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Captain's corner

By ED WALKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001


Although a month behind schedule, the spring shallow water cobia migration has started to pick up. These are fresh from south Florida on their way to the Panhandle. Inshore fishermen are beginning to catch them on the grass flats and sandbars in Tampa Bay, and along the north Pinellas coast. The smaller fish showed up a few weeks ago, and larger females are arriving. Most follow sting rays, but occasionally they can be found behind large bull sharks, manatees and turtles. Just about anything big that stirs up the bottom may attract the cobia.

Although a month behind schedule, the spring shallow water cobia migration has started to pick up. These are fresh from south Florida on their way to the Panhandle. Inshore fishermen are beginning to catch them on the grass flats and sandbars in Tampa Bay, and along the north Pinellas coast. The smaller fish showed up a few weeks ago, and larger females are arriving. Most follow sting rays, but occasionally they can be found behind large bull sharks, manatees and turtles. Just about anything big that stirs up the bottom may attract the cobia.

Sight-casting for cobia with light tackle in shallow water is one of the most exciting angling opportunities our area offers. They are cooperative, great fighters and good to eat. Tackle can be light. My clients have landed several cobia over 50 pounds on 10-pound spinning tackle. We usually carry one rod rigged with 14-pound braided line in case of a big cobia. The best artificial bait is an eel-like soft plastic bait on a half-ounce jig head. Jig colors should be bright, such as chartreuse and gold. These are not only preferred by the cobia, they are highly visible, allowing exact bait placement. Live sardines, pinfish and shrimp all work well, but the best live bait on the flats is a small, live blue crab, which is why they follow the rays. When the ray digs onto the bottom, crabs are exposed and pounced upon by cobia.

If on inshore waters, have a jig rod ready. Cobia encounters can be brief, and if you're not ready you may miss out on a fish that could make your day.

- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail TarponEd@aol.com.

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