Cobia bite is heating up on nearshore structure

Capt. Chris Ossmann of Fine Catch Fishing Charters wasn't initially cobia fishing when this 30-pounder showed up last week at a nearshore reef near the NC/SC border.

Anglers with small boats can catch these big fish

The cobia bite is heating up on the nearshore reefs and wrecks along the Carolina coastlines. And these fish aren’t shy or spooky. Capt. Chris Ossmann of Fine Catch Fishing Charters said this is a great time for anglers with small boats to catch big fish.

“Any of the wrecks and reefs that are located from 5 to 15 miles off the coast are good spots for cobia right now. A lot of baitfish have moved into these areas in recent weeks. And this time of year, the cobia come right with them,” said Ossmann (843-655-6440).

Ossmann, fishes out of a 228 Sea Pro, which is often thought of as an inshore boat. But it is perfect for this type of fishing. It’s an example of how anglers don’t need big boats to catch big fish right now.

“A lot of anglers without a boat that’s big enough to get out to the Gulf Stream, they can catch big cobia at these nearshore areas. Cobia are very curious fish, and when you set up over a reef or wreck to do any type of fishing, the cobia will come up right at the surface to see what’s going on. If you pitch a bait to them, they’ll eat it,” he said.

Focus on the bigger portions of structure

Ossmann and his anglers have caught several cobia in the past week. He caught the first one while fishing for spadefish. The cobia are hanging out closest to the bigger portions of structure that are in 40 to 60-foot depths.

After locating a school of spadefish on his electronics, Ossmann put his MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor in anchor mode. Then he lowered a jelly ball to get the spadefish feeding. Within five minutes, a cobia appeared just under the surface.

Now is the time to book a trip with Fine Catch Fishing Charters for a shot at a springtime cobia.

“I had a live bait rod rigged up, so I put a pogie on the hook and pitched it to the cobia. He looked it over but didn’t eat it right away. So I put the rod in a rod holder and left it alone. We went on fishing for spades, and after a few minutes, the cobia ate the pogie,” he said.

The next day, Ossmann and Steven Fennell went back out to a reef just off the coast along the NC/SC border. They were intending to catch cobia, and had no problem doing so. They caught a 45 pounder and a 36 pounder.

“You need live bait for cobia. If you’re using cut bait or dead bait, you’ll catch sharks and king mackerel. But you really need live bait for cobia,” he said.

Have a cobia rod ready, even when targeting other species

Ossmann said anglers can catch cobia on conventional king mackerel gear like a Penn Squall 30 reel spooled with 25-pound monofilament mounted to a live bait rod. He uses split-shot weights and No. 2 and No. 4 treble hooks baited with live pogies.

He also uses 5000 series spinning reels on heavy rods, 40-pound braided line with 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders and 8/0 circle hooks or bucktails baited with live eels.

Cobia put up quite a fight when hooked, and taste great when grilled.

Even for anglers targeting other species at these nearshore reefs, Ossmann said having a rod at the ready will pay off when a cobia shows up unexpectedly.

“No matter what you’re fishing for, if any cobia are there, you’ll see them. Even the slightest commotion you cause by getting your boat in place will draw them to the surface. They are very curious and will come up just to see what is disturbing the water. And if you pitch a live bait to them, they may not take it right away, but usually they will eventually eat it,” he said.

Ossmann said anglers should pay attention for sharks and sea turtles too.

“They like to hang around with sharks and turtles this time of year. If you see any of them, chances are good that a cobia is nearby,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2783 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at