Hot Spot: Virginia Beach, Virginia
In the lower Chesapeake Bay, summertime means hot action on big cobia. Fishing out of Virginia Beach, Captain Ben Shepherd of Above Average Sportfishing (757-621-5094) has been sight fishing for cobia northwest of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, along the split in the York River channel.
Shepherd’s primary tactic is hunting cobia that are swimming just below the surface. To find cruising cobia, Shepherd slowly drives his 31-foot Cape Horn, Notorious, along the channel edges and shallow shoals looking for the big brown fish in the clear-green water.
Cobia fishing is simple. Shepherd keeps a handful of seven to eight-foot spinning rods with 4000 to 5000 series spinning reels spooled with 50-pound braided line. He ties an arm’s length of 50- pound fluorocarbon to the mainline and attaches a three-ounce bucktail or leadhead jig and seven-inch soft plastic tail. He also preps several rods with an 8/0 circle hook and live eel, croaker, or spot. When he spots a cobia, he first casts the bucktail. If the lure doesn’t get bit, he switches to a live eel, croaker, or spot. Shepherd says, “Spot have been the hot bait this year.”
Shepherd says this summer’s hot new lure is the Yozuri Inshore 3D Twitchbait. “Just throw it at the fish and give a good jerk.” Once he has the cobia’s attention, he works the twitchbait with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. “They really pile on it.” he says.
This week, Shepherd is happy to announce bait balls have finally moved into the area. To find the cobia, Shepherd first finds schools of menhaden bunched up on the surface.
“Look for the schools to open up as cobia feed below,” he says. He rarely spots the cobia in the school, instead he looks for nervous bait.
When he finds an active school, Shepherd casts a bucktail near the menhaden and lets it sink. Then, he jigs the bucktail in place before working it back to the boat. If the bucktail doesn’t get bites, he moves to a live eel or spot he light-lines into the school.
As the season progresses, Shepherd expects the cobia to gather around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. In early August, he will change tactics to slowly patrolling the edge of the bridge looking for cobia swimming just below the surface.
Toward the end of summer, cobia will move to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay where they will swim on the surface with schools of stingrays. Shepherd says, “We’ve already found cobia on the rays this summer, so I expect the fishing will be really good in August.”