Editor’s Note: Captain Ben Fairey of the “Necessity” charter boat docked at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, is one of the most-knowledgeable cobia fishermen on the Upper Gulf Coast. Fairey holds the Alabama state recOrange Beach chartersord for cobia and recently proved his prowess again by finishing second in a major cobia tournament in Florida.

We were fortunate to come in second in the Outcast Cobia Invitational in Pensacola, Florida, in the spring of 2011. The Outcast Cobia Invitational has two divisions – the aggregate division, which is the four biggest cobia caught during the event, and the big-fish division. We took second place in the aggregate division, with four cobia weighing a total of 201 pounds. We’ve had a good cobia season this spring on the Gulf Coast and one of the earliest cobia seasons ever. In late February and early March, the weather was warm, and the first cobia caught was on March 8th off Orange Beach. We’ll have another run of cobia before the end of April. We’ve seen six to 10 cobia a day, per trip. In mid-April, we spotted six cobia and caught three of them, with our biggest one weighing 52 pounds. After the cobia run has ended, the cobia become structure-oriented, and you can catch them off big reefs, like the sunken Liberty ships, tanks and oil rigs.

We’ve changed our tackle for cobia. Instead of monofilament line, we use smaller-diameter braided line – 50-pound test – and a No. 6/0 Owner circle hook. We fish with lighter rods and pack more line on the reels. We use live eels for bait and carry live pinfish and mullet with us too.

Snapper Season:
Our snapper season this year will begin on June 1. Because there was very-little fishing pressure for the snaOrange Beach fishingpper in 2010, the average-size snapper we’ll catch this year will weigh from 8 to 12 pounds. We’ll see plenty of 20-pound-plus snapper coming to the docks. The 2011 snapper season may be one of the biggest snapper seasons we’ve ever had on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Less-Expensive, Big-Water Trips:
We’re offering a new type of fishing trip this year. In the past, if you’ve wanted to go on an 18-hour fishing trip out to deep water or an overnight trip, you’ve needed 10 to 12 buddies to go with you because of the expense. However, we’ve had a high demand for walk-on trips, where individuals who don’t know each other can go on long-range fishing trips by making their reservations and paying fees. You can have from one to five people or more in a group on one of these 2-hour trips, and we’ll be targeting yellowfin and blackfin tuna, as well as do some bottom fishing and trolling. Depending on the price of fuel at the time of the trip, an 18-hour trip for one individual may cost between $450 and $500 per person. The cost of an overnight walk-on trip will be between $650 and $750 per person. We have beds on the boat, and you can bring whatever you want to eat or to drink. At this price, we can offer anglers who never have had an opportunity to go tuna-fishing out in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or to bottom-fish an inexpensive way to deep-water fish by themselves or with friends without having to charter an entire boat. We supply the bait and the tackle. Our first trip is scheduled for May 16th, and we can take 10 people. Our walk-on trips will be posted on our website at www.captben.com. We’ll also be offering 6- and 8-hour walk-on trips for clients who don’t want to charter the entire boat. Check our website to see what we have available for walk-on trips.

Near-Shore Fishing:
The Spanish mackerel and the king mackerel are showing-up close to shore here at the end of April. In mid-April, we saw big schools of baitfish up close to the beach, and wOrange Beach chartershere you locate big schools of baitfish, you’ll find the Spanish mackerel and the king mackerel.

Amberjacks and Grouper:
Amberjack seasons will close June 1 and then open again on July 31. But we can catch scamp and red grouper, although the gag grouper season is closed now and will run September 16 through November 15.

Vermilion Snapper, White Snapper and Triggerfish:
We’ve had some of the best catches of big vermilion snapper this spring than I’ve seen in a long time. The vermilion snapper have weighed from 2- to 4-pounds each, which are good-sized snapper. Last fall, we had plenty of triggerfish, and the fishing for triggerfish should continue to be productive for the boats fishing over natural bottom. We’re expecting one of the best spring and summer fishing seasons this year that we’ve ever had on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. There’s plenty of fish to catch, and all we need now are fishermen. So, plan to come to the Alabama Gulf Coast this spring and summer, and let us take you fishing.

To contact Captain Ben Fairey, go to http://www.captben.com/, or call him at 251-747-5782. You can learn more about attractions, accommodations and restaurants available in Gulf Shores by calling Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND (7263), or by visiting http://www.orangebeach.com/fishing. To have your delicious catch prepared at area restaurants, go to www.alabamasnaturalcoast.net/dining-nightlife/restaurants/, and check the box at the top of the page that says, “Will cook your catch.”  Here’s a favorite cobia recipe.

Cobia with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oilOrange Beach fishing
1 large shallot, minced
1/4-cup red-wine vinegar
1/4-cup whole-grain mustard
1/4-cup packed dark-brown sugar
Coarse salt and black pepper
3 pounds of cobia, skin removed, cut into 8 fillets
1 bunch watercress (about 3/4-pound), thick stems trimmed (optional)
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Heat broiler, with the rack in its top position. In a small saucepan, heat the oil on medium-high. Add shallot, and cook, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add vinegar, and cook until slightly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add mustard and brown sugar; stir until warm and combined, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. (To store, refrigerate cooled glaze in an airtight container, up to 1 day.) Place cobia fillets on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/2-cup glaze to a small dish, and brush on top of cobia. Broil cobia, until the glaze is bubbling and the fish is opaque throughout, about 5 minutes to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Brush the remaining glaze over the fillets. Serve the cobia with watercress and lemon wedges.