It’s May, water temperatures are in the mid-60s, so the cobia, aka ling, cabio, lemonfish, crab-eater, flathead, black salmon, black kingfish, sergeant fish and runner, should be here spawning and feeding in their spring haunts. The main techniques for tackling these tasty fish include sitting and soaking dead or live baits and sight-casting with artificials, usually big bucktails tipped with big, soft plastics.
There are many locations these fish are targeted, starting with nearshore structure like AR 315 and 320, as well as the Beaufort Shipping Channel buoy chain, and moving inshore to deep sloughs and holes and creek mouths from 15 to 25 feet in depth. Usual hot spots include around Cape Lookout and inside The Hook at Barden’s Inlet, Rough Point at Shackleford and inside the Beaufort Inlet from the Morehead City Turning Basin and along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) at Spooners Creek, Pelletier Creek, the Hampton Inn, Carteret Community College and at the Marine Fisheries docks, to name a few. While fishing these areas along the ICW, it’s to your advantage to not just anchor up at a single location but “run” or follow the rising or falling tide as cobia might do.
There are also always catches from ocean fishing piers while targeting king mackerel.
Baiting for cobia often requires appropriate gear for these power fish. Typically, 50-pound class gear is used with about 7 or 8 feet of 80-pound test monofilament leader and a fish-finder rig with a 6- or 8-ounce pyramid sinker on it that will hold your bait on the bottom. Also use a big 7/0, 8/0 or 9/0 J or circle hook. Baits include live or dead and cut fish, blue, spot, croaker, menhaden, hardhead mullet, blue crab, shad or eels, which by the way are “cobia candy.” While soaking your bait, it’s good to have a “pitch rod” handy for throwing a live bait or bucktail if you see a cobia cruising by.
Several years ago, while fishing with Capt. Dean Lamont out at AR 320, we also scared up some cobia power chumming, that is, chumming with live menhaden. Regular chum blocks also work but chums up sharks and rays as well. By the way, one “tell” for finding cobia is to be on the lookout for big rays. Often, cobia trail rays looking for eatable debris stirred up by feeding rays. It works!
A few years ago, sight-casting artificials was popularized. It was a year where there were a lot of cobia around, and one could bait-ball-hop along the beach, over the ARs or out at Cape Lookout, looking for surface fish feeding on schools of menhaden and toss bucktails, hoping for a pickup. For this purpose, flashy 2- to 3-ounce bucktails with large soft plastics landed a good number of cobia and still do. This technique works best when cobia are abundant, but in a season where their numbers are down, results mostly come in a lot of running around looking for bait balls and surface-feeding cobia. So far, a few fish have been reported, and hopefully we will have an excellent cobia season.
So how has fishing gone in the last week? Well, as often happens, weather has dominated fishing, this time the relentless wind.
“Sing like the whinnying wind. Sing like the hustling obstreperous wind,” wrote Carl Sandburg. Or how about the bard who wrote, “Because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude.”
Rude indeed! Nay, brutal! We have had incessant wind for over a week and a half, making swimming and boating hazardous and turning our waters brown and weedy. In spite of this, there was some success in the catching game.
Nearshore fishing has noticeably picked up with false albacore and Atlantic bonito showing, and the Spanish are coming, the Spanish are coming. Diver’s Rock, barely 4 miles out of New River Inlet, usually awash in bonito this time of year, was devoid of fish, but AR 315 out of Beaufort Inlet had bonito, albies, blues and Spanish trolling up.
As the water warms this week to near 70 degrees, the Spanish bite should really heat up. If you jigged the bottom, you would get a feeling of unusual abundance of big gray trout this year. Fish are also in the inlets, being caught from the ocean fishing piers, in the port area and at Fort Macon from the surf, rekindling thoughts of the Civil War with both grays and blues in good numbers. Black drum and sea mullet are also in the surf with some reports of excellent catches of black drum from Onslow Beach.
Speaking of blues, there are good catches of 2 to 4-pounders around piers and in both Bogue and Beaufort inlets along the shoals, and out to Barden’s Inlet and to Cape Lookout, with good catches of Spanish at the Cape as well. No gator blues have been reported as yet. Also reported at the Cape are schools of red drum, along with schools of monster 75-pound black drum.
Inside, red and black drum and speckled trout are being caught in the marshes and the Highway 24 creeks, although I didn’t find any in Deer Creek last week, even though there was plenty of bait. Specks are still being caught in New and Neuse rivers, including on topwater baits. The Haystacks yielded a few reds and trout, and even flounder up to 22 inches were caught.
One spring visitor starting to make a strong showing is the sheepshead with several 10-pounders being weighed in. Just remember to fish hard structure and live bait, with sand fleas, fiddlers, shrimp and sea urchins being the best table fare for hungry sheepshead. When working around bridges, don’t forget to give the new Beaufort high-rise bridge a try. It’s base and pilings have been there several years, and I bet the sheepshead, and probably black drum and flounder, are finding it to their liking by now.
To the north, Capt. Dean Lamont (Crystal Coast Adventures) reports excellent striper fishing on the Roanoke River, out of Weldon.
Piers and offshore
So how are the fishing piers doing?
Oceanana Pier reports citation sea mullet, small blues, a good black drum bite and a few keeper flounder.
Bogue Inlet reports sea mullet day and night, blues, a couple lost, BIG pompano and black drum. The water remains dirty, but there are plenty of sand fleas on the beach.
Seaview Pier reports sea mullet, red and black drum and blues.
Surf City Pier reports their first Spanish last week, along with nice-size sea mullet, blues, gray trout and a few flounder.
Jolly Roger Pier also reports their first Spanish, along with blues, sea mullet and pompano. Both Surf City Pier and Jolly Roger report the mullet bite is slowing.
Offshore is a mixed bag with wahoo, yellowfin and blackfin tuna and some mahi from the Big Rock to the Rise. Recently, the wind has been the limiting factor and not the availability of fish.
The triggerfish bite is very hot but also very far out in 120 feet of water and more. Bring your electric reels!
Closer in, there are good catches of black sea bass at the Atlas Tanker and beeliners too. Big 10/Little 10 have produced small kings up to 15 pounds and even a first cobia.
We should see the cobia pick up in the next week or so.
2) “Ask Dr. Bogus” is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
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