Here’s a hint on how to save: Loosen up around those sharks.

Light baitcaster proves up to the task: Letting the cobia swim away from predators until you reach open water.

If you fish for cobia, you’ve likely paid your fair share to the taxman—sharks. Cobia often follow sharks looking to pick up scraps the sharks leave behind when feeding. Once a cobia is hooked, the table turns and it is the shark’s turn to feed. At times you are lucky to land one cobia for every five you hook. That puts you in an 80 percent tax bracket, which is a waste of a great gamefish. How about let’s get those taxes down below 20 percent?

It was on a trip out of Sebastian when I got a lesson in how to drastically reduce my losses. I was fishing for snapper with a light baitcasting outfit when I hooked something big. It made a strong run and soon came up to the surface. My buddy shouted, “It’s a nice cobia, and there is a shark on him!” I tried to do what I could with the 20-poundtest baitcasting outfit but the 300-pound bull shark quickly took the cobia. I re-rigged and went back to snapper fishing. Again, I hooked another cobia, and still another shark was on him. I immediately put the reel in free spool and had my friend start the boat and follow the fish. Once off the reef, I took up the line and continued the fight, and once again, the shark was on him. I put the reel back in free spool, letting the cobia run as we followed. It took us a quarter-mile from where we first hooked up, but I was able to land a 36-pound cobia shark-free.

Since that time, my baitcasting rod has become my cobia outfit. Most of the time I am fishing for other fish, but for some reason, cobia love that outfit. Once hooked, it is a real test of skill, not only for the angler but for the whole crew. It takes teamwork, but the payoff is enormous. Many veteran reef fishermen I’ve spoken to have related similar luck with this tax-dodging method.

Here are three points to catching cobia when sharks are around:

>Once hooked, keep a good eye on your cobia as you bring it in and free line it at the first sign of a shark. Don’t try to horse a cobia in even with heavy tackle. In most cases, you will not be able to land him before the shark hits

>Be ready to follow the cobia. Following the cobia is the most critical part of landing your fish. Have one person run the boat as the angler keeps a good eye on which way the cobia is going. Try to stay close. In most cases, the cobia will swim away from the sharks and the structure. If you are anchored, you will want an anchor ball or some other float clipped to the end of your anchor line and be prepared to disconnect the line quickly. You will not have time to pull up the anchor, and the ball will allow you to return to the spot that you were fishing. Chances are, if you stay anchored and try to reel the cobia in, it will be eaten by the shark. You need to move off that spot to help lose the shark.

>Once you are off the structure and sharks, start to reel in the cobia. Keep a good eye on your fish. If sharks show up again, go back to step two. You may have to do this once or
twice. Most times, the shark will lose interest and return to the structure where you first hooked the cobia. At times you will end up a half of a mile or more from where you hooked up before landing your fish.

Cobia is a prized catch and too many are taken by sharks. Even your most substantial outfits are no match when reeling in a cobia with a shark on him. Sharks almost always win. Open the spool and let the fun begin. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine December 2019

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