Anglers in both North and South Carolina are catching their share of cobia, and the fish have not been picky about the baits, lures, or fishing methods. They’ve been biting as long as anglers put something presentable in front of them.
Live menhaden, Z-Man PaddlerZ soft plastics, cut bait, and topwater lures are just a handful of offerings that these big fish have been taking, and anglers have been catching them inshore and at nearshore reefs in every level of the water column.
Even though anglers in both states are having plenty of success catching them, there is a big difference in what they can do once the fish is landed. While it’s currently legal for each angler in North Carolina waters to keep one cobia per day (maximum of 4 per boat) that measures at least 36 inches fork length, South Carolina anglers must release every cobia.
Capt. Brian Vaughn of Off the Hook Fishing Charters (843-298-4376) in Hilton Head Island, SC, said that even though his clients know they can’t keep any cobia, they are having plenty of fun catching them, especially while sight casting to them. His crew has been putting their clients on cobia with light tackle and with fly-fishing gear, taking great care to release the fish unharmed.
Vaughn thinks the catch-and-release only mandate is good for the fishery.
“The closure for keeping cobia this year will make a huge difference for the future of the fishery, and I look forward to many more days like today, which in my opinion have been few and far between the last few years,” he said after a recent trip in which clients caught seven cobia.
Capt. Jot Owens of Jot It Down Fishing Charters (910-233-4139) the Wrightsville Beach, NC area is also seeing his client catch plenty of cobia, including a 74 pounder, a 62 pounder, and a 55 pounder on recent trips.
While live menhaden has been the bait of choice for Owens’ anglers, he said one of his recent catches had several small stingrays in its stomach. He also said the spine of a stingray was stuck inside the cobra’s rib cage.