Cobia can be really easy to catch one minute and a pain-in-the-you-know-what challenge the next.
But those are only a couple of aspects that make this species one of the most popular sportfish among coastal anglers in North Carolina and Virginia.
Also known as the "Man in the Brown Suit" around these parts and labeled a ling, lemonfish and crab-eater around the world, cobia provide some tackle-busting action and are a real treat on the grill.
They'll take a variety of artificial or live baits, but often will eat just about anything when they're really in a feeding mood. Then there are times when you can throw everything but the kitchen sink at them and all they'll do is bat it around, nudge it or stare at it. If you fish for them enough, you'll encounter one that will ignore your offering, swim up to the boat and look at you with an "are you kidding me?" attitude.
And angler beware, cobia have a reputation for putting up their best fight when you get them in the boat.
Many anglers early in the Chesapeake Bay season anchor and deploy chum along with live or cut bait. But the hands-down favorite way to catch them is sight-casting.
The International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record is a 135-pound, 9-ounce giant caught in Australia in 1985. But that doesn't mean we don't grow them big in the Mid-Atlantic. The North Carolina record is a 116-8 caught out of Oregon Inlet in 2006, while the Virginia standard is a 109-pounder caught the same year at York Spit.
The North Carolina season is open and lasts through the end of the year, while Virginia's season starts June 1 and continues through Sept. 30.
Northeastern North Carolina
Yellowfin tuna and dolphin highlight offshore catches, but some wahoo and billfish are starting to join in the action out of both inlets. Also look for blackfin and bigeye tuna. A few king mackerel also have been taken.
But it's difficult to pull away from the outstanding coastal action being provided by red drum and cobia. Both are being found up and down the coast from the Virginia line south past Ocracoke.
Anglers fishing coastal and offshore bottom structure are finding lots of triggerfish and snapper. These same structures should soon be holding some amberjack, bluefish and lots of shark.
Surf action is starting to heat up with croaker, sea mullet, blow toads, bluefish, speckled trout, puppy drum and lots of shark. A few cobia have been caught around The Point, where most anglers are concentrating on drum.
Stripers are making their run into the rivers, while speckled trout, puppy drum and several bottom species can be had in the sounds. Look for white perch around the mouths of river systems dumping into the sounds.
Flounder are making one of their best spring showings in recent memory, with lots of fish coming from the backwaters of the Eastern Shore barrier islands and from southside Inlets — especially Lynnhaven. Keep it simple this time of year since flatties are more shallow than they will be in the summer. Still, don't hesitate to look for them around bay and coastal wrecks and reefs.
Red-drum numbers are on a steady rise along the coast and throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers are finding them by sight casting the mouth of the bay and along the beaches, while others are anchoring along the shoals at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Don't forget to register for the third annual Red Drum Rodeo on May 23-26 by going to www.reddrumrodeo.com.
Black drum remain a good alternative around the Eastern Shore.
Drum anglers are reporting the first sheepshead to arrive in the bay on their way to the CBBT.
Speckled trout catchings have been steady, but nothing like they will be in the fall. Look for them around Oyster on the Eastern Shore, the Poquoson Flats and the three southside inlets.
Croaker numbers are on the rise, but most fish coming from piers remain small. The first big fish will be found around the James River Bridge in the coming weeks.
It's about time for bluefish and Spanish mackerel to invade the coast, where shark numbers are increasing rapidly.
Bottom-bouncers continue to find good numbers of tautog around the CBBT and at many inshore and coastal wrecks. The season will be closed from May 16 to June 30. More and more triggerfish should be making the same wrecks their home for the summer.
There are reports of spadefish around structure like the Chesapeake Light Tower, but the water is still too cold for them to start biting.
Sea bass fans will enjoy a 16-day open season from May 15-31 and again from June 22 to the end of the year.
Deep-droppers are finding plenty of tilefish and a few snowy grouper along with several other bottom-dwellers.
Bluewater trollers are starting to find some yellowfin tuna and dolphin, especially those heading to the southeast.
Largemouth bass fishing season is in full swing, so let's start off by congratulating Hunter Atkins of Carrsville and Kitt Moger of Suffolk for winning the FLW College Fishing Northern Conference opener on Smith Mountain Lake. The two fish for the Apprentice School's fishing club.
And if you are looking for a tournament, a good place to start is Bob's Fishing Hole in southern-most Chesapeake, where they have open events Wednesdays and weekends.
Many largemouth already have gone to spawn, but some likely will be doing their thing around the next full moon on May 18. Look for fish roaming the shallows, especially early and late in the day. Feeding fish will be happy with just about anything, so have a variety of lures at the ready.
Bass are cooperating on just about every front throughout the region.
Crappie could still be holding around shoreline structure, especially where it is close to deeper water.
White perch should be starting to focus on old duck blind structures in Back Bay and Currituck Sound.
Bluegill and shellcracker likely are starting to make their move to the shallows, although bigger fish likely will continue to hold in waters deeper than 5 feet. Use a bottom-bouncing rig to find the trophies.
Blue catfish are making good showings, especially in tidal waters like the James, Chickahominy and Northwest rivers.