Big Game, Small Boats Angling for Cobia

The heart of Cobia season is upon us. Local anglers, rejoice!

Cobia offer big-game angling for the smallest of boats. Currently the state record is at 92 pounds, 10 ounces, a whopper fish for sure, but I have seen several over 100 pounds. A little 65-pound Cobia swam right up to the boat last year, and grabbed the bait I dropped in front of him, much to my despair. It was one of the few times I got upset hooking a 65-pound fish!

The most popular way to fish for Cobia is to anchor over select pieces of bottom and deploy the chum bag. Menhaden are often used as chum and bait, and either live or dead will work. Other favorites are live eels, whiting, shad chunks or even a half or whole crab. Lines are usually fished on the bottom, but top-water baits work, too. Another way of catching Cobia is to run the buoys in the sounds and pitch bait at the buoy. They are known to follow large tiger sharks, manta rays and turtles, and I have even caught them under floating rafts of marsh grass.

Several years ago, while fishing for Sailfish in Florida, I spied a huge leatherback turtle cruising the rip we had set our kites on. Sure enough, a squadron of Cobia lurked underneath, and after a quick pitch of bait, we had one on the line. Seconds later, a large sailfish snatched one of the kite baits, and we had a double header going—Cobia one way and Sailfish the other!

Cobia turn their noses up at everything you throw at them. This drives anglers crazy! Talk to any experienced angler, and they usually have numerous stories about days of being surrounded by fish that refuse to eat. On one trip I counted over 60 Cobia swimming around the boat, and we threw everything in the bait well and the tackle box to no avail. We finally hooked up on a large live shrimp we had caught earlier while throwing the net on Menhaden.

You can catch Cobia inshore, now, as these big brown battlers are available in local waters. Expect a fight. Usually you’ll get a powerful line-stripping run, with an occasional jump thrown in. One thing is sure, once you’ve tangled with the “big brown,” you will probably be hooked for life!

Please note, to rebuild the population of this popular gamefish, Cobia may only be caught and released in May. All other months, one fish per person may be kept or three per boat.

Article and photo by Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters, who has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new “Finatic” boat, which accommodates up to 12 passengers and features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.