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Tuesday, 12/15, I fished Estero Bay with Alene Haug, Kalee McCarthur and Jeff Sailors. We caught eighteen sheepshead, four of which were keeper-size to 18 ½ inches. Kalee released a 17-inch sheepshead, and we also released small mangrove snapper, crevalle jacks and a small permit. We used shrimp for all, fishing the tree-lines and oyster bars.

On Wednesday, a weather front was predicted to move through and kick up winds and seas in the afternoon, but the morning looked like it would be decent offshore, so I headed out to 46 feet with Bill Story and friends, Dave, Marvin and Ernie. We used live shrimp to catch a half-dozen keeper mangrove snapper to 17 inches, keeper whitebone porgies and grunts. We released lots of short mangrove and yellowtail snappers, gag groupers to 20 ½ inches and triggerfish. We had a close encounter with a king mackerel that was out to get me: We had thrown out a shrimp, which was eaten by a blue runner and, as we reeled the blue runner in, a large kingfish cut it in half and took off. He must have decided to come back for the other half and, when he did, he jumped and hit the side of the boat, just missing landing inside—a foot higher on his jump and he’d have jumped directly on the captain.

As predicted, winds and seas picked up Thursday and heavy rains moved in by late afternoon and persisted over-night and into Friday: No one was out on the water. Winds remained blustery Saturday, and the next time I was on the water was Monday, 12/21.

I fished Monday in Estero Bay with Sue & Roderick Price and daughter, Tessa. We caught a mess of sheepshead to 16-inches, a half dozen keeper mangrove snapper, and a 15-inch pompano, all on live shrimp. We released ladyfish.

The tide in Estero Bay wasn’t as favorable on Tuesday, when I fished a catch-and-release trip with Harold Harris and friend, John. The tide was low and going out all morning and into the early afternoon. We did okay with live shrimp, though, and released two keeper-sized trout, which are currently out-of-season, a 23-inch snook, ladyfish and keeper-sized sheepshead.

Wednesday, the marine forecast was a lot better than the reality. I headed to the near-shore reefs with Tom Wolf and sons, Patrick and Jordan. The winds blew hard all morning and were more northeasterly than straight out of the east, as had been predicted. It made for tough anchoring and generally tough conditions. But the boys hung in there and used shrimp to catch four keeper sheepshead to 16 inches. They released smaller sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, red grouper shorts and gag grouper to 21 inches.

The Vince Tomlinson family has made a tradition of fishing with me each Christmas–eve for a few years now. Thursday, Vince, his recently married daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Joe, and Vince’s son, Mike, fished Estero Bay with me, along the channel, on a very windy morning. Fishing was tough again with the hard wind making it tough for the anglers to feel bites. There were lots of nibblers out there, but few big ones. The group caught a couple of keepers, though, including a 13-inch pompano and a 14-inch sheepshead. They released smaller sheepshead, small mangrove snapper, a redfish, a permit, and a 20-inch cobia, all on live shrimp.

Christmas weekend was reserved for family events, and I was back on the water Monday, 12/28, when I fished Estero Bay with Tony and Becki Struble and their three daughters, Katie, age fifteen, Anna, age thirteen, and Daisy, age seven. The Strubles were visiting from Ft. Smith Arkansas and had spent this past week exploring Disney World. Though we couldn’t provide quite that level of entertainment, they had a great time learning to fish the bay with shrimp, on a catch-and-release trip. We caught fifteen sheepshead, six of those keeper-sized to 18 inches, keeper-sized mangrove snapper, and a small snook.

Tuesday, 12/29, the winds were blowing pretty hard, but the Rob Wessels family decided they’d brave the morning at the near-shore reefs, rather than fight a low tide fishing in the bay. We fished with live shrimp at May Reef, where we caught seven keeper sheepshead to 18 inches, two keeper mangrove snapper and a 15-inch pompano.

Wednesday morning, Sven and Corinne Peterson fished at the near-shore reefs with me. The wind was still blowing hard most of the morning and it was rough enough near-shore that we decided not to venture further offshore. We caught four keeper sheepshead to 16 inches, keeper mangrove snapper and a keeper triggerfish, all on shrimp. We released lots of bluefish, smaller sheepshead and grouper-shorts.

I closed out this year fishing in Estero Bay with long-time customer, Chester Yanik, his son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Aimee, and their two children, Jasmine, age ten, and Adam, age nine. We used live shrimp to catch about twenty sheepshead, including a couple of keepers to 15 inches. We also caught a keeper mangrove snapper, and we released the smaller sheepshead, a trout and a stingray.

Happy New Year to all!

The photo shown is of the captain (because no one else on board would hold this fish) with a 35-inch king mackerel, caught on a ladyfish, caught on shrimp on a recent offshore trip.


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