Saturday, May 28, 2005

pancing startups

I assume you mean casting, verticle jigging and bottom fishing. I'd prefer casting tackle like 5000 or 6000 Ambassaduer's, C3 models in 5:1 ratio. But if you insist on spinning, I'd go a step lighter. Penn use to make a 4500 series, but I prefer Daiwa for the anti-lock mechanisim, better line twist control, alum. body, and smoother drag. The Daiwa Laguna, 2500 or 3500 would be my preference, and only $70 a reel with two alum spools. These reels work better than Penn with the superlines too. If you fill either reel with 20# superline, or 12#-14# mono you should be fine for all but the big fish during the spring "Flats" fishery. You'd want to go a little heavier than 14# mono on those fish to keep from stressing the fish on long fights. I use 7' graphite rods with a fast action, rated for 3/8 oz. to 1 oz, or 1/2 oz to 1 1/2 oz for that type fishing. The 5500 Penn's will work, but bigger and heavier than necessary. They can get tiring when you get older, and the meat on your arms turns to mush.
As for wirelining...I'd forget that rig all together. I decent trolling outfit with superline and sinker rig is all that is needed for deep trolling. A reel in the 3/0 size, and a rod rated for 20# class is a good outfit. Use 150 yds of 50# superline over a mono backing, a 30' mono leader, and you're ready to drag parachutes, spoons, tamdem's, plug's, hoses, or sinker/bucktail rig's. Wire's ugly!

Abu Garcia Cardinal 672
The new Cardinal 672 is the first Abu Garcia spinning reel I’ve spent much time with. From the first time I picked it up I was impressed with its light 7.8 ounces. I’ve always been drawn to lighter reels, which helps eliminate fatigue over the course of a day of tossing lures.

The patented one-piece aluminum stem/gear box is stronger and maintains gear alignment for the life of the reel. Other features include the even-line-lay oscillation system, oversized line roller, quick spool disconnect system, two skirted spools, Instant Anti-Reverse and reversible handle with soft touch knobs.

The folks at Abu Garcia tell me this light, little powerhouse is the strongest and lightest saltwater spinning reel on the market and is built with corrosion protected stainless steel components. It features the patented Stamina drag system located at the base of the spool. Built with Teflon, graphite and stainless components the Stamina drag has 240 percent more drag surface and produces 35 percent less heat than conventional drags. The drag is sealed for additional saltwater protection.

Even though it was designed for saltwater, it’s also a great freshwater reel, boasting 7 stainless steel bearings and holds 150 yards of 6# test line, 110 yards of 8# and 90 yards of 10# test line. I these line capacities amazing for a reel this light and compact.

Like all the reels in this review I was able to give this a great test in Door County and caught quite a few nice smallies with it, some in the four-pound range. I was pleased with its overall performance. I like the Stamina drag adjustment which is on the reel’s body just below the spool. It’s very easy to use and adjust, along with being very smooth. The bail wire isn’t quite as small as the Symetre, but close. I tend to like a faster gear ration, but the 5.1:1 is still fine. One item that I wish was a little bigger is the Instant Anti-Reverse switch, which is small and on the underside of the reel. When this is located on the underside of the reel, I’d like it to be a little bigger so it’s easier to find in the heat of fighting a big smallie.

Overall I found this to be a very nice reel that retails for $74.95. It also comes in a 674 size that weighs 10.4 ounces and holds 200 yards of 10# test line with a gear ratio of 4.9:1. The 674 carries the same price.

Shimano’s “New” Symetre 1500
Like many of you I’ve been a big fan of the Shimano reels for years and over the past five or six years the Symetre has been my favorite. With this said I was anxiously awaiting the new design, and having a chance to fish it in the new 1500 size. Well, the wait was worth it and I’ve been nothing but impressed. The larger spool now handles four, six and eight pound test line with ease, which makes it perfect for many of us smallie guys who stick with these line weights, or diameters, when using something like Power Pro. The 1500 handles 170 yards of 4# test line, 130 yards of 6# and 90 yards of 8#.

With the new design the Symetre has joined the Stradic, Sustain and Stella as an S Concept family member. The new design offers anglers a bigger spool and smaller body for a lighter more comfortable experience without sacrificing capacity. The Symetre now has Anti-Rust Bearings along with a change to the floating shaft that increases smoothness and durability. The total bearings stay at four ball and one roller bearing. Also new this year is a cold forged aluminum spare spool and amazingly the MSRP actually dropped by $5 to $79.95.

One of the things I liked last year with the new Stradic was the maintenance port for direct drive train lubrication. The Symetre has this feature, though the screw looks different. I’ve had a chance to put quite a few hours on this reel and it continues to impress. I love the fast 6.1:1 gear ratio so when I’m finished making a presentation I can get the lure in fast for another go at those smallies.

I also am a big fan of the small bail wire. It’s very easy to work during the casting and fishing process, without getting in the way. This is a front drag reel, which I prefer. I normally backreel, but when needed, the drag has performed flawlessly and is very smooth. The Instant Anti-Reverse switch is on the underside of the reel. I prefer this switch to be on the back of the reel like it is on the Stradic, but it is big enough to find fairly quickly when you have a big fish on and want to back reel. This 9.5 ounce reel matched with the light Avid rods is a combination that is sure to spoil you.

I dont think the anti-reverse is a warranty repair, it happens alot, so I designate it a poor design. thx for the tips.
Yup I'm 100% salt water, not just light duty though /forums/images/graemlins/waytogo.gif. I used this rod a couple summers ago to catch a 10 pound bonito offshore. Holy crap was that a fight. I also have an Abu Garcia 4500 on an Abu Garcia Conolon rod with spiderwire on it and I love it for heavier lures like spoons and topwaters but for lighter jigs and such it cant cast far enough. I'm lookin at Shimano real heavily and am prety much dead set on an AllStar graphite rod, they are extremely popular around here and have awsome actions. I dont think the anti-reverse is a warranty repair, it happens alot, so I designate it a poor design. thx for the tips.

Right now my main light spinning real rod is a Penn 4400SS mounted on an Uglystick Graphite rod (all graphite, no fiberglass). I dont like it. The anti-reverse on the reel goes out alot requiring the reel to be completely disassembled to squeez two little tabs back together and the action on the rod sux. I'm going to get an AllStar Graphite rod but dont know what kind of reel to get. I was thinkin Shimano but I dont know which one. Anyone have any recomendations? I'm looking for something in the 8 pound test range. Thx

Abu Garcia 6500 C3s are work horse models. Cost around $60-$70 and can take a beating and punishment muskies hand out.
I have owned two for the last several years with zero problems.

Far as rods go, I have a St. Croix Premier heavy action that is a sweet rod. I also have a MH action St Croix and it's great for bucktails and smaller baits but doesn't handle big jerks and cranks as well as the heavy. So, I guess for all purpose, I'd go with the heavy action.

Fig Rig also makes a great rod - I love them and own a MH model that is super light. I like this rod better than the St. Croix, but it's my personal preference Kevin Figgins uses diamondback blanks which if you know rods, are great blanks. If you're unhappy with the action of the rod, send it back and he'll send you a new one, no questions asked.

One thing I would recommend is get the longest rod you can get away with. Depends on how tall you are and what kind of boat you typically fish out of but believe me, today's rods that are 7' - 81/2' feet provide plenty of backbone but make it soooo much easier to cast heavy baits all day. You're back and arms will appreciate it.

If you can wait, I'd recommend hitting one of the muskie shows this winter. Not only can you see and feel everything, you can get some great deals from retailers on a combo rod/reel.

One more thing - IMHO, lose the monofilament. One - it causes you to play a fish much longer, which as most people know, causes greater stress on muskies than other species. Two - 12 to 14lb. mono will snap like nothing on a backlash with a big musky bait. Go with a quality dacron/no stretch line. You can get away w/ as little as 50lb. which has a very small diameter but won't snap on the inevitable birds nest and will save you big time $$ on lures.

Good luck and have fun.

Abu Garcia 6500 C3 is a great reel. I have no trouble at all with mine...they do take some practice though, especially if you are used to an open-faced spinning reel, which is what I use for my light and medium tackle fishing. Abu Garcia 6500 C3 will work great for muskie IF it is properly adjusted for lure weight, etc. I also agree about the line...don't fiddle around with monofilament in anything more than about 14 lb. test, because it WILL make problems in almost any reel. It has too much memory to cast nicely or to properly lay on the reel. Get a braided dacron line and your reel will act 100% better. Also, if you are not used to using a baitcaster, practice in your yard or other open spot for an hour or so before you go fishing. It will pay big dividends in not wasting your valuable fishing time on the water. Get some practice plug like sells and tie on enough of them to equal the weight of your average musky lure (1.25 oz or so) and become confident with your reel. Regarding rods, I have two of them that I use most of the time--1 medium heavy action, and 1 extra heavy action; both of them I bought on sale from Bass Pro Shops, and neither were expensive..both theBass Pro brand---one is a 6 1/2 foot length, and one is a 7 foot length. Read up on muskie fishing or get some of the In-Fisherman videos on Muskie fishing to watch when you can't fish.....they are pretty good in my opinion. See you on the water & good luck!

You have a bunch of options in your price range. It's fun picking out new gear, but I prefer to get my hands on the goods.

There is no doubt that St Croix premier series rods represent one of the best choices. The 6'9" heavy power is one of the most popular all around rods, especially for us guys who dont have multiple combos. If you're primarily going to throw bucktails, go with something longer in a medium-heavy power. They're now available up to 8'0". Figure $120-140

I personally use Shimano Compre rods in 6'6" & 7'0" x-hvy. Not quite as nice (a little heavier & a bit of flex in the mid-section) as the St Croix, but they do the job just fine. They're often reduced at fishing shows, but normally run $70-80.

For a bargin, check out the South Bend trophy tamer in the 6'10" heavy action. It's a nice stick for about $50. I helped a buddy pick out his first musky set up and this stick paired with an Abu 5600c4 is quite nice and affordable.

We had gone to look at the Maina combo, but were not at all impressed.

For reels, the Abu's are by far the most popular. The 5600 size is fine for casting, if you're going to troll step up to the 6600. The c4 series are an excellent value at $60-80.

I use the older tourney series that ran about $150. If I was going to buy a reel today I'd go with the Morrum. They're smooth as silk.

Equally as smooth is the Daiwa Millionaire CV-Z series and I know a lot of people who swear by the Shimano Calcuttas.

Plan on about $200 for a top quality reel like these.

I've chosen to spend a little more on reels and cheat a little on rods and feel this works better.

I made the mistake of buying a mid-price Shimano reel that burned up after 3 days, so I now prefer to drop a little extra coin to guard against disappointment.

Also, I would go with a 5.3:1 or lower gear ratio, it gives you a lot more power and control of bait speed.

If you're shopping online check out: they have all the goodies for serious musky nuts.

Have fun! Rainman

Re: Spinning Reels"
Much like Roe stated, you'll never find one rod and reel setup that will prove to work all the time and in every situation.

That being said, I've found 2 combos that work well for me in all the scenarios that you've outlined.

The first is a 7ft Fenwick HMX Baitcaster Rod ($80) and an Abu Garcia C3 Baitcaster Reel ($100) for the bass and walleye. Spool up with some 30lbs test / 8lbs diameter Stealth and you're good to cast and pull the fish out of anywhere.

The second would be the setup that Roe mentioned. Shimano makes some quality gear, and you get what you pay for. With Shimano you'll get quality and consistency. Pay the extra cash and enjoy the reel that much longer.

Have a good one.

I agree with Travis. I own 3 of the abu center drag reels and i love them. They are by far the best spinning reels I have had. The drag is silky smoth and you can adjust it easier then a front or rear drag reel when fighting a fish. You never have to take your hands off the reel handle to adjust the drag. Just reach down with one finger and adjust it easily. Here is a pic of the reel;

Matt, What's that? I'm not a PA hater. I spent many years in my youth growing up in Lancaster. I think I have a valid point about the Penn's. I don't care what you get, but you asked for suggestions, I gave mine. I have lot's of experience with Penn, Daiwa, Shimano, Garcia,and Quantum reels, and I prefer some over others for specific reasons. I never choose a reel because of it's name, but check the sum of it's parts. Parts availability isn't a big issue to me because I don't expect a reel to need any, and you can get parts for any reel in a few day's today with express shipping.

Here's what I use to choose a reel;

Alum body's are stronger and more precise than graphite reinforced so the bearings and gears stay aligned longer, and offer smoother cranking and casting over a longer period of time.

Ball bearings are not always an asset to a reel. If the stainless bearings are not coated they will still rust, and be less effective than bronze busings. Three bearing surfaces on the spool, two on the main gear shaft, are all that is needed to fully support a spin or casting reel for light tackle fishing. More than that can be some asset, or none at all. For the record, I have reels that have no ball bearings that have lasted as long as those with lots of bearings, same reel, same model, just different bearings.

I look at the size of the drag surface of a reel, the bigger the better. I like multi-disc drags, and wet drags for light tackle are smoother than dry disc drags. They also aren't effected by water since they are oil impregnated, and they don't wear the metal surfaces like a dry drag, so they stay smooth if they are smooth to start.

The anti-reverse is important to me because I am nearly entirely converted to superlines. If your reel clunks when you set the hook you will have problems with the gears, or anti-reverse pawl. That clunk is caused by the system backing up until the gear engages, and it shocks the gears when it locks up. Instant anti-reverse is created by a one-way ball bearing on the spool or main drive shaft, and the gears feel no shock when you set the hook. Much better when using no stretch lines.

Daiwa reels have a unique gear oscillation that spools line on the reel better to keep the line from digging into itself when under pressure. The spools are long spool types that offer less problems when using superlines. The Daiwa's also have a system that helps to eliminate line twist when retrieving line. Many people that have problems using superlines on spinning tackle are using the wrong reels. I went through that.

I want a spinning reel that closes the bail manually and mechanically, so I can close it manually to help eliminate line twist, but able to close mechanically by turning the handle in a hurry.

I like a reel that has a 5:1 gear ratio or lower (4:1) because it gives more cranking power. Some of the faster reels (6:1)are hard to crank on fish due to the higher gear ratio's.

Penn makes a good reel, but I think there are better reels on the market for the same money. I have no aliegance (sp) to any company, but I do expect a reel to last, not currode if it's intended to be used in a salt environment, and give good overall performance if maintained. I clean every reel I use in saltwater every year. That's a total disassembly, cleaning and relubing, and inspecting all the parts. I can honestly say that I have ordered more parts for Penn reels than any other reel that I have ever owned with the exception of Garcia/Cardinal spinners that the superlines have gutted the gears on. I still have a 750SS surf spinning reel, but I wouldn't buy it again. The line roller lost it's chrome plating the first season, the reel was hard to crank on Tuna and White Marlin, and the drag had to be customized to get the flat spot out of it. I have experience with Daiwa Black Gold spinning reels that have taken tuna with much better drags and better cranking power, and for many years with little service other than a cleaning every few seasons. One only needs to check the charter fleet to see what works, and watch the saltwater fishing show's to get the drift on what the trends are. Penn didn't get sold because it was doing well, but that it couldn't keep up with the technology. Shimano has taken over the offshore scene, and for good reason. I'm only guessing this, but I would guess that nationally, not locally, Daiwa has taken the bulk of the surf spinning market, Shimano the inshore light tackle conventional market, Garcia/Ambassaduer the surf conventional market, and Shimano or Daiwa the inshore spinning market, and Daiwa the offshore spinning market.

I have no intent to offend the Penn supporters, I grew up using them. But the facts are that the company has not been able to keep up with the industry. I hope that the new owners will have the financial backing to support new development in the future, and Penn will once again be the leaders in new inovations and product design. It will be hard to keep up with the mega companies that have the resources to fund huge research and development teams, and keep making improvements to the existing product lines.

I don't think you can go wrong on rod purchases as long as you stick with a company that backs it products. From a past rod builder's perspective, I can attest that all componets are not equal. If the blanks are graphite, I would want IM6 for saltwater, and if the guides and reel seats aren't Fuji, I'd continue looking. No company spends a bundle on parts, and the extra cost should come from the warranty. The high end rods are seldom worth the money when it comes to performance, but the company should and usually does give better service on repairs or replacements. I consider high end at $200 and more for inshore sticks, and have never seen the advantage. I'd rather have two rods at $80 each than one at $200. When I asked Dave Whitlock at a flytying seminar what rod I should buy for flyfishing he recommended a St Croix, or something in that line. No need to go above that priceline because I'd never realize the difference. Most of my inshore rods are Cabela graphite's intended for freshwater use, and some are custom built on Lamiglass blanks. Most are at least 15 years old, and some have green stuff on the reel seats. All are still in fairly good condition, good guides, and the cork handles are in good shape. I think they run $80 today, and I would buy them again.

Research all the options, keep an open mind when shopping, and do some comparison between products. Buy what you decide is best for you, and don't expect to get an overwhelming majority to agree on any one product here or anywhere else. It's great that we can all give an opinion, but you still have to decide,

Good luck.

As far as a spinning reel goes I think the major problem you would have would be to find a good reel with a low enough gear ratio, so as though you dont get worn out casting big muskie lures all day. I would imagine that you would get tired out pretty quick. Other than that everything that the other people have mentioned would work out great. I would however suggest that you stick with a C3 rather than a C4 because of the same concept of the lower gear ratio making the retrieve easier as well as allowing you to work crankbaits and jerkbaits more effectively. Also if you do buy an Abu Garcia C3 or C4 you cant expect them to last as long as a calcutta or a morrum. Under heavy use you will need to replace or have them repaired every couple of seasons. Good luck

Steamy ninety-degree days and a scorching mid-day sun are a clear signal that the peak of the fishing season along the Mississippi Gulf Coast has sure 'nough arrived. While front beach, pier and jetty fishermen must look to the wee hours of the morning to do battle with the likes of perennial favorites - red drum and spotted seatrout, offshore fishing is dominated by mid-day action with migratory pelagic species like Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and everyone's number one heavyweight contender - the cobia.

Whether you know them as ling, cabio, lemonfish, as the locals call them, or Rachycentrum canadum, as they are scientifically termed, cobia are clearly the dominant glamour species among the many offshore offerings this time of the year. And for good reason. At 70, 80, 90 or even 100 pounds or more, these big bruisers can provide some of the most exciting, rod-bending, tackle-busting, nerve-wracking action around.

Dark brown, with a single dorsal fin, and frequently seen near the surface of the water, large cobia are easily mistaken for sharks in the water by the untrained eye. In fact, cobia are oftentimes found in association with sharks, manta rays and other large fish that cast a significant shadow. Such is their strong affinity for the shade.

Cobia season officially gets underway in the early spring with the first sighting of a cobe's hulking mass off that area known as the Horn Island Bar or any one of the more distant oil and gas structures. But because of unpredictable weather early on, catches of these first arrivals can be spotty. As weather conditions begin to stabilize and the fish continue their movement into the waters off the state's barrier islands and later on even into the Sound, expectations of catching a big, muscle-bound cobe rise with the mercury. Still, there are plenty of local cobia enthusiasts that, after a long winter layoff from fishing, are eager to pit their skills against one of these early season fish.

Weather conditions notwithstanding, cobia tournaments abound along the northern Gulf during the early part of the fishing year for it is now that some of the season's largest fish will be taken. The 8th Annual Gorenflo's Cobia Tournament, Mississippi's sole cobia-only contest is usually held the last weekend in April; and it draws serious cobia fishermen from all along the coast.

By midsummer, virtually every can, buoy, daymarker or other navigational structure within the Sound will host a small population of resident lemonfish; and the rockpiles on both East and West Ship Islands will attract schools of smaller fish as well. And there are literally hundreds of such structures along the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida to Texas for fishermen to explore. Even flotsam and jetsam and rafts of sargassum or other seaweed that casts a significant shadow can provide a temporary holding area for lemonfish. But anchored-up shrimp boats are among the most productive structures of all.

A shade-loving species by nature, the cobia actively seeks out such structures to set up housekeeping for a spell. It is that behavior too that makes this species a popular one with the fisherman. As everyone knows, finding the fish is oftentimes half the battle; and locating cobia in midsummer is truly child's play...

If locating the fish is easy, catching them is quite another story. A naturally curious fish, the cobia cannot resist inspecting anything that comes within close proximity of his shadowy realm; and it is common to have a big lemonfish swim right up to the boat to investigate. Even more commonly, cobia are notorious for ushering a plug all the way back to the boat with casual disinterest. Though these fish are not easily fooled into striking an artificial bait, they can be angered into hitting a bait that they would otherwise just ignore. Slapping the water with a paddle is one technique that often will rouse a nearby cobia into action. And cutting figure eights in the water with a big plug right at the boat will often elicit a strike from a follower too.

Once a fish is hooked, the battle quickly turns into a tug-of-war involving three players -you, the cobia, and the nearby structure. If you haven't already figured this out, it is a game in which you are outnumbered two to one. The structure, you see, is clearly on the side of the fish. If you let the structure get between you and the fish, the game is over; and since both you and the fish are moving and the structure is stationary, such a tug-of-war is much more than the ordinary give and take that you expect when hooking a big fish.

Some time ago, I had the occasion to venture out into the sound in search of saltwater specimens for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' Wildlife Heritage Museum in Jackson. Mike Stegall, head aquarist for the museum, had decided that a saltwater display would be make an interesting addition attraction; and he was eager to get started by collecting a variety of specimens. Tops on his list was a small cobia in the five to ten-pound class.

Our 32-foot Lafitte skiff nudged grudgingly forward against the gentle, but powerful rollers that pushed in out of the south as everyone aboard strained to see what the dark shallows around the daymarker might hold. Rods at the ready, fishing buddy Mike Buchanan and I were poised on the bow to cast our offerings at any likely candidates. Just a few feet from the barnacle-encrusted structure now, we would catch a glimpse of two hulking long shadows right up against the buoy. Like a couple of submerged logs in the water, they showed little movement to betray their presence.

I was the first to cast. A red and white floater - a Norm Bait - with a quarter ounce chartreuse jig trailer is tied to the end of my line. Productive with the likes of trout, reds and bluefish earlier that morning, the Norm Bait was a sure- fire winner for me; and I had no inclination to change baits. Buck too stuck with a red and white 52-M-11 Mirrolure that had made an equally impressive showing hours before.

Six and a half-foot graphite rods and Ambassadeur reels spooled with twelve- pound-test monofilament made up our lightweight arsenal. No match for a big lemonfish, these lightweight rigs are perfectly suited for the smaller fish that we would likely encounter in the Sound. Though current state law requires that all cobia under a thirty-three-inch fork length be released, that day we were in the market for much smaller aquarium specimens.

The big Norm-Bait hit the water with a splat just inches in front of the buoy, its chartreuse trailer fluttering tantalizingly downward. Right off, my plug disappeared in an explosion of green water as one of the shadows streaked out to greet it. Seconds later, Buck's plug too was snatched rudely beneath the depths by the fish's companion. The hot, mid-day air was filled with a fine, cooling mist as line spewed from both reels. As cobia go, fish in the ten-pound class, like these, are mere babes; but even these little fellows are formidable opponents on light tackle. My rod was bent into a tight arc by the surging fish as it made repeated attempts to reach the safety of the buoy's shadows where a mere touch with the barnacles would mean instant freedom. Lucky for me though, the drag washers on my Ambassadeur would take their toll as they grudgingly gave line; and in several minutes, I would bring the feisty lemonfish to net. Moments later, Buck would make it a double at the boat.

"Did you see the fish that were following these guys in", he asked? Sure enough, there were at least half-a-dozen other cobia that flashed as they appeared to urge on their hooked buddies all the way to the boat. Releasing the first fish, we were quick to get out baits back into the water. Just like before, both rods bent double almost simultaneously under the weight of another pair of good fish. "Is this fun, or what"? We could hardly restrain ourselves as we caught one fish right after the other. And when the action at buoy 67 slowed to a halt, we had at least twenty or thirty other markers left to check out. By day's end we had managed to catch a variety of saltwater fish for the new aquarium display at the museum, including a handsome pair of juvenile cobia. Even now, the small cobia that we had caught that summer day entertain visitors to the Wildlife Heritage Museum where they have since grown to much more formidable proportions.

That day, we would catch no larger fish; but that does not go to say that there aren't plenty of record-class cobia available to Mississippi fishermen. The Mississippi state record fish has topped the 100-pound mark for a number of years now, and there are quite a few fish in the 80 and even 90-pound-classes taken each season. Charter boat captains from Mexico Beach, Florida to Gulfport, Mississippi report their highest lemonfish catches from late March to about the first of May when the fish migrate very close to the beach as they continue their movement in a predominantly westerly direction. Creel survey data, individual catch reports and tournament records also show that these fish can be taken all summer long and even into the early fall off Mississippi waters.

Though cobia can certainly be taken using light tackle and artificial baits, most dedicated to this sport prefer to fish using natural baits and tackle with substantially more backbone. A live seacatfish either free-lined or fished beneath a float is among the most popular baits used by these specialists. Live white trout, pinfish, shrimp eels or other small baitfish will also whet the lemonfish appetite. The usual terminal rig for natural bait fishermen in the know includes a number 5 to 7/0 hook attached to a heavy monofilament shock leader. A feather jig sweetened with a piece of squid is also a good alternative for those that can't quite decide between natural and artificial baits.

While typical trout and redfish casting outfits or equivalently-sized spinning outfits are suitable for smaller lemonfish, heavier gear is in order for the big boys. Penn Internationals or Senators spooled with fifty to eighty-pound-test monofilament are de rigeur for wrestling muscular lemonfish to the boat. For the purists that prefer to fool the big fish with artificials, feather jigs are among the top-producing baits. Large topwater and subsurface plugs like Mirrolures, Zara Spooks and such are also quite effective.

Increasingly popular among Gulf Coast fishermen is the challenge of tackling a big cobia on the fly rod. Folks interested in this approach will find ten-weight rods to be ideal for doing battle with one of these gamesters. Any of the floating/diving flies like the Dahlberg Saltwater Diver would be a good bet for taking cobia, and a standard saltwater popper would also be a sound choice. For deep-running offerings, Blanton's Whistler series also makes an effective cobia enticer. Hot-pink, chartreuse, and the universal favorite red and white color combinations are all good choices when fishing the green waters of Mississippi Sound for cobia.

Regardless of the bait a fisherman might prefer to use, chumming can significantly increase one's chances of attracting and catching one of these fish.

Gulfport's Bert Jones Launch is one of the best staging areas for anyone interested in prospecting the navigational buoys in Mississippi Sound for cobia this time of the year. Heading due south from the mouth of the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor, fishermen will find a steady, regularly spaced supply of these structures all the way to Ship Island Pass. Half-way out, the Gulfport Ship Channel intersects with the Intracoastal Waterway, and this East-West channel provides yet another source of potential cobia hotspots. Of course fishermen can put in at the Biloxi, Long Beach or Pass Christian Small Craft Harbors as well. A quick run south will have them within casting distance of the nearest day marker and whatever surprises its shadows might bring...

Cobia Research Update
Is there a single stock of Rachycentrum canadum in the Gulf and Atlantic, or are there two distinct groups? Are there smaller groups with a common gene pool? These are just some of the questions that Sea-Grant-supported researcher Jim Franks of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory has been asking. Equally at home sectioning cobia otoliths on a saw, talking to a group of students about his research or winching a big cobia to the boat with a Penn Senator, Jim has committed much of his life to the study of this magnificent species and approaches his work with total dedication.

Initially funded through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim's project first got underway in 1988. Then, the major focus was on evaluating the condition of cobia populations within state waters by analyzing their growth and migration patterns. Jim was also enthusiastic about trying to work out the basic requirements for successfully growing cobia in captivity. His Gulf-wide study has so far produced some interesting results.

By DNA-fingerprinting cobia samples from the Atlantic and Gulf regions Franks and Patricia Biesiot, professor of biology at the University of Southern Mississippi, have shown that, because of their wide-ranging migrations, cobia in both regions are genetically similar and thus comprise a single breeding stock. Mississippi-tagged fish have turned up as far away as Bimini in the Bahamas and along the Atlantic seaboard. Similarly, fish tagged off the Florida Keys during the winter months were caught off Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas coastlines the following spring. The tagging work is an important aspect of this research, and literally hundreds of fishermen have participated in the program since its inception in 1989, tagging more than 5,000 fish. To date, nearly 350 of these fish have been recaptured. To successfully carry out the labor-intensive tagging work in a cost-effective manner, Jim provides 1,400 volunteer fishermen with a complete tagging kit including tagging sticks, tags, raw-data sheets and instructions. The enthusiastic anglers do the rest. Anyone interested in participating in this exciting tagging effort can do so. Simply call (601) 872- 4202, and ask for Jim.

The significance of this research for the management of this important species points out the need for coordinated effort on the part of both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils, the federal bodies responsible for management of fisheries in the offshore waters of the Fishery Conservation Zone and the states that share responsibility for cobia management in their respective waters.

Data from the study so far indicate a general migration of cobia toward the southeastern Gulf as the season progresses. The vast majority of the fish will move out of state waters entirely when water temperatures begin to drop in the late fall and early winter. Once temperatures begin to rise again in late March or early April, the fish will once again reappear in our waters.


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