Hordes of cobia schools have been running off the central/south Florida shores providing a full on, rod-bending circus with the brown clowns. In mid-March I joined Captain Glyn Austin on his 23 Shoalwater Going Coastal, as I heard that he had consistently been buttoning up lemonfish for the last two weeks.
"We are mainly spotting cobia under manta rays on a daily basis, with a high concentration of rays and cobia in the stretch from Melbourne Beach up to Cape Canaveral," said Austin. "The manta rays sun and glide just below the waters surface, with cobia wolfpacks trailing behind or below them."
Schools of juvenile pogies have also been balling up just outside the breakers and cobia have been working the schools over pretty regularly. Either following manta rays or staying on the pogy schools can offer up sightcasting opportunity. Two to four-ounce Spro or Williamson Banjo Eye bucktails, Hogy rigged long rubber baits and topwater Rapala Subwalks can be worked around the outskirts of the bait schools and near or below the big rays. Around noon on our trip, we pulled a 30-pound class cobia out of a pogy school, and had a few others chase down the Hogy baits and Rapala Subwalks.
Topwater strikes are explosive, but cobia have also been staging down deeper on the local wrecks in the 50 to 80 foot depths. Dropped bucktail jigs tipped with curly tail grubs, or liveline rigs lanced with a live croaker or pogy have been the fastest way to get a strike. The cobia are holding tight to the structure and you need to bring rods and reels with enough backbone and drag strength to outmuscle large specimens away from the wreck or be prepared for a break-off as cobia try to run back into sharp edges of structure, causing the line to chafe and ultimately cut through.
On our day, we boated seven out of 12 cobia hooked though Captain Glyn bested that performance the next day, decking 16 cobia, all in the 20- to 40-pound range, with both days having the better action happening in the afternoon when the sun is high in the sky. Reports lately have noted fish up to 70 pounds being caught - big time bruisers!
If you want to do battle with some colossal cobia, now's the time to get it done as the schools tend to stick around through mid-April.
Captain Glyn Austin