When the Top Gun crew left Port Royal Marina for the South Ledge and Triple Ledge at 4 a.m. last Sunday (March 18), the plan was trolling for wahoo and tuna. When Capt. Tom Thomas reached the fishing grounds, he discovered the water was too warm for tuna, but they trolled along the ledges anyway "to see what would happen," according to first mate Taylor Thomas.

They found a weed line that produced several very nice dolphin and a 44-pound wahoo, but with slack tide approaching around noon, they left to look for cobia.

"We knew they would be at the tower because of the water temperature; the key point is the temperature," Taylor Thomas said.

Upon arrival at the tower, they were greeted by a school of cobia cruising the surface. Thomas' tools of choice was a spinning outfit with a Penn 750 reel spooled with 80-pound braid and a white bucktail jig and Gulp! eel combo that he calls his "bread and butter" outfit for cobia.

Early season cobia are notoriously tight-lipped, and the fish were not in the feeding mode. Two other nearby boats were also unable to coerce the cobia into biting.

"I had to work my magic to get one on the line," Thomas said. "They wouldn't bite on the surface, so when they do that, I jig it in front of them and send it down to the deeper waters, but doing this, you never know if an amberjack is going to get it before a cobia does."

His magic worked, however, and the cobia hooked up.

"When I finally saw the cobia on the end of my line, I was stoked," Thomas said. "The first cobia of the year is always the most exhilarating for me."

Tom Thomas also hooked up, but his cobia shook the hook; Thomas' cobia, a 35-pound specimen, came over the gunwale just fine.

Catching the first cobia of the season isn't a new experience to the Top Gun.

"To our knowledge, my dad and I have actually brought in the first cobia (out of Beaufort) three years in a row," Taylor Thomas said. "We just know when and where to go and how to get them to bite."