Monday, 3/12, after a windy weekend, winds were predicted to calm somewhat, and seas were forecast at two-to-three feet near-shore, and three-to-five feet beyond twenty miles. But, as I approached the near-shore reefs with Mark McCarthy, Mark and David Hatch, and Rich Jenkins (who was celebrating his birthday) I knew we were in for some rough seas, even six miles off the beach. We had three-to-four foot seas all morning, with winds of 15 to 25 knots. But the guys were hardy, and they did well, using live shrimp, with sheepshead, grouper, and mackerel. They caught five nice sheepshead to 19 inches, and they released eight smaller ones. They also caught an 18-inch pompano, and they released eleven gag grouper to 23 ˝ inches and eight Spanish mackerel, all in the 22-to-23-inch range.
Tuesday morning, winds were quite a bit calmer than they were the day before, but seas were still kind of sloppy, so I returned to the near-shore reefs, this time with long-time customers, Lee Larsen and Tom Batchlor, joined by friends, Rich Alick and John Egeland. Using live shrimp, the guys caught eleven keeper sheepshead to 17 ˝ inches, and released nine smaller ones. They also caught seven Spanish mackerel, all around 22 inches, and chose to keep three of those. The gag grouper were biting well, and we caught and released ten of those, to 22 inches. We also released a twenty-pound stingray, grunts, puffer-fish, and three crevalle jacks.
Wednesday morning, I fished a catch-and-release trip in Estero Bay with Brian Wilson and his daughter, Allison Wilson. We used live shrimp to catch and release four sea-trout, a crevalle jack, and an 8-pound stingray.
Frequent customers Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonse, Dick Arnett, and Bob Mayer, joined by friend, Tom Lammert, fished the near-shore reefs with me on Thursday. The guys caught two keeper mangrove snapper, a Spanish mackerel keeper, a few grunts, and twenty-two nice, keeper sheepshead to 19 ˝ inches, all on live shrimp. They released eleven gag grouper to 23 inches, along with two red grouper shorts.
Friday morning, I returned to the near-shore reefs, this time with frequent fishers, Jim Mcgrath and Bill Crockett. We used live shrimp to catch a half dozen keeper sheepshead to 19 inches. We released five smaller sheepshead, nine gag grouper to 22 1/2 inches, a 12-inch mangrove snapper, a 14-inch grunt, and eight 20-inch Spanish mackerel.
Saturday, I headed back to the reefs, this time with Sue Augustine, her daughter, Alanta, and her son, Mitch. They wanted only enough fish for dinner, so we released most of what we caught. We caught fourteen sheepshead, eight of which were keeper-size, to 16 inches, and a few grunts in the 13-14-inch range. We also released blue runners, puffer-fish, and gag grouper to 19 inches, all caught on shrimp.
Monday, 3/19, I fished the near-shore reefs with Rodney and Cass Bromm. The sheepshead bite had slowed down a bit, but we still caught five of them on shrimp, four of which were keepers at 16-to-16 ˝ inches. We also caught a 20-inch Spanish mackerel and a 20-pound, 45-inch king mackerel. We released all but the sheepshead, along with about ten mangrove snapper shorts and a few gag grouper shorts.
Tuesday morning, I fished a catch-and-release trip in Estero Bay with newlyweds, Mike and Miriam Pavlicek. The couple released four crevalle jacks, a sheepshead, two stingrays weighing about five pounds each, and two redfish. They lost three additional redfish to break-offs. We used live shrimp for all.
I was back at the near-shore reefs on Wednesday, where seas were building throughout the morning, but were mostly two-to-three feet, which didn’t bother brothers, Greg and Dave Bauer, at all. They used live shrimp to catch eight nice sheepshead to 19 inches and three Spanish mackerel to 20 inches. They released six gag grouper to 23 inches, along with some mangrove-snapper-shorts.
Thursday morning, I fished the near-shore reefs with Tom Batchlor and son, Joe Batchlor, Lee Larsen, and Bud Glazier. We used live shrimp, which lured fifteen sheepshead our way, ten of them keepers,to 18 inches. We also caught ten Spanish mackerel to 22 inches, and released five gag grouper to 22 ˝ inches.
Friday morning, I fished the last in a series of seasonal fishing trips with long-time customers Jim McGrath and Bill Crockett. We fished with live shrimp in 35 feet, off Naples. The guys caught two hogfish, one of which was a keeper at 15 inches. They also caught three 15-inch sheepshead, four keeper porkfish, a 14-inch whitebone porgy, five keeper mangrove snapper, and three 20-21-inch Spanish mackerel, along with some grunts. They released six triggerfish shorts, gag grouper to 21 inches, and three red grouper shorts. Something big ate one of our Spanish mackerel as it was being reeled in, and also broke the line—It could have been another big kingfish, like the one caught the day before.
Saturday, I fished in 45 feet with Rick Steiger and friends. Using live shrimp, the guys caught several Spanish mackerel, all about 22 inches long, ten keeper mangrove snapper in the 13-14-inch range, four whitebone porgies, all around 14 inches, and a mess of grunts. They released a half dozen triggerfish shorts, a few porkfish, ten gag grouper to 20 inches, ten red grouper to 16 inches, and a 140-pound nurse-shark.