Monday, 2/25, brothers Ed and Fred Armstrong had planned to fish offshore with me. A weather front came through the area over-night, however, and kicked up winds to about 25 knots, with very rough conditions offshore. So the guys decided to fish in Estero Bay’s backwaters instead. Even the bay was challenging for fishing that morning. The tide which was supposed to turn around at 9AM, never did so, and the wind was sucking the water out of the bay. The guys managed to catch eight sheepshead, on live shrimp, but only one was a keeper at 13 inches. The rest of the sheepies were about ½-inch short of keeper-size, and had to be released. The guys also released a crevalle jack.
It was just a little less windy on Tuesday morning, 2/26, than it had been the day before. I fished the backwaters of southern Estero Bay with Charles Vanenbossche, his brother, Brian, and their parents, Mike and Sandy. The family caught eleven sheepshead, including four keepers, on live shrimp. They lost three or four others when the hook pulled out, as they sometimes do when sheepshead are hooked in the lip.
Wednesday morning, 2/27, I returned to the south end of Estero Bay, this time to fish with Dennis Mascioli and his friends, Vince and Gary on a catch-and-release trip. The sheepshead bite was slower than it has been recently, but the guys released four sheepies to 14 inches, and lost one redfish to a broken line.
Long-time customers, Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso, and Richard Arnett fished 33 miles offshore with me on Thursday, 2/28. The guys used cut bait and squid to catch twenty nice porgies to 24 inches, along with three keeper lane snapper and a few grunts.
Dave Carr and his friends, Chuck and Wayne, fished 20 miles offshore with me on Friday morning, March 1st. They used frozen shrimp and squid to catch twenty-five grunts to 14 inches, and put a dozen of those in the fish box for fish tacos. They released the rest, along with several ladyfish, four red grouper shorts, two lane snapper shorts and one mangrove snapper short.
Frequent customer, Mike Connealy, fished 33 miles west of New Pass with me on Monday, 3/4. The winds had picked up over the weekend, and we had some hefty swells heading out, along with some choppy seas for a while. The big porgies were biting, but the goliath grouper were competing with us for those, and they got the largest of them. Still, we managed to box seven nice porgies to 18 inches, and we released four smaller ones. We added a keeper lane snapper to the box. We also released one short yellowtail snapper, a small sheepshead, and one red grouper short.
Fishing was really tough in Estero Bay Tuesday morning, 3/5, when I fished with Gary Hourselt and his son, Nick. The father-son team had fished the backwaters with me before, and had done well with catching large sheepshead. They had planned to fish offshore this time, but a weather front that resulted in small craft advisories nixed that plan. So we headed into southern Estero Bay for a catch and release trip that yielded little more than small sheepshead in wind and tide conditions that were far from ideal.
Wednesday and Thursday, 3/6 and 3/7, brought a cold front with small craft advisories offshore, dead-low tides in the bay, and frigid mornings. Both of those planned offshore trips cancelled. So, it was Friday before I got back on the water. Mike and Bethany Tank fished offshore with me on Friday, 3/8, the first day in a while that has been calm enough to head offshore. We still experienced some choppy seas at first, but it calmed down nicely in the afternoon. Using shrimp, the couple fished 33 miles west of New Pass, and had a productive day. They caught ten porgies, all 14 inches to 18 inches, and three king mackerel, including two at 29 inches and one at 42 inches. They released a half-dozen yellowtail snapper shorts. We also got into some lesser amberjacks, catching and releasing five of those to 25 inches, and we spotted a huge amberjack, about five foot long. Originally, I thought they were almaco jacks, but I sent the photos to a fish I.D. expert, who is pretty certain they were lesser amberjacks.
Mike Jansen and extended family members, Chris and his young son, Colton, and Matt and his young daughter, Lily, fished 19 miles west of New Pass with me on a pretty calm morning offshore on Monday, 3/11. The family had fun catching grunts on shrimp, and boxed over twenty of those, around 12 inches. They released a dozen red grouper shorts.
Sandy Mintz treated his grandson, Tyler Karkowski, to a catch-and-release, backwater fishing trip in southern Estero Bay on Tuesday, 3/12.They used live shrimp to catch and release an 18-inch snook, a crevalle jack, and five sheepshead to nearly 15 inches.
It was extremely windy on Wednesday, 3/13, and seas were predicted to be two-to-three feet close to shore, but I knew they would be rougher than that. Ian McKinnon and family said they didn’t mind braving rough seas, having fished many rough days on the Great Lakes. So, we headed out to seven miles over rocky bottom so the kids could have fun at least catching a mess of grunts. They used squid to catch twenty-two of those, which was plenty for fish tacos!
Thursday, 3/14, was way too rough to head offshore with my planned trip, and I remained in port. Friday morning, 3/15, winds were only slightly calmer, and there was light rain for a couple hours, but Mark Ginnard and friends decided to brave it offshore anyway. We couldn’t get out too far, due to rough seas, and our near-shore catches included grunts and blue runners—not a whole lot to brag about. But everyone had fun catching and releasing what was there, using squid for bait.
A weather front moved through the area overnight Sunday, causing winds and seas to kick up again, and forcing Kristen Leesman, her parents, on and Cathy, and her fiancé, Tom McGuire to change their offshore plans to inshore fishing instead. The family used live shrimp in southern Estero Bay to catch and release a brace of 20-inch snook, along with a crevalle jack. They boxed ten keeper mangrove snapper to 12 inches.
After a rainy, windy, chilly day on Tuesday, which caused me to cancel my scheduled fishing trip, Paul Stanek, his brother, Rich, and Rich’s wife, Jill, fished southern Estero Bay’s backwaters with me on Wednesday morning, 3/20. The family used live shrimp to catch eight keeper sheepshead to 20 inches and a 14-inch black drum. They boxed the four largest sheepshead and released everything else.
Friends of long-time customer Joe Hahn, Darren, Greg and Spencer, fished on a very windy Thursday, 3/21, with me in southern Estero Bay, on a catch-and-release trip, using live shrimp. They guys released fifteen sheepshead to 18 inches, along with a mangrove snapper and an 18-inch sailcat.
Bill & Terry Tank, frequent and long-time customers, fished southern Estero Bay with me on Friday morning, 3/22, using live shrimp for bait. They caught five sheepshead, including two keepers to 17 inches, and two black drum, including one keeper at 15 inches. Terry landed a 19-inch redfish, which would have been a keeper, if not for the current moratorium on harvesting redfish.
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