Rapidly increasing water temperatures have migratory fish moving toward the bay area. Typically, schools of coastal pelagic fish such as cobia and mackerel do not return until late March. This year, they are way ahead of schedule. Cobia are one of the quickest to move north out of the Florida Keys once the temperature is to their liking. When the environmental cues trigger them, they can swim from Key West to Tampa Bay in a matter of days. In the past week, reports of cobia have come from Venice and Sarasota, so there is a good chance some are in the bay already. There are many ways and places to target cobia. During the early stages of their appearance, one of the most consistent is rockpiles or structures just off the beaches. As they swim up the coast, they often pause to gather around patches of reef within a half-mile of the beach. It is not uncommon to find 15 or more circling a few hundred yards from shore. Once you figure out their favorite spot, you can return there regularly and find fresh, hungry arrivals. The sound of a boat easing in overhead will usually bring them up for one look, then they will go back to the bottom and stay there. Set your anchor, snip a bit of chum and fish live baits on the bottom. Have a rod ready to pitch to fish that follow up the ones on your hook.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected]m.