After many years of chasing cobia, I've learned they're not the smartest fish that swims. But, what they lack in brains they make up for in attitude. And what angler doesn't like a fish with attitude?
Every spring when the king and Spanish mackerel arrive, cobia start to show up, too. They're here to spawn, and they'll hang around the bay and beaches until winter, when the water gets too cold.
Piers, bridges, and docks are cobia magnets. They're easily seen swimming around pilings just below the surface. Novice anglers sometimes confuse cobia with sharks, with their dark brown coloring and that flat-head, pointy-nose look. They don't have teeth like a shark, but they do have a row of spines on their neck right in front of their dorsal fin that will cut like a saw blade.
Cobia are not picky about what they eat. They'll slurp down just about anything put right in front of their nose. Generally, the best live bait is a frisky pinfish hooked above the anal fin so it swims extremely erratic and twitchy. Other top live baits include whitebait (scaled sardines), greenbacks (threadfin herring), shrimp and crabs.
Cut bait will also work. Shad, pinfish, sardines, mullet, whatever is fresh and handy.
For artificial bait enthusiasts, Berkley has a soft-plastic Power Eel that works well, as does Love's Lure Slugger jig tail. The idea when using these fakes for cobia is to rig it on a jig head and work the bait swiftly away from them. Make them chase after it. Anything trying to escape drives them nuts.
Trout tackle for these bruisers isn't going to work. The state record is a little over 103 pounds, but the average in our waters is around 30 pounds.
It's best to use conventional tackle over spinning tackle for cobia because of the beefy drag systems. Something equivalent to a Cabo PT or Penn 4/0 is sufficient. Put it on 7-foot heavy-action rod, such as a Star 40-7.
The line should be in the 40-pound range. Braid is best. Remember, cobia like to hide around structure, and braid will not get cut off as easily as monofilament. The leader material should be in the 50-pound class. Fluorocarbon isn't necessary.
Cobia are among of the fastest growing fish, so they have to be a minimum of 33 inches, measured to the fork in the tail, to keep. Only one per angler per day.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land, contact the lubberline at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail captain firstname.lastname@example.org.