Spinning For Cobia

Goshie takes us on a journey catching the highly prized Cobia telling us where to find them then how to catch them!

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Cobia are a highly prized sportfish that are commonly found in Australia’s sub-tropical waters. These powerful pelagics are also referred to as “black kingfish” and “crab eaters”. Cobia are well known for their ferocious appetite and will consume just about anything thrown in front of them. As a result these hard running fish are a superb spinfishing target for land based anglers. Cobia are frequently captured on a wide variety of lures such as metals, deep-divers, surface lures and even soft plastics.

Finding Cobia

Cobia are well documented for their mysterious migratory patterns and are often found roaming warm oceanic currents with other large marine hosts such as sharks, turtles and big stingrays. These opportunistic fish usually move into coastal areas such as inshore reef systems, bays, rocky headlands and even estuarine environments to hunt down schools of bait. When there is an abundance of food available large schools of cobia will often hang around for long periods of time and plenty of fish can be captured from the shore. When baitfish numbers are fickle the run of inshore cobia is usually a lot more sporadic.

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Besides the amount of baitfish there are also plenty of other environmental factors such as current strength, water temperature and water clarity which will also influence the number of cobia that venture into inshore waters. Cobia prefer warmer waters above 24 degrees, so keeping a close eye on the sea surface temperature charts will definitely help you find the fish.

Cobia Hot Spots

On the east coast good numbers of cobia can be found north of Port Stephens. Some of the best locations to target cobia with lures in northern NSW include Forster, Hat Head, Coffs Harbour and the Iluka Breakwall. These NSW north coast ledges can produce some massive cobia that weigh more than 35kgs. The most productive time to target cobia on the NSW north coast is usually between January and May.

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In Western Australia cobia are normally encountered north of Kalbarri. The best locations for spinning up cobia on the west coast include Steep Point and the Quobba coastline. In my opinion the best spot for targeting a land based cobia is definitely Garth’s Rock which is nestled inside Cape Cuvier on the Quobba Coast. Many sandgropers have been spinning up cobia from this well-known rock since the 1970’s. Legendary West Australian spinfishing pioneer Max Garth who this ledge is named after has even caught 20kg plus cobia on fly from this excellent lure casting platform. In West Australia’s north-west region cobia can be caught all year round, however greater numbers of fish are found in the summer months.

Metal Lures

Cobia can be caught on a wide variety of metal lures such as large profiles, spoons and even leadhead jigs. Cobia are not the fastest fish in the ocean so the traditional high-speed retrieve used for species such as mackerel and tuna is not the best technique for these fish. For targeting cobes it is best to work your metal lure with a medium paced retrieve. Also try jigging the lure and allow the metal lure to sink numerous times during each retrieve. In most instances predatory fish like cobia will usually strike the chrome lure as it is fluttering on the drop.

My favourite metal lure for targeting cobes is the 85gm Surecatch Knight. The size and profile of this lure is perfect for imitating baitfish which cobia commonly feed on such as like yellowtail scads, slimy mackerel and mullet. The Surecatch Knight is also designed with an inbuilt action to flutter as it sinks. Other metal lures that work well on cobia include the Surecatch Bishop and the Flasha Spoon.

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Diving Lures

Deep divers and shallow divers are ideal for cobia as these lures are capable of swimming with plenty of action even if they are retrieved quite slowly. Swimming lures tend to create a lot more commotion as they wobble through the water and can often out fish metal lures during low light conditions and in murky waters. When casting swimming lures from the rocks I usually use the heavier lures that weigh around 70gms to give myself maximum casting distance.

During the 2015/16 summer season at Garth’s Rock Perth based angler Sokhom Chhouk and his crew were mainly casting and retrieving the 5 Inch Mack Baits with a medium paced retrieve and these bibless minnows were a definite standout performer. The boys landed plenty of fish between 10-13kgs on the “king of chrome” and “green goblin” colour. First time visitor to the Quobba Coast David Rath also nailed an impressive 24kg cobia on one these popular 5 Inch Mack Baits.

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Surface Lures

Cobia are efficient predators and utilise the entire water column to feed. On the West Australian coast I’ve seen plenty of cobia feeding near the surface when they travel with tiger sharks, whale sharks and manta rays. When cobia are cruising with large marine creatures these fish can be taken on a variety of surface lures such as poppers, stickbaits and surface plugs.

Cobia usually swim underneath these big sea creatures and will often shoot out from beneath to crash tackle a well presented surface lure. Seeing a big-brown chocolate log opening its bucket-like mouth on the surface and watching your lure disappear is certainly a sight to behold.

Quite often you will only see one or two fish under a ray or shark, but in some instances I’ve seen up to half a dozen fish race out from under a big manta ray. When you are sight-casting at multiple fish they are usually a lot more aggressive as they have to compete for the lure. Solitary fish can be difficult to tempt at times as they have a lot more time to size up the lure before fully committing. During a recent trip to Steep Point in WA, Adam Epifanis and I managed to get a double hook up of line burning cobia from under a surface cruising whale shark and managed to land both fish.

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Soft Plastics

The best method of targeting cobia on soft plastics is to cast as far as possible and slowly jig the plastic up from the bottom. While you are working the plastic back up the water column make sure that are continually twitching the rod tip to give the plastic more action. The ideal jig head for shore based casting is about 1 ounce with 5/0-7/0 hook. The best plastics for cobia seen to be big white coloured ones such as the Zman grub.

Rods And Reels

The spinfishing gear used for cobia is exactly the same as any heavy duty threadline outfit I would use for tuna and mackerel. Although you don’t need a super fast reel, most rock fisherman I know use a standard 6:1 gear ratio reel and wind a little slower when targeting these fish. Most anglers targeting cobia from the rocks use PE3-5 braid with a 60-80lb monofilament leader.

The Assassin 11ft Shore Game 2x Heavy is a perfect spin rod for land based spinning. This multipurpose spin rod is capable of throwing a wide variety of lures and is designed to maximise casting distance. The extra length is ideal for steering these powerful cobia away from the rocks during the final stages of a fight.

Fighting the Fish

Cobia can be extremely unpredictable creatures when they are on the end of your line. Some fish will immediately head for cover and try to bury you in the reef while other fish will instantly run out wide and will prefer to slug it out on the surface. A big fish will often take two or three long powerful runs. When cobia are hooked they also have a tendency to shake their head violently and quickly change direction. When this happens it is important to keep you line tight to prevent these fish from throwing the hooks.

These stubborn fish are renowned for their stamina and it can take an awful lot of persuasion to tame a big cobe. Over the years I’ve witnessed some epic battles with real monster fish weighing over 35kgs where it has taken well over an hour to bring these cobia to the base of rocks.

Due to the power and size of a cobia they can be one of the toughest fish to gaff from the rocks. When you are gaffing these fish it’s important that you have really good footing and do not underestimate the sheer strength of these fish. Once they are pinned they will often roll around aggressively making them extremely difficult to contain.

Spinning for cobia is a challenging way to target these mighty sportfish, and every capture from the rocks is a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

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