2024 Bonita Boat Show and Fishing

By: Captain Terry Fisher

February 29-March 3 are the dates for this year’s Bonita Springs Boat show being held at the ‘old’ Grey Hound Racetrack. I will be on hand along with Captain Jay Rodriquez of Salty Native Fishing Charters to deliver three, one (1) hour seminars each day on ‘Where, When and How to Catch Fish’.  Each one (1) hour session will include either inshore, offshore or tarpon techniques designed to insure everyone knows how and where to ‘catch a fish of a lifetime’!  Question and Answer sessions will be available at the end of each presentation. Register at any of the seminars to win a FREE FISHING CHARTER to be given away by drawing, at the end of the last seminar on Sunday, March 3 (winner does not have to be present and will be notified based on the information provided on the registration form). Check the boat show itinerary for times of each of these three topics to be covered during the seminar assigned to cover them each day.

Springtime brings out the best in people and fish. The fish are less lethargic and more aggressive. Strikes become more aggressive on both artificial and live presentations. Artificial presentations include soft plastics, topwater, swim and twitch baits. Shrimp, pilchards, pinfish and threadfins some of the more effective live baits. Depending on the water temperatures, migratory species such as spanish mackerel, kingfish, tarpon and shark will open up the fishery making it worth-while to target just off the beaches and passes.

Sheepshead are both inshore and offshore. Large ones normally remain inshore around the docks, seawalls and Mangroves throughout March. They are harvestable and provide some great angling and eating for those who like to target them.

The seatrout bite should be good this month with larger ones in the mix. I enjoy targeting them in the grass flats anywhere from three to five foot of water. The higher March tides will offer opportunities to fish deeper holes and areas around the mangrove islands that were not accessible to many anglers during previous winter months. Regardless of when or where one fishes for them, they will bite on artificial and live presentations.

Hopefully the spanish mackerel migration will be in full swing. When here, they will be found off the beaches, in the passes and inshore. Watch for diving birds and catch them on live or artificial presentations. I utilize a couple of methods to catch these fish.

1)    I like to target them in the passes or off the beaches on incoming and outgoing tides. I freeline pilchards on light tackle with heavy monofilament leaders to prevent ‘bite-offs’. Other than for Kingfish, I do not like to use wire line with or without ‘stinger’ hooks, although they are very effective. I have a good catch rate and more bites on 40lb. monofilament leaders with 1oz. silver spoons (slow troll or cast) in the passes.

2)    In the grass flats while fishing for seatrout one may expect to catch a number of them on artificial or live bait presentations. I recommend and use a popping cork on most all occasions when fishing for seatrout in the deeper grassy flats. Spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, jack crevalle usually become part of the action.

The redfish action should start to pick-up for anglers as the higher tides allow boat access the shallower ‘back-country’ locations in and around the mangroves. During the winter months we experience low water levels that prevent anglers from getting boats to these reclusive spots. Therefore, I spend a lot of time during the winter months working the high side of the tides in and around the passes, under and around docks, with a lot of current until the spring tide levels allow access to the ‘shallows’ of the winter months. This can be a very rewarding and effective strategy. It’s just a matter of when they are there (time of day). March fishing offers both options. I prefer live shrimp, live pilchards, live or cut pinfish. Sheepshead, mangrove snappers and snook are the other species feeding along with the redfish.

Springtime snook will be found at the mouth of creeks and up the rivers. They will also be in the shallows of the passes and under the docks. Again, the higher March tides will allow anglers access to the same ‘back-country’ locations that redfish will be found. Live presentations of pilchards for these fish will be the most productive.

Offshore locations should produce some nice size mangrove and lane snappers along with grunts for harvesting. These will be accessible for anglers not having vessels for long-range running (10 or more miles out). I suggest one looks to 35-45 foot of water with bottom structure such as grass, rubble, etc. Medium heavy rods with small circle hooks (1/0-2/0) and light leaders of 15-20lb for best results. Recommended baits are squid, pilchards, silver side minnows and shrimps. Take more chum than beer for best results!

Long range offshore locations (35-40 miles) with depths from 85 to 110 ft. should produce some nice mangroves, lane snappers and grouper for harvesting. Baits of choice will include squid, pinfish, cigar minnows and shrimps. Upgrade your equipment to bigger circle hooks, medium to heavy rods with stronger line and leaders to handle the bigger fish.