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What a Catch!: Capt. Dave’s fishing report

By Capt. Dave Hanson - | Jul 22, 2021

Young angler Braxton Bodner with a grunt, one of fifteen grunts he and his family caught on squid at the near-shore reefs off Bonita beach on a recent Fishbuster Charter. PHOTO PROVIDED

After Tropical Storm Elsa finally cleared our area, I fished in Estero Bay’s backwaters on Thursday morning, July 8, with Jacob Siebert, Dave Mungo, and friend, Brandon. They used live shrimp to catch-and-release 31 mangrove snapper shorts and a half-dozen short sheepshead. They boxed a 24-inch black drum, the first of those I have seen in a good while.

 John and Karen Weigle and their two young daughters, Sarah and Maria, fished southern Estero Bay’s backwaters Friday morning, July 9. They used live shrimp to catch fifteen mangrove snapper, including one keeper, and also boxed a 14-inch permit.

Bob and Lauren Peelman and their young children, Cameron and Dylan, fished a catch-and-release trip in southern Estero Bay’s backwaters, using live shrimp, on Tuesday morning, July 13. They released eight mangrove snapper, five sheepshead, and a 21-inch snook.

 Rick Holcomb and his three sons, Kyle, Jared, and Patrick fished 20 miles west of New Pass on Wednesday morning, July 14, using cut-bait. They caught and released fifteen red grouper shorts, and caught two lane snapper, including one keeper. They also boxed 20 of 35 grunts, releasing the lucky 15 that weren’t needed for fish tacos!

Captain Dave’s Fishing Tips

Fishing tip #1: The head and fins of goliath grouper are covered with small, black spots. The sides of the fish’s body have irregular dark and vertical bars marking them. Unlike many grouper, the pectoral and caudal fins are rounded, and the first dorsal fin is shorter and not separated from the second dorsal. Adult goliaths can be huge, up to 800 pounds. Their eyes are small, and their tails are round, unlike other grouper. Adult goliaths are often found around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges. Young goliaths are often found in estuaries, especially around oyster bars and currents. Goliaths are more abundant here in southwestern Florida than in northern waters. They spawn over summer months and have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. These fish feed on crustaceans, as well as other fish. They are sometimes a nuisance to anglers, as they attack hooked fish before they can be reeled in. Goliath grouper are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters. Florida’s pioneer anglers quickly learned about the giant goliath grouper, which spends its entire life near-shore, from the mangrove estuaries to the deeper wrecks and offshore ledges. Because the Goliath is such an easily targeted fish (with spear guns and sports or commercial fishing tackle,) the entire population was wiped out by the mid 1960s and thought to be a non-recoverable species. But, with careful management by the Florida Wildlife Commission this great grouper appears to be back in full force and in great numbers around the state. There is currently talk of allowing them to be harvested again, though nothing conclusive has been decided, and they remain fully protected for now.

Fishing tip #2: The best way to hook live bait depends on how you fish them: Through the nose is best if there is fast current or if you are casting the bait out and swimming it back in; through the top of the back, behind the head, is best if hanging the bait straight down from a boat while grouper and snapper fishing; through the rear of the dorsal if you want the bait to swim down with a popping cork, while fishing for reds and trout; behind the lower anal fin if you want it to swim up  with a small sinker close the bottom, say around docks and mangroves. Choosing a hook to match the size of the bait will help the bait stay alive and will also prevent the hook from tearing through soft baits. When fishing with pinfish under a popping cork over grass-flats, there is a way to prevent them from diving down, getting stuck in the grass and pulling off: Trim the dorsal and anal fins of the sharps, using a small pair of scissors. This method will allow the bait to hide but will enable you to pull it free of the grass without yanking it off the hook.