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Seasonal FishingCobia already biting at Charleston’s nearshore reefs

October 4, 20190

by Dan Kibler

Guide says cobia running ahead of schedule this year

Guide Rob Bennett of Johns Island, S.C., headed to one of his favorite nearshore reefs on Tuesday morning. He figured he and his client might be able to sample some weakfish, aka gray trout.

They never got a bait near one.

Instead, Bennett, who runs Lowcountry Inshore Charters, got a taste of what May might be like on the nearshore reefs that ring Charleston Harbor. Eight of them sit between 1 1/2 and 12 1/2 miles off the beach, in 30 to 65 feet of water.

He and Dr. Glenn Matheny of Beaufort, S.C., hooked five cobia and landed two. They also landed a huge bull redfish and broke off a big hammerhead shark. And they were fishing on trout-class tackle.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Bennett said of the light tackle.

The big fish, he’d definitely recommend.

They weren’t the only boat catching them at the reefs
“We were fishing menhaden, maybe 4 inches — not mediums, but not peanuts, either,” said Bennett (843-367-3777). He was taking his first guide trip of the year, thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus. “We were fishing them on the bottom, on Carolina rigs, on trout rods. I usually catch the fire out of weakfish out there this time of year.”

To start with, Bennett hooked and broke off what he called a “gigantic” hammerhead shark on a surface rig he put out. Then came the first cobia, one close to 50 pounds, that he caught. A huge bull red, 40 pounds, followed, then another cobia, about 5 pounds smaller than the first one. Matheny caught both. They hooked three more cobia but couldn’t get another one to the boat. That was okay with Bennett, because of the 1-fish daily creel limit on cobia. They released the bull red.

“We had 69.7-degree water, about an hour after the tide started rising, when they started biting; they were right on the reef,” Bennett said. “We were out there by ourselves, then another boat showed up from one of the other reefs. They’d caught two cobia jigging 4-ounce bucktails with 4-inch chartreuse curlytail trailers.

“The cobia are usually here all through May. They’re a little early this year, since it’s still April. I think they’ll really bite until that (May 7) full moon.”

Bennett got a better idea of what the cobia were doing on the reef when he cleaned one of the fish later on Tuesday — its belly was filled with small crabs and mantis shrimp.

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