There are two favored ways pier fishermen use to catch a cobia — sit and wait with your pin rig all day long or see one swimming by and cast to it. Last week at Jennette’s Pier, anglers had luck doing both.
The largest one caught at press time was a 50-plus pounder hauled in by pier staffer Sammy Thornton of Nags Head. After completing his shift the other day, Sammy walked out to the end of this 1,000-foot-long pier and heard someone say: “Hey, look at those sharks swimming by!”
Well, Sammy’s a seasoned angler, so he knew the pair were more likely to be cobia at the surface, and he was right. He acted quickly to sight cast to the pair.
“I threw down my Got-Cha pole and picked up the buck tail one,” he told Pier Director Mike Remige the next day.
“The small one saw it, and was going after it, so I pulled it away and the big swam over and chomped it!” Sammy said.
Luckily, a nearby pier regular grabbed a pier gaff on a long piece of line and assisted Sammy in landing this bigtime catch. Cobia meat is prized by anglers because it tastes so good.
At the other end of the pier, they weighed the big cobia in at 51.5 pounds. Later, Sammy said Manteo’s Sonny Albarty caught and released the smaller cobia, too. He also sight casted to the fish.
To make this style of fishing work, one needs a stout pole, a big spinning reel and 30 to 40-pound test line. Sammy was using 40-pound braid on his rig. More importantly, however, you need a big and colorful buck tail.
These are all hand-tie, and the base is a lead weight, either one ounce, two or three, Sammy said. The one he used for the 50 pounder was store-bought, but a lot of guys get them directly from folks who make them or simply make their own.
Pin rig fishing is the polar opposite way to catch a cobia. These guys and gals get here at daybreak and fish until dark. They use one heavy, long rod to throw an anchor weight way out off of the corner of the pier.
Next, they “pin” a live bait to the anchor line, and slide it down until the fish is dangling at the surface. Live bait fishing has been around for a longtime, and this is just a specialized way of doing it.
Anglers who set up for this style need three rods, as a third is used to catch the bait. Therefore, they pay a little extra for the privilege of pin rig fishing.
One thing is for sure, they invest a lot of time, money and effort in catching one of these, and there appears to be a fair amount of fellowship with the group. And when a fish takes the bait, there’s a chaotic scramble to keep the fish and line from becoming tangled into a web of other lines.
Then, there’s the landing. A lot of the cobia are brought up in pier nets because the ones under 36 inches fork length are protected, and most will be released back to the sea. The netting part can also be tricky, as its fairly easy to bump the fish off the hook when attempting to net it some 22 feet below at the ocean surface. Throw in a little wind, and choppy seas and it’s a tall order to get one in. Apparently, a few were lost in the fashion last week.
Nearly a dozen small were ones were caught and quickly released unharmed. One of the anglers tagged and released a “short” one with hopes someone will catch it later and the data can be used help scientists better understand these neat animals.
According to their website, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries researchers are studying the “migration, habitat use and population status of striped bass, red drum, spotted sea trout, southern flounder and cobia in North Carolina.”
And there’s even one more way people can catch a cobia.
A few weeks back, a man was happy as he reeled in a sea mullet. All of a sudden, a trailing cobia appeared and bit into his sea mullet. Bob Luke from Pennsylvania landed the undersized cobia and released it just after taking pictures with it.
Some people have all the luck, for sure.