Fly Fishing For Cobia

Cobia are a sight-fishing specialty this time of year, along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic Beaches. The fish are quick to snap up flies, and a big one will tax a 10-weight as well as any tarpon of comparable size. Where best to tackle these great fish on fly? Sandbars Cobia are famous for running beaches, but in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and other big bays, migrating cobia often travel over sandbars and edges of grassflats. Once a fish is spotted, you can’t go wrong with a black-and-purple bunny strip fly. I’ve also seen cobia follow manatees, turtles, tarpon and sharks, especially big bulls. If I spot a fish, I put down the trolling motor and move back towards the spot. Present the fly so it swims naturally by, sweeping it near the fish’s face, with the current. These spots are great on a weak tide with bright sun and light wind. Place a large bunny strip fly over the back of the ray and strip the fly so it falls naturally off the ray’s back, and into the cobia’s field of view.

The perfect warmup for spring tarpon season.

Cobia are a sight-fishing specialty this time of year, along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic Beaches.

Spring-run cobia travel inshore where even small skiffs can reach them on calm days. The fish are quick to snap up flies, and a big one will tax a 10-weight as well as any tarpon of comparable size. Where best to tackle these great fish on fly? Here are four scenarios.

Sandbars

Cobia are famous for running beaches, but in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and other big bays, migrating cobia often travel over sandbars and edges of grassflats. And their paths may be well-worn: Pay attention to where they travel at different stages of the tide, and you can zero in on a pattern to find cruising fish. Anchoring along those paths—just as you would for tarpon—is usually the best approach. Or, troll-motor the edges of these bars and flats. In Tampa Bay, we have the most success around the 6-foot sandy bottom contour. Once a fish is spotted, you can’t go wrong with a black-and-purple bunny strip fly.

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