What's not hot: Heavy rain runoff has stained the North Suncoast waters dark brown. From the Cotee River to Palm Harbor, the flats along the mainland shore are so dark, it is difficult to see the bottom, even in 2 feet of water. This has made sight-fishing for redfish and cobia difficult.
Modifying strategies: Redfish and cobia can be targeted in murky water by focusing on scent. Oily cut baits fished along deep mangrove edges work great for redfish. Fresh bait is better than frozen; thread herring and ballyhoo are among my favorites. To catch flats cobia when there is no visibility, attract stingrays to your boat. Rays have a keen sense of smell and are easily drawn to the smell of food on the bottom. In off-color conditions, we anchor and toss chunks of cut fish around the boat, then rig live baits such as pinfish under floats. We cast the live baits outside the perimeter of the chum. As the rays come into the chum, the cobia, which follow the rays, encounter the live bait suspended in the water.
Venture out: Most of the biggest cobia migrating through the area this year have been found offshore. That water has been mostly clear and has yielded shots at numerous cobia each trip, with most of the fish we have caught weighing between 45 and 70 pounds. The bigger wrecks have held three or four big cobia. By moving around often, you can maximize opportunities for hooking up.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 944-3474.