Cobia Fishing Tampa Bay Style June 2020
By Capt. Sergio Atanes
OTHER NAMES: Ling, Crab Eater, Lemonfish
SIZE: Common from 10 to 25-pounds in Tampa Bay.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent, smoked or fresh.
GAME QUALITIES: A strong but unpredictable fighter. Usually clicks off long, fast runs, and can fight deep with great stamina; however, many individuals put on lackluster fights if not pressured too hard— saving their best efforts for after they are boated!
Lifetime Partners: Cobia will mate up at an early age and stay together, when only one cobia is spotted that means its partner has already been caught.
The first thing that comes to mind when someone says cobia fishing in Tampa Bay is buoy tending. I have another method I’ve used over the years that works as good if not better than chasing them all over the bay.
First let’s start with the bait; greenback sardines, blue crabs and pinfish are the baits of choice. I find an area of grass flats close to a channel or drop off. I prefer the water depth around 3 to 4 feet. I then start by chumming for the bait with a mixture of tropical fish food, anise oil and some salt water mixed to a cream of wheat texture. The secret to chumming is not to feed the bait but attracting them to the boat. I use an 10 foot 3/8 mesh bait HUMPBACK net with only 10-pounds of lead made by Tampa Fishing Outfitters. This light bait net works great if you don’t exceed 8-foot of water it’s also a life saver on your back.
A live well is a must to have on any boat, and if you don’t have one, they can be purchased at most retail tackle outlet stores. A good live well needs to be at least 25-gallons or bigger with a 700 or 1100 gallon an hour pump. Ok, now we caught our baits, but what are we to do next? That is simple: start cutting the baits (greenback sardine) in half and make a large pile on the cutting board. Start by tossing pieces in the water around the boat and wait for rays to start showing up. Southern rays or brown rays are attracted to you chumming and with them come the cobias. Remember, cobia like structure and are lazy to feed, but as the rays move in on the scent of the chum with them come the cobia. Rays stir the bottom up with their wings in order to feed and this brings up all the small shrimps and crabs and pieces of chum to the surface of the flats.
The cobia will be just under the rays or next to them picking the pieces of bait the rays leave behind. Toss a live pinfish, small blue crab or greenback at them and hold on. A word of caution: leave the bail open on the reel until the cobia get at least 20 feet from the boat before you set the hook, or they will head for the nearest structure your boat. I have several broken rods at home to remind me. I make it a habit to keep one rod with an artificial bait, many times I have had a cobia sneak up on me from nowhere and you have very little time to get the right size live bait so my old stand by the Savage TPE crab works every time. Of course, Mother Nature has a way of playing games and we have to go to plan B or C.
Buoy tending: the ritual of running from one buoy (channel markers-range markers) to another looking for cobia hanging around them during the slack tide periods. The term early bird gets the worm applies in this case, the first anglers to the buoys have the best shot at catching them. I prefer to use a large float with a 4 to 6 inch pinfish or threadfin sardine suspended about 3 foot under the float, start your drift up current of the buoy and let the bait pass the marker don’t give up on the first pass cobia sometime are cautious fish and take more than one drift to get them to strike.
SPOT-LOCK FISHING: Another vital element to some cobia angler is the use of Minn Kota I-Pilot trolling motor with SPOT LOCK, which eliminates the drift. With my I-Pilot I can Spot-Lock close to the buoy within casting distance and work my live bait on both sides of the buoy. It saves time, and cobia never spook.
Luck: being on the right spot at the right time when one just happens to be cruising by looking for a mate or structurer. Such as my good buddy Bryan McNatt was tarpon fishing off Bean Point when out of nowhere this large cobia came by asking to be caught.
Tackle: Around the flats 15-pound breaded line with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to 3/0 circle hook works great, 7-foot medium light rod with Helios 30 Okuma reel. When fishing buoys or structure I go to 40-pound breaded line with 50-pound fluorocarbon leader at least 4 foot long a 7 foot medium heavy action rod with a Azores 6000 Okuma reel.
Greg Wade with a Bishop Harbor cobia.
Chris Camps with a nice cobia.
Cobia on the way to the grill.
Blue Thunder Float
Savage Gear TPE Crab (Great Artificial Bait)
Good fishing and tight lines.
Capt. Sergio Atanes is host of Florida West Coast Fishing Report on Facebook and YouTube. He is also host to Aventuras De Pesca USA on national TV and Radio.
Emil: HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 813-973-7132 reelfishing.com