Blake Michael of Poquoson, Va., knew he was headed to Hatteras earlier this week for the catch of a lifetime, but he didn't know it would be a doubleheader. Fishing with his buddy, Bryan Nester, this past Thursday, a few days before marrying his “catch-of-a-lifetime” girlfriend, Hailey Hill, Michael landed a 116.2-pound cobia, missing the state record by slightly more than four ounces.
Michael and Nester were fishing aboard Nester’s 23 Mako, targeting cobia for the first time this year. Knowing that Hatteras Inlet changes frequently, they arranged to follow some local fishermen out after sunrise on Thursday morning.
"It was cloudy, and you still couldn't see in the water well when we left at 9," Michael said. "We were in a group with several charterboats working up the beach, but we couldn't see much, even from the tower. However, the water temperature was 71 and we knew that was good.
"When we got to the (Diamond) shoals, things changed," Michael said. "The clouds parted and the sky cleared, and we could see rays, sharks and even one huge school of sheepshead. It seemed like most of the other boats were seeing some cobia, but we hadn't see one and after an hour or so; we were getting frustrated.”
Michael said they crossed to the north side of the shoals around noon and found the water much cleaner and deep blue in color, but a little cooler at 68 degrees. They began working the edge of the clean water and heading offshore.
"We still hadn't seen a cobia and were listening to the other boats and were just about to go back up on the shoals when this cobia appeared," Michael said. "She was just suddenly there right beside the boat. I made a good cast, and she sucked it right up."
Michael said everything happened so quickly they didn't realize how big the cobia was. He said it didn't show much during the fight, either, making a couple of good runs, then letting him lead it to the boat for Nester to gaff after a fight of about 10 minutes.
"That's when we realized how big she was," Michael said. "She was a beast, and it was a job to get her over the gunwale and into the boat. She was huge laying in the fish box. Bryan and I have caught some nice cobia, and this one was noticeably much larger than any of them."
Michael and Nester went back to fishing and caught another, smaller cobia, before heading to Teach's Lair Marina to visit the scales.
At Teach's Lair, the big fish pulled the scales to between 116 and 117 pounds. Having checked and found that the state-record cobia was a 116.5-pound fish caught by Billy Ray Lucas of Wilson in 2006, they took the advice of John Mortensen of Teach’s Lair and headed to Hatteras Harbor Marina, where the Hatteras Village Offshore Open was behind held, with a very accurate and certified set of digital scales on site.
Randy Gregory of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, serving as the weighmaster for the HVOO, weighed the cobia at 116.2 pounds, just three-tenths of a pound shop of the record.
The big cobia was 69 inches long, 63 inches from nose to fork, and 35 inches in girth. It was caught on a chartreuse bucktail, custom tied by a friend, and had a pink curlytail trailer. The fish’s head was given to Gregory for Division of Marine Fisheries biologists to study.