Editor’s Note: Captain Jeff Colley, Jr., of the “Killing Time,” based out of Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has developed a technique for catching cobia that has resulted in his boat not spooking a single cobia during the 2007 cobia run. Colley and his fishermen boated 71 cobia in 2007 and tagged and released another 31 fish.

I hunt cobia with a 26-foot Goldline boat, custom made in south Florida, and powered by a Suzuki 4-stroke engine. I’ve learned that my small, quiet boat spooks fewer cobia and enables me to catch more cobia than I do when I’m fishing on a bigger boat. Too, my Suzuki 4 stroke engine is quiet. I can shift the motor to reverse, easily turn around if I need to and steer the boat away from the cobia quicker and quieter than I can with a big boat. A boat with one or two diesel engines will cause cobia to dive for deep water when you shift into reverse. The sounds those diesels make then have the same effect on cobia as a fire-truck siren does on a person who has had a fire truck hit him. Too, if you have to turn around and go back to a cobia that’s moving more slowly than you’ve thought, oftentimes, the change in engine noise will spook the cobia.

The closer you can get to the cobia without spooking the fish, the more accurately you can cast either live bait or lures. Proper timing determines whether or not you catch the cobia. You want to time your cast so that when the bait hits the water it doesn’t spook the cobia but does fall within easy striking distance. If you cast too early, your bait will fall below the fish, and the fish won’t see it. If you cast too late, you’ll either hit the fish, or the bait will land so close to the cobia that it spooks the fish. Therefore, the correct boat position is critical.

I believe the number of rod holders you have and the placement of those rod holders on your boat is critical to your success. On the side of the boat where I’m steering, I keep three rods in three-different rod holders, each within easy reach. Then when I spot a cobia, I can pick up the rod and immediately cast to the fish with one of three baits I know cobia prefer. One rod will be baited with a live baitfish, the second with a live eel and the third rod with a cobia jig.

Sometimes a cobia swimming close to the surface may decide to dive due to cloudy water or for an unknown reason. And that’s when I’ll cast a cobia jig instead of either of my two live baits to the fish. Many times you can cast that jig in front of the site where the cobia has gone down, and the cobia will see the jig diving for the bottom at the same time it is. Then the cobia will take the jig.

If you throw the live bait in the same spot as you’ve cast the jig, the live bait won’t drop in front of the cobia as fast as the lead-headed jig will. Then you won’t get a bite. Having those three rod holders on the side of the tower when I’m steering the boat gives me three bait options, depending on how the cobia are acting, and the distance I am from the cobia when they come within casting range.

To contact Captain Jeff Colley, Jr. in Orange Beach, you can call him at (850) 791-8722, or email him at marlinmagnet@yahoo.com, or visit his webpage at www.orangebeach.ws.

Sidebar: Learn More about Cobia

Although the pelagic cobia, also known as a ling, lemonfish, crabeater and black kingfish, lives worldwide in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate waters, biologists know very little about this species. In the United States, cobia live from Nova Scotia south to Argentina with the most-abundant fish found from Chesapeake Bay south and throughout the Gulf of Mexico in harbors and around wrecks, reefs and oil and gas rigs.

Professor Jim Franks, a fisheries-research biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab, has studied cobia for almost two decades to learn the fish’s spawning and feeding habits and their ages, growth and migratory patterns. Much of the information the scientists have learned about cobia has come from the tag-and-release program Franks and his fellow biologists have conducted with the help of Gulf Coast anglers. To learn more about tagging and releasing cobia and the exciting information the cobia study now knows, call Franks or his colleague, Read Hendon at (228) 872-4202, or email Read Hendon at read.hendon@usm.edu.