If no rays are showing, the next option is to go deeper and do a little wreck hunting to find the brown bombers. Cobia gravitate to wrecks later in the spring to feed on assorted wreck baitfish, and roving cobia will stick to structure to fatten up. “Drifting over a wreck can be a prosperous affair to find cobia that are stacked up on the structure,” says Austin. “While migrating fish may have moved north by late May, June and July fishing will revolve around the wrecks in 30- to 60-foot depths.”
Our crew stationed on a wreck four miles off Sebastian Inlet, and we proceeded to drop down live pogies on fish-finder rigs, drifting over the wreck time and time again. On our first pass, MacKenzie dropped his rig to the bottom, reeled up five cranks above the wreck and doubled over with a brown battler. Austin was next, and he made it a doubleheader and hooked up before MacKenzie could get his boat-side. A tight drag is key to pulling the fish away from a wreck, as they will scramble for cover and inevitably snag you in the structure. Once they see the boat, cobia will put the fight back in the battle, going on sustained, hard-charging runs, and you need patience, along with a solid hook-set, to ensure victory. Be vigilant, and have the net or gaff man at the ready to stick or scoop the cobia when the opportunity arises, lest you be shocked at how adept it is at evading your efforts. Don’t get antsy, keep a moderate drag once you pull one away from a wreck, and expect it to make a few potentially line-snapping dashes before you get a final shot with the gaff or net.
The Fat Lady Sings
When the cobia run is on, the fat lady has to take a back seat and hold on to her vocal cords until late June, as until then, cobia fishing maintains a hard-core run-and-gun style, filled with crash-and-dash excitement entailing wrist-wrenching and rod-breaking battles. So long as textbook sunny days and light offshore winds keep the seas calm and clear in the springtime, Space Coast cobia are easy to spot and target the whole season long, even through the summer, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re in the front row of this seriously addictive brown-clown circus.
Rods: Medium- to heavy-action 7-foot conventional rods for live-baiting, spinning rods for sight-casting.
Reels: Shimano Torium 20 reels or equivalent, Penn 6500SS spinning reels or equivalent.
Lines: 30- to 50-pound braided line with top shot of 40- to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader attached via an Albright knot.
Lures: 2- to 3-ounce Spro or Williamson Lures Banjo Eye bucktails in pink or chartreuse tipped with pink or white Hogy 7-inch plastics; topwater plugs like Rapala X-Rap Walk.
Baits: Live menhaden, croakers or mullet for live-lining on size 6/0 Gama-katsu or VMC 7385 circle hooks.
When: Peaks March through May, continues through summertime.
Where: On the grounds off Florida’s east coast, spanning the beachfront to 15 miles off, Melbourne Beach up through Cape Can-averal’s NASA grounds and New Smyrna Beach.
Capt. Glyn Austin
Going Coastal Charters
April 24, 2012
Space Coast Cobia
Springtime cobia can run thick along Florida’s east coast