Cobia. Over the past week we have seen almost every weather condition possible. We have seen flat calm days with bluebird skies, windy days with gusts over 20 knots and thunderstorms. One fish that seems to not be very influenced by these changing conditions are the cobia, and our region of the bay has arguably some of the best cobia fishing in west-central Florida. Ideal fishing conditions for sight fishing cobia in the East Bay area would be clear sunny skies, calm seas and slack or little tide. That is not to say they can't be caught in almost any conditions as I saw and caught one while running around an afternoon storm last week in 15 knot winds and a ripping tide. We had a good start to our cobia season about two months ago and then the action seemed to taper off, but we have had a really good influx of fish over the last seven days and the cobia fishing is red hot.
Keep your eyes peeled. Your eyes are your best and most important tool when pursuing cobia in this manner. This is where having a tower on your boat really comes in handy. Stand at the highest point on the boat that is safely possible, be it a tower, poling platform or securely mounted cooler. These brown bombers can be found on area flats, cruising behind rays, turtles, and manatees or ambushing baits on fixed structures. Focus your efforts on any open water structures like range markers and buoys. Be sure to not only look around the structure, but look down any pilings, rope, or chain that might be attached to the bottom as cobia are often found suspending on these structures.
Bring them a sampler platter. Cobia are usually not picky eaters and readily eat most well-presented offerings, but sometimes you need to present them with a few different options to get them on the hook. My cobia arsenal consists of at least six rods rigged with 15- 30-pound test braid and 25- 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader. Because it is often necessary to stay a bit farther away from cruising fish, make sure that you have a few setups capable of making long accurate casts. I like to have a mix of live baits, as well as artificials that can cover all levels of the water column. As far as artificials go, the traditional double-hooked eel or Hogy is a must have. It is also wise to have a bucktail jig rigged up that can quickly work all levels of the water column for more vertical presentations. Cobia fishing will often test your patience, but the rewards are a great battle and some of the tastiest fish our area has to offer.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2337 or CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com or online at FishingGuideTampa.com.