Posted - 05/17/2012 : 2:20:02 PM
| Last week I had the opportunity to head to Beaufort for a couple days and try for a Cobia in the Broad River. It had been a couple of years since I had targeted these fish in Beaufort and I was very excited about the trip. We were greeted with torrential rains on the drive down on Wednesday as a moderately strong low pressure system moved through the area. hursday morning brought clear skies, and 10 to 15 knot northeast winds as high pressure built back in. With the rapid change in pressure, relatively big spring tides, and the influence of the fresh water from the heavy rains all of us were a little concerned with the fishs appetite, but we were there to fish and would not let the elements influence our goal of putting a nice Cobia in the boat.
The rain, tides, and wind muddied the water and ruled out our chances of sight casting so we moved to plan B and decided to live bait fish. We located some nice schooling mullet in the feeder creeks around the landing, then headed down river in search of some menhaden for chum. With no birds in sight we decided to try our luck with just the mullet and while anchored we used a Sabiki rig and landed some nice herring. Fishing with both herring and mullet we rigged the live baits on 20 and 30 pound spinning tackle with 6-foot 60-pound mono leaders. We fished two baits on the surface under balloons and two baits on the bottom using a Carolina rig (sliding 2 to 5 ounce pyramid sinker.) We also kept pitch bait ready should a fish swim through the spread.
Like most all fish, these Cobia love structure. Just travel to one of our local artificial reefs in the summer time and you are guaranteed to see at least two or three Cobia roaming the area. In the Broad River we were fishing an area that was on average 20-feet deep with a series of mounds and valleys that ranged from 3 to 5- feet of relief. According to the more experienced Cobia fisherman, the herring and other baitfish will school in these valleys and the Cobia move in and ambush them.
Within about 30-minutes of live baiting; fish on! This monster was peeling 5 pounds of drag like it was nothing! We had rigged up an anchor buoy so we dropped anchor and began following the fish. 20 minutes into the fight we were mile from our anchor buoy and we had not even seen the fish. 40-minutes into the fish we were mile from the anchor buoy and still no signs of the fish! 75=minutes in the angler was tired and passed the rod off. I had my doubts now, was this a Cobia or a big ray or shark? If it was a shark, why had he not cut the mono leader by now? If it was a ray, why was he making relatively long runs and not just hugging to the bottom? 100-minutes into the fight we were on our third angler and had pretty much ruled out Cobia and started tightening the drag. After over 120-minutes of fighting, close to 10 pounds of drag, and over mile from our anchor buoy the fish broke the leader at the hook and swam free never seen. I can only assume it was a huge ray that was out for a cruise, or a big bull shark that was hooked just right that he never came into contact with the leader. Regardless it was big, kept our full attention the entire time, and put up one heck of a fight.
We returned to our spot and fished another 2-hours, and did not see a single Cobia hooked in the pack of 15-plus boats that were around us. Early afternoon brought a slack high tide so we moved to the Hwy 170 to try our luck. There were some large schools of big glass minnows moving through and an abundance of herring as well. I was encouraged by the amount of bait and thought we might be able to coax up a nice fish. We put in several hours of hard fishing here, but no luck. We called it a day around 3 and returned to the ramp. While loading up the boat we saw one Cobia brought in and that the anglers had landed on a Whiting. They too had a very slow day and had not seen any other fish caught.
Friday brought more high pressure and similar conditions. The mullet were abundant so we caught those and headed down river. Once anchored up we began catching herring on the sabiki and Whiting on a bottom rig baited with shrimp. Our spread now consisted of mullet, herring, and Whiting and a chum bag full of all the above plus some squid. My confidence was boosted in our plan of attack as we now had a nice mixed bag offering for the Cobia. Four hours later we had landed well over three dozen whiting, but absolutely no signs of a Cobia. The only action we had seen all morning were rays and sharks from the surrounding boats. With confidence waning we picked up and ran back up river and anchored out behind Paris Island over another area with good relief. This was our final effort as thunderstorms began to appear on the horizon. We fished till the bitter end amongst at least 20 other boats and still no signs of a Cobia. Our group finally had to admit defeat on this trip and call it. Dont get me wrong though, back at the ramp the discussion already began on making plans for next years trip!
Though we were unsuccessful on this trip, Beaufort boasts some of the best Cobia fishing on the east coast. The fish move up river to spawn from mid April through mid June and a very worthy adversary on 20 to 30 pound tackle, not to mention excellent table fare. If there is one word line of advice I could pass on from my own experience it would be; never but a green Cobia in the boat. These fish are notorious for destroying a boat if brought in to early!
Captain Tim Pickett