The Time Has Come: Cobia Season

The months of April, May, and June are some of the most anticipated months of the year for any angler in the Beaufort or Hilton Head areas. These 3 magical months bring a fish inshore that is mostly caught offshore or in much deeper water, which is what makes these 3 months so special. The big, brown, and most of all hard-fighting Cobia! The Broad River is one of only two places on the East Coast where cobia come inshore, which allows the everyday angler to target a fish that is mostly caught offshore in deeper water.

cobia
Owen Plair on the right with a cobia.

Cobia come inshore into the Broad River to spawn, which is why it’s a seasonal fish, and we can only target them for 3 months out of every year. Usually starting in mid-April, the water temperature warms up, bait moves in, and the cobia swarm into the Broad River. The season always changes yearly depending on weather, tides, and temperature. It’s always turned on by word of mouth, and declared over by word of mouth, so you can understand how exciting it is to hear of someone catching the first cobia of the year. There hasn’t been much scientific research done about cobia here in Beaufort, but they are in the process of learning more, and figuring out the patterns of these great offshore fish.

There are many different ways to target Cobia inshore whether your chucking live bait, dead bait, artificials, or my personal favorite; flies! Each situation has its own unique way of putting a cobia in the boat and also depending on weather and wind conditions. Tides also have a lot to do with targeting cobia, and being able to read when the best tide to target the cobia will be. Cobia fishing is technical, so spending time and figuring the fish out year by year is the key to success.

Fishing the bottom for Cobia is most productive with live bait, or cut bait. Putting live eels, Pogies, Lady Fish, Whiting, or any cut bait on the bottom will catch a Cobia. The name of the game in these situations is patience, and being able to wait on a bite. Using chum will get you more attention from the cobia, and I highly recommend it any time when using bait. Throwing out a popping cork with live bait on it is always a good idea too, and nice to have when a Cobia comes up to the boat, which happens a lot more than you would think!

Sight casting to Cobia is one of the most productive, and most exciting ways to target them! When the water gets slick, the sun high, and the tide is slack, that’s when it’s prime to look for Cobia cruising on the top. As a fly fisherman, it’s one of my favorite ways to target a fish with some feathers. Cruising the flats boat in the middle of the river slow, and standing on the poling platform looking for the cruising cobia is how we target them on the fly. We also sight cast to cobia with spinning gear as well, mostly being artificials that are scented to get the fish interested.

Cobia are not a very spooky fish, and in most cases pretty darn stupid. Allowing us to get the boat within a 30ft casting range, and pretty much eating anything you put in front of them! Watching a cobia eat your bait is amazing, and till this day one of my favorite fish to watch eat a fly or bait. Sometimes these fish can be tough to get a bite from, mainly from the females since they are still spawning, which causes their stomachs to be compact by eggs therefore not giving them much of an appetite. But in most cases, a cobia should eat pretty fast, and very aggressive!

Cobia are big fish weighing between 10-80lbs, so having heavy duty tackle is important. When using spinning gear I like a medium action offshore rod around the 6ft range, penn 6000 reels, and 60lb mono line, and 30lb braided lines. Hook sizes need to be between 4 and 6/0, and most leaders need to be able to withstand tough mouths, and gill plates, so a hefty bite guard is important. Using smaller tackle is fun too, but having to fight a cobia for over an hour can be quite a task, and in 90 Degree weather will wear you out quick!

When choosing a fly rod we are mainly using 10-12wt setups. The bigger the rod, the easier the fight, so I enjoy casting an 11wt Orvis so we don’t have to fight the fish for 2 hours. Any kind of warm water, weight-forward floating line will work great, I personally use a tarpon line for my cobia setups. When building a liter system for cobia I like to stay pretty beefy, going with a tapered liter with 44lb and 55lb fluorocarbon liters, which hold up great against a big cobia. My favorite fly to throw is the flash tail whistler or the sea reducer. Anything thing bright, flashy, and moving fast will get a cobia to swallow it. They’re not a real picky fish, so most mullet, eel, and streamer patterns will work as well.

The unmatched cobia fishery here is one of my favorite times of the year as a guide, and also as a local. Watching a guest on my boat hook up with a cobia is always exciting, and a memory for them they will never forget. Whether your a spin fisherman or a fly fisherman, targeting cobia here in Beaufort, SC is incredible, and something I highly recommend to any angler.

 

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