This time of year, the air and water temperatures are warming quickly, heralding the arrival of summer.
Spanish mackerel have been caught offshore and fast-moving schools of bonito have been sighted. Reliable eyes have reported a skyrocketing king mackerel just a few miles off the beach and the boating of a 40 pound cobia. The season is upon us, and by the time this goes to print, it will be in full swing.
May is cobia time for most seasoned local anglers.
Resembling a large chocolate catfish, the curious cobia is attracted to floating objects such as boats and buoys. They love to follow large sharks and rays, and less experienced fishermen often mistake them for sharks when they begin to circle the boat. Typically, the males are smaller, while the females grow quite large — sometimes 80 to 100 lbs!
Your best bet for bait is live or dead menhaden but cobia have been known to devour live eels, pinfish, whiting and shrimp. Infamous for charging every offering thrown at them, these fickle fish will sometimes just turn tail at the last second and refuse to eat anything at all! They can be caught on artificial lures such as large bucktail jigs or plugs.
These brawny battlers have become so popular of late that regulations have been tightening almost every year.
For the whole month of May, cobia must be released if caught in state waters. Outside the month of May, keeper fish must now be 36” to the fork (up three inches), and bag limits are down to one per person or three per boat in state waters. Offshore in federal waters, fish may be kept in May and the boat limit is six, or one per angler.
Cobia offer great sport, and if you’re fortunate enough to catch a legal fish you can be assured of a delicious dinner.
Like many fish, cobia’s popularity in restaurants helped contribute to a decline in their numbers. If last season was any indication, though, the inshore population seems to be on the upswing. Let’s hope so!
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing. Don’t miss the Finatic boat, which features a special 3-hour shark/
dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.
Article and photo by Captain Miles Altman, Bay Runner Fishing Charters