Picking up a Charlotte Harbor cobia assist
Austin Phelps shows off a stud cobia caught on a live whiting in upper Charlotte Harbor. The fish was nearly 44 inches long and weighed over 25 pounds.
By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier
With so many people fishing the U.S. 41 bridges for cobia this season, some anglers have shifted their focus to the piers in upper Charlotte Harbor instead. Last week, that tactic paid off for me with a 35-inch, 20-pound cobe.
This morning it paid off even bigger for my buddy Austin, who caught one of the biggest cobia from a pier I’ve ever seen in the area.
I met Austin on the pier with the nearly full moon still hanging low over the Harbor, and we immediately went about catching bait since the whiting bite generally shuts down as the sun comes up. We managed to whack several whiting, and put baits out just before the sun started peaking up over the horizon behind us.
It didn’t take long for the action to heat up.
As I wandered down the pier looking for bait to castnet, Austin had the first run on his Penn Spinfisher 6500. The fish took the bait and ran straight toward the pier, exactly what the cobia I caught last week did. Unfortunately, Austin wasn’t able to get a good hook-set.
Not too long after that he got a little more excitement as he hooked a gar. The fish had taken out a good amount of line and we were hoping for that cobia, but would have to wait a little longer.
While my reel remained silent, just before 8 a.m. Austin’s Spinfisher again went off. Except this time it was the run we’d been waiting for. He got a good hook-set this time, and the fish exploded on top of the water. As he fought it, the cobia shook its massive head, looking like it was trying to come completely out of the water but was simply too big. I could have swore it was a snook. In fact, I even yelled “Is that a snook!?”
But Austin had already seen the fish on the surface while I was getting the net ready, and he assured me it was a cobia. I got my first look at it a few minutes later as he battled it in close to the pier, which is when I realized how massive it was.
“I think it might be 50 (inches)!!”
It took us several attempts to get the behemoth in the net, as the sheer size of this cobia hindered our landing efforts. But the drag on the Penn Spinfisher gave Austin good control of the fish, and he was able to keep it clear of the pilings with his 7’6” Star Rod – rated 15-30 pounds – until I coaxed it into the net.
We both had to grab the net and hoist it over the railing with a team effort. I was happy to help pay it forward, as last week my buddy Mike had done the same for me with my cobia.
Austin and I high-fived and started celebrating as soon as the fish hit the deck. It was a stud for sure.
While it wasn’t quite the 50-inch fish I had anticipated, it wasn’t too far off. The full length of this cobe was nearly 44 inches, and even after we gutted the fish it still weighed 25 pounds.
Tell me that’s not a trophy pier fish.
But the drama wasn’t over yet.
As I was taking pictures of Austin’s catch, my Quantum Boca PTS 60 Bait Teaser started going off.
The bull shark I caught and released this morning.
This time it was my turn to miss a hook-up, and I reeled back in the head of a whiting. That was a big clue the fish that was after it wasn’t a cobia. I re-baited my hook with the last live whiting we had and cast out. It had barely hit the water when my reel started screaming again.
I followed Austin’s cobia up with a nice little bull shark that we quickly released. All in a morning’s work.
Upon examination of my cobia last week, I found a stomach full of catfish bones and fins, and even a hardhead skull. While there were a few bones in the stomach of Austin’s cobia, there were three other things that really caught our attention. Two of them were hooks – one circle, one j-hook – with steel leaders attached. This was a sure sign the fish had previously terrorized at least two unlucky anglers who weren’t able to land it. The other item was a stingray barb that was sticking in the side of the fish’s inner abdominal cavity. You never know what you’ll find inside a cobia.
Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.