Alan Roberts and I were fishing on an offshore structure off Keaton Beach where, on two previous trips, I had spotted large cobia. The first time, a friend and I spotted two cobia, both about four feet long. One took my friend’s bait right beside the boat, but spit it out after a 20-foot run.On the second sighting, one big cobia bobbed my cork, spit out the live shiner, then moved just out of casting range and rolled around as I took pictures and swore vengeance.
Alan, being aware of my two previous experiences, was working his shiner and giving me a lecture on the perils of trying to work two rods. He said if one took his line, he was going to have the pole in his hand for a quick strike. I was fumbling around, trying to put out a second shiner when I heard him holler, “I got one!” I looked over and saw MY fish on his line. We sprang into action, immediately tangling every rod we had, including the ones not even in the water. I spent a precarious minute or two chasing his line around my 13-foot Lee Craft with an armload of rods, while he tried to keep the cobia busy. I’ll never know how, but I managed to free the line. The fish turned and went under the boat, and we realized we had a 4-foot cobia. Alan unhooked the anchor, which we had already rigged with a jug for easy retrieval, and we moved away from the structure.
To our disbelief, the fish didn’t make a dash for the structure, but stayed under the boat. He swung beside us on a short pass, and Alan hollered, “Gaf him! Gaf Him!” I said it was too soon to gaf him, because he wasn’t tired. He said to gaf him anyway, so I did. The fish snapped the gaf in half, then started his first of five or six runs. So, there we were, in a 13-foot boat. miles offshore, with a mad cobia, two hours of light, and no gaf.
The fish (by now named “Nate”) alternated between 100-yard runs and passes at the boat, looking for some way to get hung. Alan continued to fight Nate, using 20 pound test-line on a baitcaster while I started rigging a homemade gaf from a cobia hook and what was left of my gaf handle. After about an hour, the fish was tired and passing pretty close to the boat. Alan said to gaf the tail end, so I wouldn’t shear the line. I did, and that was a big mistake, ’cause when the fish was about one-third out of the water, he REALLY got mad. He straightened out the hook on the makeshift gaf and started another 100-yard run. We were perplexed. We thought about easing along and swimming him to shore, but the way he kept passing under our boat made us leery of putting our 15 H.P. Suzuki back in the water.
We then started looking for a boat to maybe bring us a gaf. No one was in sight! So, I started working on my second makeshift gaf. After another 15 or 20 minutes of fight, the fish began swimming alongside the boat, obviously tired. We could see where I had gaffed him on the first try, and he was bleeding. We decided our only option was to hook him in the mouth with my redesigned gaf. I put on some gloves, grabbed the gaf in one hand and the opposite side of the boat in the other, and snagged him in the mouth. Bad mistake!!! He jerked me to his side, at which time Alan fell in the same direction. and I was forced to jump out of the boat before I fell out.
At this point, things looked pretty grim. The gaf man, first mate and captain were swimming around with a large, mad, bleeding cobia. I couldn’t get back in the boat without sinking it or having Alan lean out the other side, so I started chasing the cobia around the boat. He was tired. but on the other hand, I’m no Mark Spitz. I tried holding onto the side of the boat and gilling him with the other hand, but he kept evading me.
At this point, the guy holding the rod was making references to my family as well as the fish’s, so I decided desperate times called for desperate measures. I snuck around the bow and met Nate head-on, eyeball to eyeball. I grabbed him with both hands around his gill plates and thrust him out of the water. I sank…..and he didn’t clear the side of the boat. While standing on the bottom with a 57 1/2 pound cobia in your hands, you wonder if all this is really sport. I bobbed up for air, still clutching the fish. Alan hollered that he’d lean over, and maybe I could get the fish over the side. So, I went back to the bottom, sprang up, and sure enough, he cleared the side and went aboard…..along with about 50 gallons of water. Alan picked up a club and put the fish in a deep sleep. We whooped and hollered, took a few pictures, then headed back out about a mile and picked up our anchor. We speculated how much a video of all this might be worth and what the title might be. We figure “priceless” and “Abbot and Costello Go Fishing” would be about right. But, in spite of ourselves, we’re having fried cobia along with a few laughs this week, while we plan our next trip.
By the way, where can I get a good gaf?