Cobia, here we come

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 Derek Treffinger

During the Memorial Day weekend, tourists and anglers alike flocked to the Brunswick beaches to have their first big vacation. While packing the beach chairs, sunscreen and coolers, they realize their favorite fishing rod isn’t packed up. Or will they even need it this year? The answer is yes.

Fishing has really started to pick up both near shore and offshore our coast. The Spanish mackerel have been biting and anglers can find clean, 70-degree water. There also have been cobia caught around the Cape Fear River channel area. However, the strong northeast wind put a damper on our ability to fish effectively offshore. This wind will create a flat calm sea near shore, making it easy to assume it is still calm offshore. Unfortunately, this is not the case.   

The last two weeks of May are typically the time where anglers will start to encounter cobia while live-bait slow trolling for king mackerel or Spanish mackerel. Be sure to have your pitch bait rod ready. Any type of rod and reel setup with 50-pound test and a 2-ounce buck tail jig tied to the end will do the trick. These fish will actually swim to behind your motors, curiously observing what’s going on. Once you get them interested enough, pitch that buck tail tipped with a chunk of squid or cut bait of some sort and hold on. Cobia are some of the best fighting and eating fish in the ocean. They will make hard consecutive runs that tire anglers out quickly.

Another advantage to these fish is how plentiful they can become after you hook just one fish. As stated before, cobia are a curious fish. They are attracted to any kind of commotion in the water. Thus, when one is hooked and goes nuts, other cobia come to investigate. In this scenario, anglers must have more than one pitch bait rod ready. These other school fish will continue to stay with the hooked fish until the fish is boated. Go out and get yourself a few heavier pitch bait rods and have big day on the water with some cobia.

Moving to a different species of reef fish, the king mackerel will begin to show themselves in the next few weeks. Anglers should look to fish over any hard bottom area beyond 10 miles. These waters will provide kings with their preferred food source (cigar minnows, pin fish small jacks), clarity and salinity they need to survive. However, these fish can be tricky this time of year. They have a tendency to move locations on anglers from day to day. One day they will bite vigorously at one location and then the bite will taper off and pick up several miles away. Fish have tails   and they are going to swim where they want to swim.

The advantage we as anglers have while slow trolling for kings is effectively fishing for other species during this time of year. Mahi mahi, cobia, barracuda and the occasional sailfish or wahoo will bite the very bait a fat 30-pound king mackerel will, whereas during the fall, when the king mackerel bite is in full force, the other species of fish move offshore.

Farther offshore in the 50- to 60-mile range, dolphin fish are still plentiful. They’re being caught on a variety of lures, including skirted ballyhoo rigs, artificials and even vertical jigs. The key to efficiently getting this species into the boat is finding large sargassum grass mats. These mats will hold a higher quantity of fish more times than not. They also have a tendency to hold a wahoo or two under them if you’re lucky. Again, always have multiple pitch bait rods ready to go. You never want to be that guy or girl that breaks off the 70-pound wahoo because he or she hooked it on the wrong set up. Organize your tackle to your liking and carry the proper equipment to fulfill your fishing needs.

So, do yourself a favor and wet a line, whether you’re at the beach or cruising down the waterway. Tight lines.


Derek Treffingeris an Ocean Isle Fishing Center offshore charter captain, avid angler and duck hunter and business student at UNCW. He can be reached at djt3521@uncw.edu.