Fishermen who have been waiting impatiently for the cobia to show up along the coast will not have to wait any more. This week, the Murrells Inlet charter fleet found several small groups of cobia along the beachfront, and in just a few hours, scored big with several 40- to 60-pound brutes. Grand Strand’s brown derby, as some call it, has begun in time for the Memorial Day weekend. 

Fishermen have been putting in overtime looking for cobia the past week or two, because cobia usually show up off Grand Strand beaches the last 10 days of May. Justin Whitten of Ambush Sportfishing Charters and a couple of other captains have had their share of big catches this past week.

“I went Tuesday for an hour-and-a-half trip and caught three and lost three,” said Whitten (843-685-9910). “We lost two real monsters that were probably well over 60 pounds, but the ones we did land were still around 40 pounds.”

Cobia migrate inland towards the breakers and will be intertwined with the pods of menhaden from the mouth of the Waccamaw River in Georgetown all the way to the North Carolina state line.

According to Whitten, anglers must top off their fuel because fish will sometimes be spread out along many miles of beach and will not always be in the same place from day to day.

“They lay around the bait schools, and you may drive through 50 bait schools before you find a few fish basking in the sun,” he said.

Instead of starting at daylight, Whitten would rather wait until the middle of the day to look for cobia when the sun is out.

“They show better when the sun is high with no clouds in the sky. They get lazy and lay on top, and once you find them, they are real easy to see,” he says.

Cobia are known for their tame nature on the water, with little fear of approaching boats; in fact, many cobia will swim right up to a boat. But their tame nature will quickly change when hooked.

Whitten will pitch live bait to cobia or work an artificial lure: a bucktail jig, a large soft plastic, or a large bass plug.

“Cobia will eat about anything you throw at them when they are in feeding mode,” he says. 

However, cobia are known to refuse baits regularly and changing up baits and methods will prove to be successful when the right recipe is found.

“Sometimes something as small as a color change will make them go crazy. Keep throwing stuff at them until something turns them on,” he said.

Beyond lure type, a change in conditions may be all it takes to get one of these trophy fish to eat. While Whitten prefers a calm day, his success ratio rises with a little chop on the water.

“Expect the cobia along the beach for another two weeks and then they will be on structure in deeper water after that for another couple of weeks. Now is definitely the time to come get them,” said Whitten.