Wednesday's trip with professional tournament angler Dale Findlay on board proved to be quite a day of inshore fishing together catching five species of fish including a beautiful 6-pound, 2-ounce gator trout on certified scales along with a bonus 36-inch inshore cobia.
Although this area is considered a trout nursery producing untold numbers, we are not known for consistently producing the 6-12 pound monster spotted sea trout like our north Florida angling friends.
After catching tons of relatively weak 12-inch fish it's easy to forget the fighting qualities of a gator trout over five pounds on light tackle. This six-pounder slugged it out deep, refusing to come to the top and pulling lots of drag during the long fight, fighting like a frantic snook without the jumps.
Capt. George Tunison
This beauty was handled carefully and gently released keeping her genes in the gene pool to help produce future gator sized specimens rather than dead on a plate. Keep a limit of legal little guys for the table and let the gators go if you want future trophy sized catches.
Most anglers think of cobia as an offshore fish, but every year migrating cobia of all sizes venture inshore to forage in the warmer waters of Pine Island and Matlacha Pass as well as in our river system surprising anglers by inhaling shrimp meant for trout and gold spoons meant for redfish.
Findlay's fancy gold spoon caught the eye of this particular cobia as we fished a Matlacha oyster bar for redfish, the same bar that gave up my gator trout. Both were caught within 30 minutes of each other without moving the boat.
Locals say to fish the abundant crab traps in our waters. A shrimp under a cork on both sides of the trap is cobia candy. I'm sure a frisky pinfish would work as well.
Serious offshore cobia anglers usually fish in tall tower boats carrying brightly colored feathered jigs for casting at cruising cobia that often swim in packs or solo on the surface, sometimes resembling sharks. A second rod is always ready for casting live bait, like a big pinfish or the number one cobia killer, a live eel.
Off Cocoa Beach tower boats hunt giant manta rays along the beach. It's common to spot one to six or more, huge cobia gliding along with and almost on the ray's wings feeding on anything the giant disturbs as they pass close to the bottom. The drill is to get close enough to launch a jig, usually resulting in a crushing strike from a big and tough-as-nails cobia.
If this is your first cobia catch beware. A large green cobia will go crazy when met with a gaff resulting in a sometimes dangerous situation as you attempt to box it for the journey to your back yard grill. A fish Billy or small club is a handy item when landing large cobia.
Cobia play possum when fighting, gaining strength back during the fight. A great game fish sometimes so curious they will swim right up to your boat for a look. Delicious on the grill.
If you have a poling platform on your boat why aren't you using it? Other than wind drifting, poling provides a nearly noise free way of sneaking up on the fish in shallow clear water like we have now. Fish hear trolling motors. Big trophy fish know they mean trouble.
Dust off your lunch table (poling platform) and start pushing that boat around to increase your catches and number of trophies that come over the side.
Good push poles are super lightweight and expensive, but pay for themselves in short order.
The winners of the Kiwanis Club Free Fishing Derby: (Girls' division) Tabitha Bryant, Bethany Walker, Zada Bolden; (Boys' division) Brian Edison, Brody Sexton, Christian Altini; (Smallest award) Alea Wackler.