The cobia bite's on, Spanish mackerel are running, spadefish are hitting and the black sea bass season opens June 1. All in all, fishing on Hilton Head Island couldn't be better right now.

The cobia season started a little early this year because of the warm winter and spring, said Capt. Johnny Walker of Persistence Charters (843-290-1187), and they are hitting the usual way: big baits and lots of chum. Sight fishing has also been productive for the "pork chops of the sea."


 "If you can get them close enough with the artificial lure, then throw a live bait, they'll usually take it," Walker said. "I typically use medium to light spinning tackle, but it seems the lighter the tackle, the better right now. We've caught some of our best fish on lighter tackle this year."


The cobia being caught in Port Royal Sound are unique in that most returning to spawn were hatched at the Waddell Mariculture Center and stocked as fingerlings by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in 2002. At 10 years old, the fish are typically bigger than in years past.


Spanish mackerel are also making a run right now, with typical weights running three to eight pounds on live menhaden or herring.


"With the Spanish, you're basically downsizing from what you would use for a king rig," Walker said. "I usually use a No. 1 mosquito hook and a small live bait."


To target spadefish, find some structure and use your lightest tackle. A No. 1 mosquito hook topped with slice of jellyball jellyfish and fluorocarbon leader is the ticket.


"Fishing for spadefish is really the only time I use 20-pound fluorocarbon leader," he said. "Spadefish are hook shy, so I use a really tiny hook. If they can see the hook, they won't touch the bait."