Catching Cobia
  |  First Published: September 2007

In September, the water warms-up and things start to really come alive in our area. It is the month that the barramundi start to feed in the dams, sailfish are biting offshore and the marlin are moving in on the spit. These next four months are the most productive time to fish around the Bundaberg area.

It all starts with some of the best jack fishing in the creeks. Our rivers are very popular with people who travel from south of Bundy who would like to tackle these hard fighting tropical species. Armed with some local knowledge, a novice can enjoy this style of fishing in no time.

To find out more check out the local tackle stores, the guys at Tackle World have got all the ammo and info needed to catch jacks. For barra fishing, local gun Gary Leather is a great source of information and my deckie Paul McKay has become quite the guru for local bass knowledge after a high placing in the ABT Monduran Dam Event.

It was good to see all the guys here for the ABT series on Monduran Dam. It was great catching up with the guys at the pub afterwards and having a few ales to find out how bad the fishing had been over the weekend. It seems to be the same everywhere, with that cold change last month has really knocked around the impoundment fish.

The town has a lot to offer at the moment with motels and hotels for accommodation, fishing, camping, groceries, butchery, hardware, mechanics and tyre-fitters. Local businesses are aware of the recent boom that has hit the town is due to the increased fishing on the dam and are only too happy to help fishers with their needs. In fact, a new tackle store in Gin Gin has just opened to specifically cater for bass and barra lures.


The offshore reef fishing is pretty stable most of the year with great catches of red emperor, coral trout, parrot fish and most reef fish biting all year round.

The two main fish species to target this month are snapper and cobia. Snapper are a great table and sports fish and you can catch plenty on the inshore reefs and wrecks during early mornings and late afternoons. Plenty of good catches have been around the artificial reef, the 4-mile reef, the 15-mile reef, the stepping-stones and the Barjon. 1770 has been a great spot with good hauls coming from the gravel bottoms around reefs and wrecks within 12 miles of the coast.


September is the time for big black king and these fish are readily caught on the inshore reefs and wrecks. They create some of the greatest encounters you can have on light tackle. To be sure of a catch, make sure to upgrade to something with reel stopping power.

I use an Ian Miller Shimano Stick and Shimano Stella reel that stops the drag. I run an 80lb braid with a 150lb leader connected to a double between. You might think this is a lot to stop one of these fish, but it is not uncommon within a school to find catches over the 45kg mark.

Cobia are interesting feeding fish. I have seen them in crystal clear water schooled 10m below the boat but refuse to take a bait dropped in front of their nose. Being a curiously natured fish you tend to see them a lot just swimming around, but they don’t always seem hungry. You have to go back to the old how-to-fool-a-fish guide in your head.

The first rule of when to fish is early in the morning and late in the afternoon, change of tides and particular moon phases and sometimes barometric pressure. Cobias don’t like to bite in clear water, they like to eat at the turn of the tide and the best time to catch them is just on a dark early morning or change of the tide. Moon phase isn’t really that critical except for tidal run and barometric pressure.

The way to get a big fish to bite is to make them compete for the bait. If there is more than one fish chasing a bait, they will compete for the moving target and have a rush of blood and then hook-up. But fishing isn’t always that visual especially in the ocean.

The best tip is to use fresh live bait caught in a location not close to where you would like to fish. Live baits work best when they’re hard to catch or there is not many around. If you don’t succeed having your baits sitting mid water or on the bottom, frequently move your baits through the water column.

If you have two people fishing, get one person to jig and act as a teaser for the fish. Seeing shiny shapes rushing through the water turns them on and encourages them to eat. Alternatively, have the other person fish the bottom as this also acts as a teaser – nothing excites a big fish more than a small fish in distress. All these principals are very simple but will definitely see results.

Cobias are the dirtiest fighters in the business, they’re a strong muscular fish that fight hard and I use 20kg of drag on my Shimano Stella. I believe that the harder the drag the harder the fish will fight, so if you fight them on light gear you can probably win. However, when it becomes a life and death struggle, the big tackle wins every time.

Cobia, once snagged, usually start with a hard run to the bottom to try to dislodge the hooks by rubbing them against the wreck and along the side of the body. It doesn’t take much to snap the line when it’s pulled extremely tight. I like to dictate the terms straight away and I never anchor when we target for these big fish.

The first thing I do after the initial run is to move the boat away from the wreck very slowly. The fish usually do a wide arch, come to the surface and then make a last effort to dive for the bottom. Once again, this is where a lot of cobias are lost due to people going for an early gaff and things going wrong. Let them make the second dive before bringing them alongside for the tag pole or gaff.

I was fighting a cobia that pulled down the scales at 46kg that nearly pulled me over the side. I was fortunate that my deckie Milo grabbed me by the feet as I didn’t realise it was such a big fish. As I reeled-in the line the fish swam straight for me but when it saw the boat it dived for the bottom nearly taking me with it. One of the drawbacks of fishing a heavy drag is the fish can get you off balance.

Another warning when catching cobia is that the school can often swim along with the catch resulting in a double hook-up. I don’t need to tell you of the danger of having two large fish hooked at the same time.

Best places to fish for these big fish are the wrecks sites of the Karma, the Barjon and the Althea. All reefs will have them moving through this time of year but the divers will tell you that they are on the wrecks all year.

I’m sure if you try these tactics you can pull some monsters from the wrecks. Don’t forget to try some soft plastics while fishing for snapper and cobia as this can create a new dimension to fishing shallow reefs.

gamefish lessons

The gamefishing is happening off 1770 and just starting to happen out at the spit. There is a lot of interest in our gamefishing tournament at Hervey Bay this year and many newcomers are interested to learn the skills needed.

I will be running an introductory course on gamefishing on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September on the boat at the Burnett Heads Marina. The classes will be small and reasonably priced and include time on the water.

The Hervey Bay Boat Gamefish Club will be running their annual gamefishing tournament over three days between the 16-18 of November. This is a great tournament with boats from as far as Sydney coming to fish in our idyllic area.

If you need more details call me Bundaberg Game and Sports Fishing Charters on 0427 590 995 mother shipping is limited and bookings essential. Come in and see us at the Gin Gin hotel and catch up on fishing news or a beer or dinner. Hope to see you in our neck of the woods.

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