Cape Lookout cobia make their annual visit in May

Noah Lynk caught this big cobia sight-fishing with a big, topwater plug.
Noah Lynk caught this big cobia sight-fishing with a big, topwater plug.

May is prime time for cobia in Cape Lookout’s nearshore waters

Cobia visit North Carolina’s coast from March through November. But May is the best month to find these fighting fish concentrated in nearshore waters, especially those around Cape Lookout.

“When the water temperature gets 62 to 65 degrees, menhaden go through inlets to spawn. And the cobia follow them,” said guide Noah Lynk of Harkers Island (252-342-6911). “That’s usually in May.”

Lures that imitate menhaden and live shad fished higher in the water column will catch cobia. So will freshly-cut shad chunks or live baits soaked on the bottom.

“You also can use croakers, spots and even eels,” said Lynk, who runs Noah’s Ark Fishing Charters. “Many people sight-fish at floating structures such as buoys, channel markers, jetties or near menhaden schools; some bottom-fish at inlets, cobia travel routes.”

Many anglers anchor and put out free-line float rigs with live baits or soak live or cut baits on the bottom using slider rigs.

Keep cut baits fresh for best results

“Cut baits work, as long as they’re fresh,” said Lynk, who uses four rods when he anchors, one with a free-line shad, one with a one-ounce barrel weight to cover mid-range depths, and two slider rigs.

“The key for anchored fishing is to have wind and tide going the same direction,” he said. “Otherwise, your baits end up under the boat, and you’ll have a train wreck of tangled lines.”

One of his favorite May sight-fishing trips includes paralleling Shackleford Banks, then heading east to check out Bald Head Bay and circling Cedar Hammock, Morgan and Great Marsh islands, seeking fish at Cape Lookout rock jetty, checking Barden Inlet, trying the inside and outside of Cape Lookout’s “hook,” then scanning for cobia at Shark Island and passages across the East Side’s shoals.

Cobia near floating structures often will slam ½- to 1-ounce bucktails with 9- to 10-inch soft-plastic trailers or 6-inch-long paddletail lures cast to them. Lynk also throws Halco topwater baits at cobia, like the SliDog, C-Gar and Roosta Popper.

“You’re not going to catch a lot of cobia,” Lynk said. “If I catch one keeper, it’s a blessing. Cobia are like ghosts; they appear and disappear. The best places to fish are where you know cobias hang out or move through, like inlets and shoals.”

Craig Holt
About Craig Holt 1275 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.