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Cobia sneak attack


My first cobia of the season, a 35-incher caught on a live whiting.

Man on the Pier

While cobia are big brutes that are notoriously hard fighters, they also have a sneaky side.

Sure, these fish can peel drag off at an alarming rate and have a tendency to slam a bait and double over a rod when hooked up, but if you’ve ever had a cobia creep up on you, you know what I’m talking about.

This morning at Bayshore I got to experience that first-hand.

After soaking live whiting for the better part of four hours all I had to show for it was a gar, and my buddy Mike and I were getting impatient. We started paying less attention to our lines and were more focused on telling fish stories.

The wind had picked up to a pretty good clip by about 9:45 a.m., making it tough to notice any subtle changes of slack in your line, sometimes the only clue that a fish has picked up your bait. But the fishing had been so slow that I wasn’t too worried about anything major happening.

Until, that is, something major did happen.

That’s one of the great parts about fishing: you can fish all day and not catch squat, but in minutes that can change completely. One minute you’re standing on the pier doing more talking than fishing, the next minute everything sets in motion and you’re hooked up to a big fish.

I happened to notice my line going slack at a pretty quick pace, a good sign a fish had taken the bait and was heading toward the pier with it. After picking up my rod and cranking the reel a few times it was obvious there was a fish running straight at me. I reeled in a little more slack and set the hook.

Time for the moment of truth … ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! I was greeted by the sound of sizzling drag as the fish did a 180 and bolted away from the pier, smacking the surface after taking around 30 yards of line out and making quite a ruckus.

As I fought the fish I still wasn’t quite sure what I had; the beginning of the battle was intense, but as the fish turned and headed toward the bridge it seemed to settle down and I thought it might be a big ray. Then the fish did something that completely surprised me. It made a 90-degree, left-hand turn and started running toward shore, parallel to the pier. I quickly followed, with Mike behind me carrying the net. About halfway down the pier I got my first glimpse of the fish, and it was most definitely not a ray. It was a nice cobia.

“It’s a cobia, it’s a big cobia!” I yelled to Mike.

Worried that the fish wasn’t tired enough to land, I let it do what it wanted until it finally started getting too close to the pier for comfort.

“Alright, it’s ready. Drop the net!” I said.

But the cobia still had some gas in its tank.

The next few seconds were a bit dicey as the fish tried to dart under the pier, then came close to getting wrapped around a piling. Situations like that will make your heart rate double, and the fear of losing the fish takes hold.

But I was able to muscle it into the net and Mike hoisted it up and over the railing. I let out a huge sigh of relief and smiled. I had whacked my first cobia of the season.

The fish measured 35 inches, but was heavy, probably weighing over 20 pounds. It had been enticed by a live whiting, easily the best cobia bait for Charlotte Harbor.

After missing two cobia earlier in the season, this was a sweet catch. While I’ve had success using circle hooks for cobia in the past, those two fish I missed were both on offset circle hooks. So I had lost confidence in them and started using j-hooks – No. 7/0 Gamakatsus – instead. On this fish I got a solid hook-set, right in the meaty part of the fish’s mouth, and there would be no losing this one.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

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