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Cobia on fly and light tackle in the Broad River

A 50-pound Broad River cobia for Jeff Dennis and Capt. Danny Rourk.  Photo by Capt. Nat Finley

A 50-pound Broad River cobia for Jeff Dennis and Capt. Danny Rourk. Photo by Capt. Nat Finley

Almost the entire month of May saw breezy and cool conditions, which is not ideal for sighting cobia inshore. The Memorial Day holiday weekend saw a change in conditions to windless, sunny and warm. With the water’s surface flat calm, the chance of crossing paths with a spawning cobia in the Broad River increases. There is only a small window of time when cobia are present in great numbers, and Lowcountry anglers are experiencing the peak of success right now.

Fishing with Captain Danny Rourk on Memorial Day led to a chance encounter with a 50-pound cobia, my best ever. Fishing with light tackle, it took about 20-minutes to fight the fish and reel it in to the waiting net of Captain Rourk. The conditions were flat calm, and my TFO-rod with medium-action stayed bent during the entire fight, while the Shimano stradic reel spooled with 20-pound Power Pro peeled line each time the fish sounded.

“I had a 15-year- old client out here on Saturday, and he caught a nice 25-pound cobia when we were anchored up at the Broad River bridge,” said Rourk. “I’ve seen more flat calm conditions during Memorial Day weekend than I saw in all of May. The full moon on May 25 really encourages the cobia to head up the Broad River for their spawning run, so the timing with the weather was excellent.” To speak with Captain Danny Rourk of Tailwind Charters, call 843-263-3863.

We joined plenty of other anglers by using the Broad River boat landing at the base of the bridge, but elected to sight-fish for cobia instead of anchoring up. The flood tides associated with the full moon had a large mile-long swath of dead marsh grass in the River, and that is where we concentrated our search. “Look for any kind of exaggerated push from a fish, or just nervous water in general,” said Rourk.

Standing in the bow of Rourk’s 18-foot Maverick HPX, my terminal tackle included a Cajun thunder popping cork and a live eel rigged on a J-hook. Motoring along slowly with the engine just above neutral, we saw a small cobia pushing, but could not cast towards it before the fish sounded out of sight. “These cobia rise to the top and swim some and then sound, really with no rhyme or reason,” said Rourk. “They appear to be on a mission most of the time and I am hoping to cross paths with them.”

Standing on a raised platform in the bow, I see the 50-pounder swimming directly in front of the boat. I signal Captain Rourk to stop the boat, but the cobia quickly turned 180-degrees and closed the distance to us until it was under the boat. I hurried to the back of the boat and cast the eel into the water. Nothing happened. Captain Rourk went to the bow and began looking for the fish back that way.

Just then, my cork began to bob up and down in a rapid motion. The eel had sighted the cobia and began a frantic attempt at escape. The big cobia showed up on cue, eating the eel and taking the float down for good this time. “Go ahead and set the hook now,” said Rourk. “With light tackle the plan is to keep pressure on the fish during the fight, but not to horse it up.” Despite some head-shaking by this cobia, the steady fight tactic worked very well.

“I book fly-fishing trips for cobia as well,” said Rourk. “I’ll utilize a big and flashy streamer pattern comparable to a tarpon fly. The bigger the better. And I like either a 10-weight or a 12-weight fly rod for cobia fishing.” A friend of Rourk’s caught a cobia on Memorial Day right next to our boat. Paul Burton from Bray’s Island reeled in a smaller cobia and took its measurement. Since it did not meet the minimum requirement of 33-inches, he gladly released the fish back into the Broad River.

Cobia season in the Broad River runs through the middle of June, but with the cooler weather this year, it may run a bit longer. Cobia can also be found at the nearshore reefs off the S.C. coast for those willing to venture into deeper waters, but the easy access to the outstanding cobia fishery in the Broad River is hard to beat. Whether anchored at the bridge or cruising in order to sight-fish, fly and light tackle for cobia is the way to go.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (392 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com