One of the most exciting inshore fishing opportunities available to Mid-Atlantic anglers is casting to cobia cruising around buoys, markers, jetties, and other structures.
Cobia are curious fish. In addition to buoys and bridge pilings, they are also attracted to boats.
Two factors in particular make cobia casting so unique and thrilling: cobia get big, as in 25- to 70 pounds (maybe “huge” is a better word), and anglers who know where to look can see cobia, which provides thrilling sight-casting action!
Summer, especially late July, August and early September, is prime time for cobia casting in Virginia and Maryland, both along the Atlantic Coast and in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
Ideal conditions include little or no breeze and calm seas, which makes it possible to better see through the surface and down into the water. Polarized sunglasses are an important tool as they reduce glare and enable anglers to spot the brown, shark-like profile of cobia as they hang out on structure.
A delighted, but weary Nick Wagner, worn out from a tough battle with a big cobia on light tackle.
Calm conditions require anglers to carefully and quietly approach potential cobia-holding structure without spooking the fish. While one person slowly motors the boat toward the structure, others on board need to be ready to cast to cobia when they’re spotted.
Captain Walt at Light Tackle Charters (410-957-1664) spends a considerable amount of time hunting cobia each summer. His anglers use 20-pound casting gear with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader to toss 14-inch plastic Hogy eels (black) on leadhead jigs to cobia. Storm eels, and big bucktails with a plastic twister tail, are also productive cobia catchers. It can take up to an hour to battle and subdue big cobia on light tackle!
Live baits, such as spot and eels, on a 9/0 hook with a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader will also trigger cobia strikes. Cast them to cobia as you would a lure.
While many anglers grab the line and pull it from the reel to roughly estimate the drag setting, Captain Walt recommends more precision to prevent the heartbreak of broken line and a lost fish. Use a hand scale to set the drag at a full 17- to 18 pounds. He also says when battling cobia, “Keep pressure on the fish by constantly maintaining a 60- to 90-degree bend in the rod. Maintain the bend during each drag-pulling run.”
Ideal conditions for cobia: Very little breeze, calm seas, and a buoy or other form of structure with a cobia cruising around it.
Practically every buoy, piling, jetty or even debris on the surface of the water can attract and hold cobia. They even swim under schools of rays. Captain Walt says particularly productive cobia locations include all of the markers approaching Blackfish Banks out of Chincoteague, Va., the No. 10 marker and all nearby wrecks out of Wachapreague, Va., and the Third and Fourth Islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Anglers also make eye contact with cobia on buoys and markers off Ocean City, Md.
Give sight fishing for cobia a try — you won’t regret it!
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