The first step in earning a notch
was to catch bait fish — pinfish,
yellow tails and small bluefish — for
those on the pier. This entailed working the
surf and then along the creeks and marshes
between the mainland and the old Moore’s
Inlet, where the Holiday Inn is today. They had to
move fast and keep at it because bait fish can only
survive about 30-40 minutes out of flowing water.
The kids on the hunt for bait fish had to replenish
the supply in the pier coolers throughout the day.
On the pier, cobia were lured by large, wire
baskets holding bait fish. The bait baskets were
lowered into the ocean off the end of the pier. Soon,
the naturally inquisitive cobia could be seen nudg-ing
the basket trying to get at the bait. Using poles
with live bait, the fishermen would skillfully hook
the targeted fish and begin the process of bringing
in this fierce fighter.
More marinas led to more fishing out of boats.
Built in 1966, the north jetty at Masonboro Inlet
became a prime place to catch cobia. Anchored off
the jetty along Masonboro Island, fishermen still
used wire baskets filled with bait fish to get cobia
close enough to hook. Boats would have as many as
five or six poles, each using a single
hook with the live bait and a couple of
treble hooks on the leader.
The next improvement was the
development of live wells, tanks that
kept water circulating to keep the
bait fish alive. When they became
available, covering more ground by
trolling became feasible.
Taylor says the most fun he ever
had fishing was cruising along the
Florida coast with its sparkling clear-as-
glass water hunting cobia.
The boat would run parallel to the
beach while a spotter on the tuna
tower looked for manta rays, the
big ones, averaging 15 feet across.
Their huge fins flap like giant wings,
stirring up the ocean floor as they
glide along, dislodging all kinds of
fish, shrimp, and crabs that cobia feed
on. Each ray can have from as many
as 25 cobia following it, and a boat
bringing in a dozen cobia at a time is
Top: Cindy Alexander held the state record for cobia for many years with this 90-pound specimen
caught in 1967 aboard the Winner Queen out of Carolina Beach. Above: Cobia can sometimes be
found swimming with manta rays in the clear waters off Florida.
may 2021 22
RICHARD WHITCOMBE COURTESY OF KIT TAYLOR