which was due to arrive Saturday into Sunday, bringing high winds and seas and probable rain. And, Monday, 2/13, brought frigid temps and very low tides in the bay, so I advised my planned inshore trip to defer their trip to a day with more promising conditions.