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Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

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Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby PWurm2020 » May 19th, 2020, 9:23 am

Hello,

I'm new to the Big Bend area and new to fishing out of this area (Apalachee Bay) in general. I'm transitioning over to Cobia fishing, looking to land my first Cobia and hopefully a keeper at that. I was hoping anyone could share some advice on rigging setups? I don't have a trolling motor or push pole so sight casting is probably a no-go for me. I'm thinking of staying out in the 15-30 foot depth range about 8 - 12 miles out, primarily anchoring up over some wreck or reefs. I've been told live shrimp are a killer for Cobia and was probably going to work a decent chum line with a live shrimp on the bottom and another floating off a cork in mid-water column.

In general any advice is greatly appreciated, including how to land them. I heard Cobia tend to save the best fight for when they're on the boat!
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby Badfish » May 19th, 2020, 9:33 am

You nailed it with the whole anchor and chum on structure. However, you will have a problem keeping the non desirable fish off of a live shrimp. Take a few minutes on the flats and catch a few live pinfish for bait. In my opinion free lining is the way to go and if the cobia are there it wont take them long to sniff you out.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby procraftwes » May 19th, 2020, 9:54 am

To start out fish for other stuff and have a rod rigged to toss at a cobia. You may get frustrated otherwise.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby PWurm2020 » May 19th, 2020, 10:19 am

Badfish wrote:You nailed it with the whole anchor and chum on structure. However, you will have a problem keeping the non desirable fish off of a live shrimp. Take a few minutes on the flats and catch a few live pinfish for bait. In my opinion free lining is the way to go and if the cobia are there it wont take them long to sniff you out.


Thanks! Are the flats easy to maneuver without a trolling motor or push pole?
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby PWurm2020 » May 19th, 2020, 10:24 am

procraftwes wrote:To start out fish for other stuff and have a rod rigged to toss at a cobia. You may get frustrated otherwise.


What are some of the other species to target in the 8-12 mile range offshore? Besides cobia and the occasional shark, the species we've been coming across most are Puffers, Remora, Blue Runners, and Paddlefish. We've ruled out trout, redfish, black drum, etc. since we don't have access to the flats without the trolling motor/push pole. Are there decent snapper/grouper in the 20-30 foot water depth without going 20+ miles offshore?
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby Badfish » May 19th, 2020, 10:40 am

PWurm2020 wrote:
Badfish wrote:You nailed it with the whole anchor and chum on structure. However, you will have a problem keeping the non desirable fish off of a live shrimp. Take a few minutes on the flats and catch a few live pinfish for bait. In my opinion free lining is the way to go and if the cobia are there it wont take them long to sniff you out.


Thanks! Are the flats easy to maneuver without a trolling motor or push pole?

As long as you set up a drift in about 3-4 feet you will be fine. My boat has a trolling motor but I never use it for catching bait.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby silverking » May 19th, 2020, 10:45 am

A little more information would help refine the suggestions. What size and style is your boat? What do you have for horsepower? What is your boating experience?

Poling is ineffective in water deeper than about 6 feet or so. A trolling motor is a good alternative, but you can catch a lot of fish on the flats using a sea anchor and drifting.

Depending on the size of your boat, running 10 miles offshore may not be prudent. Some cobia do show up on the flats, but it's usually random.

Anchoring around structure (artificial and natural reefs, buoys, etc.) and chumming with frozen blocks will typically draw fish into casting range or the strike zone. I would not recommend live shrimp either, unless you have an open wallet. Live pinfish, catfish with the spines removed or eels are the top live baits. Staggering the baits through the water column is a good approach.

I've had good success tossing Al Gag Whip-It Eel lures, big, flashy bucktail jigs or swim baits to spotted fish that swim into the chum slick. The chum can also draw in Spanish/kings, sharks and plenty of free-loaders.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby PWurm2020 » May 19th, 2020, 10:56 am

silverking wrote:A little more information would help refine the suggestions. What size and style is your boat? What do you have for horsepower? What is your boating experience?

Poling is ineffective in water deeper than about 6 feet or so. A trolling motor is a good alternative, but you can catch a lot of fish on the flats using a sea anchor and drifting.

Depending on the size of your boat, running 10 miles offshore may not be prudent. Some cobia do show up on the flats, but it's usually random.

Anchoring around structure (artificial and natural reefs, buoys, etc.) and chumming with frozen blocks will typically draw fish into casting range or the strike zone. I would not recommend live shrimp either, unless you have an open wallet. Live pinfish, catfish with the spines removed or eels are the top live baits. Staggering the baits through the water column is a good approach.

I've had good success tossing Al Gag Whip-It Eel lures, big, flashy bucktail jigs or swim baits to spotted fish that swim into the chum slick. The chum can also draw in Spanish/kings, sharks and plenty of free-loaders.


Thanks for the advice! Our setup is a tri-hull 21' with a 140 HP Suzuki
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby silverking » May 19th, 2020, 11:06 am

OK, well that's not a poling hull. Trolling motor may work depending on bow set-up, but in the meantime buy a sea anchor/drift sock, raise the engine and you can drift and effectively catch trout and reds in water on the flats. I bought my sea anchor on eBay (reinforced vinyl). Sizes are based on boat size/weight and it's always best to go bigger. In a pinch you can tie a line to a five-gallon bucket and toss it overboard. The drag slows the boat during the drift and allows the baits/lures to stay in the strike zone longer.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/42-Drift-Sock- ... 6a2d517ec0

Keeping an eye on the weather/seas, your boat is capable of fishing the nearshore waters anchoring around structure. Check the bay charts or look on this site for a list of artificial reef waypoint numbers. The public numbers get hit hard, especially now with the extra virus traffic, but it'll get you started.

Good luck and post up results.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby 4reels » May 19th, 2020, 11:46 am

I use a Sabiki rig to catch bait close to the area I plan on fishing. Then free-line (or light-weight) out around some structure. Artificial eels have also worked for me. You can sometimes find them hanging out with large Eagle Rays around some of the reefs. If you spot those large rays, cast around that spot.

Also, best to get cobia in the boat ASAP after setting the hook, preferably with someone filming it. Post video here afterwards.

Just kidding - don’t do that!

Good luck.


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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby big bend gyrene » May 19th, 2020, 12:20 pm

Mostly going to be re-iterating what others have said as they've given REALLY solid advice.

CAN'T SAY STRONGLY enough how much I'd swap the shrimp for pins. Dang near EVERY fish in the sea will go after shrimp (including PINS!), and around deeper structure holding bait you're going to have macks cutting lines about as fast as you can retie them, and regardless of how craggy an area I'm fishing I've never purposefully used wire with cobes (though I've had a few hit kingfish rigs -- flouro definitely helps up the numbers though).

If you fish beyond 15' depths my recommendation is either to free line around structure OR to rig a 1 to 2 ounce egg weight above a swivel, with a 3' or so flouro leader of 60 to 80 lbs running to a circle hook. When I drop down I do NOT leave the bait on the bottom (get more grouper hits though if you do) but instead pull my lines up at least 3' or so off the bottom. Chasing / sight casting to them isn't typically much of a thing in waters between Lanark to Steinhatchee... too many rivers dumping dark water in for sight fishing like they do over in much clearer Destin / Panama City waters, though if you chum you WILL have occasional cobes swim right up to the boat where you can cast eel jigs to them. That, and if / when you see REALLY big baitballs (swimming pool to football-field sized) getting hammered you can sometimes snag cobes off them by casting towards them (and will have fun regardless if active feeding is underway as you're going to almost always catch SOMETHING).

Now to the point of inshore vs offshore. They're ABSOLUTELY in both places, and the biggest I've ever seen was a MONSTER I'd say was 70+ lbs in 6' of water. Absolute MONSTER was swimming with 3 or 4 more typical 32.5" fish. Pack just cruised within feet of our boat while we were drifting for trout. Won't happen every inshore trip you make, but they WILL cruise right by at times. Inshore I still use pins, but with a different setup. Float them fairly far behind the boat under a bobber big enough to keep the pins from getting to the bottom. And as with offshore structure drawing bait and then cobes, same principle can be used inshore by checking bouy markers, bird racks, etc, where bait will be drawn for cover/thus drawing in the cobes. Shared this on the forum in the past, but biggest NUMBER together I've ever seen was a pack of at least 15 cobes or so circling a bait ball they'd trapped under a bird rack (sadly one of the old bird racks out of Ecky that never got replaced after Hurricane Dennis). What drew my attention that day was two teen boys who'd anchored up to the rack, climbed up on it, and were fighting one of the cobes.

Back to drifting a pin behind the boat under a bobber... great thing about fishing this way is you can catch a nice mess of trout at the same time, as well as roving reds, macks, etc, whereas offshore you can find spots dead or the fish with lip-lock and come home empty handed with hours spent broiling in the sun for naught. That, and until you really feel good about knowing the local waters, you've got a much larger safety factor for quickly getting back to the ramp when summer afternoon pop-up storms start brewing up nearly daily, and we're darn close to that time... do some searching on the forum and you'll find few threads both about targeting cobes AND being wise to go in when see clouds building. And on the searching note, the feature doesn't work from the home page (not sure why) but the search feature DOES work once in the board index / looking at any of the more specific forum boards. You use it, you won't be disappointed. :beer:
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby big bend gyrene » May 19th, 2020, 12:28 pm

One more pin note, smaller ones will draw more hits from trout and reds... med to larger ones will help improve the odds of keeping other fish off them, and getting the attention of cobes, though you can expect some shark hits (especially smaller blacktips) as well.

When using sabiki, really helps to tip each hook with small (smaller actually helps to keep from getting robbed) piece of gulp, fish bites, beef jerky, you name it... than bare hooked. You'll catch dramatically more / far quicker. If you find you're getting only small ones, make quick runs to various depths until you find the size you're looking to find.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby PWurm2020 » May 19th, 2020, 1:06 pm

This is all great advice thank you guys! Learned a lot of great info to use for next time. Hopefully we'll be out on the water again soon with some trophies to post on here.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby geofish » May 19th, 2020, 4:03 pm

BBG is the guru of cobia fishing around here, and I've learned a lot from reading his posts. Someday I hope he'll teach me how to get into tagging cobia.
Here are a few things I've learned along the way:
1. May is the best month
2. Live pinfish are hands-down the best bait.
3. Chum helps.
4. Sometimes they like 'em deep, sometimes on the surface, and sometimes in-between. So I usually put a grouper-style rig down deep, just a few cranks up off the bottom. Egg sinker above the leader, 3-4 foot heavy flourocarbon leader, big circle hook just above/ahead of the anal fin. My second line is a pinfish on a circle hook under a cork; Third line is a pinfish free-lined (just circle hook and leader), preferably on a live-liner dual-drag spinning reel. That's also one you can pick up and throw ahead of any pinfish you see taunting you or swimming nearby.
5. Go easy on the drag (just the opposite of grouper fishing). Even if they take the deep bait, they don't tend to run into the rocks. They usually run away from you and rise in the water column as they go. I like to let them run and work out all their anger issues away from the boat. They may even circle the boat a few times.
6. Do NOT bring a cobia into the boat unless he's tired out. Damage to boat and/or fisherman is likely.
7. Do not use a trout net on a 40 inch cobia, unless someone is videotaping for comedic value. If you're not sure of the size, you can just swing them into the boat by the leader with or without a tail-grab. If they're big enough (and the size limit just went up for federal waters) and you're going to take them home to eat, then a gaff is the tool of choice.
8. See #6. Gaffing a green fish can also lead to comedy or injury or comical injury.
Good luck! Hope to see you out there.
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Re: Tips for Cobia Fishing (New to Big Bend Area)

Postby onefishtwofish » May 19th, 2020, 5:29 pm

To the OP: for some good points about cobia fishing and as a new guy to this site, you absolutely must read the first post in this thread.

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4174&hilit=cobia+green

This thread is GOLD!
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