Inshore, nearshore fishing heats up

Capt. J.R. Waits struggles to lift the 88-pound, 6-ounce cobia he caught last May fishing with Capt. Fritz von Kolnitz off Charleston.

(Photo provided)

Lots of things begin happening for inshore and nearshore fishermen when the water temperature hits 70 degrees. Redfish and trout become more active and flounder start showing up. But to many, it also means the arrival of cobia fishing season.

Whether you fish the buoys out of Charleston, chunking live bait to these big brown fish, or make the pilgrimage to Beaufort County and the Broad River, cobia are enjoying a newfound popularity.

Last May, Charleston fishing guide J.R. Waits and fellow guide Fritz von Kolnitz boated an 88-pound, 6-ounce cobia on a busman’s holiday. The big cobia was less than five pounds off the South Carolina state record (92-10) caught off Hilton Head Island in 2009.

“That’s what I really love doing when the water hits 70 to 71 degrees,” said Champ Smith, another Charleston fishing guide and real estate salesman.

You can fish big menhaden, mullet or other live fish for cobia. Blue crabs also work well, while in the Broad River anglers rely on live eels.

Redfish can be found at the Charleston jetties in good numbers, along with flounder and trout.

“That’s because the little menhaden, peanut bunker, whatever you want to call them, begin showing up,” Smith said, adding that the small menhaden also work well in the creeks.

Smith’s preferred fishing method is to use a circle hook through the menhaden’s nose and a split shot just heavy enough to get the bait into the target’s lair.

Live shrimp, available at tackle shops along with mud minnows, also works well. When Smith is fishing the deeper water at the jetties, he often uses a slip float that allows him to drop a bait down six to eight feet.

The jetties also produce some of the largest bluefish of the year, up to 12 pounds, in the spring. They can be caught using live bait, spoons or big topwater baits.

Back in the rivers and creeks, target reds and trout along shell rakes with live baits or artificial and begin looking for tailing redfish in the grass. Nearshore reefs will produce hard-fighting amberjacks and the occasional king mackerel. Also, be on the lookout for Spanish mackerel.