For anglers who want to catch potentially huge, tenacious, great-tasting saltwater fish in nearshore waters along North Carolina’s central coast, cobias fill the bill, especially in May.
“Cobia usually show up during May and are a big draw here,” said guide Joe Shute, who owns Cape Lookout Fly Shop in Atlantic Beach, N.C. “People like to sight-fish for cobia using 1- to 3-ounce bucktails with soft-plastic Hogy and Sluggos.”
Shute tries to spot schools of baitfish on the surface and then checks his fish finder to spot cobia beneath them.
“You can jig under baitfish schools or spot cobia near the surface, then throw lures in front of them,” said Shute (800-868-0941).
Cobia will also attack live baits, mainly menhaden, dropped below bait schools on a Carolina rig. Some anglers will use live eels — if they can find a tackle shop that sells them.
Anglers also check around buoys, floats and channel markers where cobias congregate. Polarized glasses help see fish near the surface.
Some cobia will move inshore in May in preparation for the June spawn. North Carolina’s state record is a 116½-pound fish caught in 2006. Greg Marquart of Macclesfield, N.C., landed 96- and 54-pound cobias within 30 minutes of each other last May near Bardens Inlet.
Even offshore charterboats sometimes run into cobia.
“Cobia will be up and down the beaches and ball up mullet and (baitfish),” said Thomas Wood (252-241-8346), who runs the Dancin’ Outlaw out of Morehead City. “We throw Hogy lures at them, but live baits are the best.”
North Carolina anglers can begin targeting cobia on May 1, with the recreational season scheduled to run the rest of the year. The daily creel limit is one fish, with a 36-inch size minimum. Only two cobia are allowed per day on private boats from May 1-31, and one per day per boat from June 1-Dec. 31. Charterboats of any size can keep up to four fish per day.