Every year, the spring cobia run along the Grand Strand is memorable with heavy catches — and usually plenty of them. A combination of warm weather and calm seas will determine the level of productivity from year to year.
During the spring, anglers rely on slick seas to run down the beach and find pods of menhaden. Most of the hunt is visual, and heavy seas will keep anglers away from the fish. Even with occasional winds roiling up the ocean, there are generally plenty of days to get out and find menhaden schools and target cobia.
Guide Jason Burton of Fly Girl Fishing Charters, who fishes the southern end of the Grand Strand is ready to hit the beachfront when the menhaden arrive and conditions are suitable.
“We start seeing menhaden pods and cobia in them the second week of May,” Burton said. “But, they can start a week or two earlier or later depending on the water temperature.”
Burton fishes out of Murrells Inlet and he will head both north and south to find the fish. Sometimes they will be more concentrated off Huntington Beach and Pawley’s Island. On other days, he will find them right off Myrtle Beach.
“The cobia are following bait pods, and the bait pods can be anywhere along the beach from Little River on the northern end of the Strand all the way to North Island on the southern end,” said Burton, who will visit places where he found them the previous day — but they can be 10 miles away in a day’s time, migrating and following bait that is constantly on the move.
“A calm day with slick seas allows us to run the beach on plane, and if the bait pods are there, you can see them from a long way away,” he said. “Fortunately for us, when the fish are here in May, we can usually find bait pods a short drive from the inlet.”
On days when the seas are unsuitable, Burton will head to nearshore reefs and pitch baits down near the reef structure or to rising fish. While many cobia will run the beach with the menhaden schools, many will stop short at the reefs where plenty of bait is available around the structure.
Burton will chum up big sharks with cut menhaden to draw the cobia off the bottom.
“Cobia will (come) to the surface with the big sharks, and we will pitch baits or cast artificial lures to the cobia,” he said.