Spring is the time for cobia and red drum beach fishing. It can be really good in the clear water of early spring. Several things come clear in the early spring. The main thing for me is the water. I’m not sure what makes the water stay so clear, but it seems that we have more days of clear water in the spring than any other time. This is good news for those of us fishing the beaches outside the breakers. Warming water in the springtime brings baitfish – mainly menhaden shad (pogies) and the clear water makes it easier for us to see predator fish that may be feeding on this bait. It's time to head out and do some springtime cobia and red drum beach fishing.
Beach Roaming Species
- Cobia and big red drum are major players in the spring time beach fishing. The cobia will swim along under and over the back of big sting rays. This time of year, you will see anglers slowly patrolling the beaches, idling along looking for a dark shadow in the water. That means a ray, and that normally also means cobia. The clear water makes them easier to spot.
- Big redfish or red drum are also foraging along the beaches at this time. The schools (we call them pods) of pogies along the beach will usually have one or two big reds – and I mean in the 20 to 30 pound class – following along underneath them.
How to Fish for these Big Spring Time Fish.
- For the cobia, I like to have a nice eel bait – live is ideal – artificial will work – on a heavy bait casting rod. Eels are a favorite food for cobia. I stand one angler at the bow of the boat and idle along until we find a ray. In clear water, you can tell whether a cobia or two are under the ray. Simply cast ahead of the ray and bring the bait – working it slowly – across in front of the cobia. Nine times out of ten, you will hook up on the cobia you see.
- Be aware that cobia fight long and hard, and you never want to bring one into the boat until they have finished fighting. They can literally tear up every piece of gear in your boat, and they have been known to break limbs as they flop around. They are very strong fish.
- For the reds, I use a cast net and gather up a few dozen pogies into my live well. I then fill a cooler with as many pogies as it will hold. The ones in the cooler will become chum.
Follow the Bait
- I judge how far off the beach the pogie pods are running. Sometimes they are farther off the beach than others. Then, I anchor right in the path of the pods. These pods are migrating north along the beach, and every few minutes, a pod will come through where I am anchored.
- Depending on how things are going, I may or may not use chum. While chum will help turn on the reds, it also turns on other fish – like sharks – and I am not one that enjoys shark fishing. Lots of you love shark fishing, and this is a great way to catch some; but, it’s not for me. If I do chum, I have a cutting board on the gunnel of my boat, and I will begin cutting pogies up and pitching them over. The fish oil slick, chunks of pogies and small pieces of food will trail behind the anchored boat. Fish locate this scent trail and come back up-current to find the source. That’s when they find your live pogie sitting on the bottom with a circle hook across its nose. Sometimes I will free line a live pogie and get more strikes. It just depends on how the reds are feeding on this particular day.
- Another bonus, aside for the sharks, is an occasional big jack crevalle – one of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean. Big Spanish and an occasional cero mackerel are also a part of the mix, particularly if the live pogies are small.
- On most days with good, medium-sized, live pogies, I will not anchor. I have the angler on the bow of the boat waiting with a live pogie in the water. He is waiting to cast to a pod of pogies. When one shows up, I have him cast in front of the pod and let his bait swim with and under the pad. Predator fish can sense a troubled or weak baitfish and will usually seek them before striking the school. If a big red if following the school, they will usually hit your bait first. But – it has to be alive. We change bait frequently because pogies are notoriously feeble when it comes to staying alive after several casts.
The Bottom Line
- Don’t get me wrong. I have been out doing this in perfect conditions and have been skunked, even when I saw the cobia, or saw the baitfish school being attacked from underneath. But these times are few and far between this time of year.
- Anyone with a boat can do this – it is really easy - from Florida all the way up to New Jersey. Just pick a good day and watch the weather. You don’t want to get caught in the surf in a situation that won’t allow you to get back into the inlet.