"The cobia are making their fall migration during October, and many times we catch more cobia in the fall than we do during the spring migration," said Capt. Kenny Bellais of Fish-On Charters based at the Isle of Capri. "These fish are coming from the west and going back to the east and down to the Florida Keys."
However, a location change is necessary to catch these fish.
"In the fall, the cobia won't be running the beaches like they often are in the spring," Ballais said. "We find the cobia more on structures like reefs, rigs, anchor chains, the props of big ocean-going vessels and channel markers. We fish the ship-staging area behind Horn Island, since usually six or eight big ocean-going vessels are anchored up waiting on a berth in Pascagoula Pass. We fish around the anchor chains or the sterns of these big boats for the best fishing. Most of the cobia we catch during the fall will weigh 30 to 40 pounds or more."
Because the cobia have experienced heavy fishing pressure all year long, Bellais believes the best bait is live bait, particularly hardtails or croakers. He looks for cobia holding high in the water so he can cast live bait to them.
However, if the cobia aren't in sight, Bellais encourages his anglers to drop cobia jigs all the way to the bottom and pump the lures up to the surface.
"Most of the time, the cobia won't take the jigs, but they'll follow the jigs up so then we can cast live bait to them," Bellais explained.
Bellais uses 50-pound-test main line, a barrel swivel with about 9 feet of 80-pound-test fluorocarbon leader and a No. 7/0 Tru-Turn hook.
He hooks the live bait in the mouth, casts it out and brings it back in without drowning it.
However, hooking cobia in October isn't nearly as hard as catching the cobia.
"To put a fish in the boat, you've got to have a captain with his hand on the throttle," Bellais said. "As soon as that cobia takes the bait and the angler sets the hook, the captain has to shift the boat into reverse and back up hard and fast to put enough power on the angler, the rod and the line to pull the cobia away from the anchor chain, the rudder and/or the buoy.
"If you don't back up as soon as the cobia's hooked, the fish has a really good chance of cutting the line by taking it under the boat or wrapping it around the anchor chain."
When you hook one cobia and get it away from the structure, often more cobia holding on that same piece of structure will follow the hooked cobia to the surface. Then you can catch more than one cobia.
Often a quick-handed angler and a knowledgeable captain can catch one to four cobia off the same structure.
You also might catch a king mackerel, a jack crevalle or a number of other fish holding in the shade of these giant vessels.
Kings are caught in the same locations, Bellais said.
"We've caught 25- and 30-pound king mackerel fishing behind these anchored boats," he said. "October is a prime month for king mackerel."
Mississippi's king mackerel fishing is known nationwide, partly because of the annual Southern Kingfish Association tournament held at the Isle of Capri every October.
To catch the big kings, many of these tournament anglers fish in water depths of 180 feet or more around the 990 block, about 25-miles offshore, or at block 265 around the Horseshoe Rigs. Still others will run 50 to 75 miles or more offshore to secret spots they've discovered in years past.
"The real secret to finding kings nearshore or offshore is to locate the clean water," Bellais advised. "King mackerel like that crystal-clear water the Mississippi Coast often gets in the fall, especially when our area hasn't had very much rain.
"You generally can find clear water two or three miles south of Horn or Ship islands."
Bellais most often fishes a Sea Witch in blue, white or pink and adds a belly strip from a bonito as a trailer.
Anglers catch numbers of kings close to shore that weigh from 10 to 25 pounds, but rarely the giant king mackerel weighing 40 to 60 pounds.
"When we're fishing for king mackerel, we use 50-pound-test main line, three arm-lengths of 120-pound-test leader line and a feather duster on the end of the leader," Bellais said. "If the water's rough, we'll put a lead in front of the duster, but if the water's calm, we don't use any lead at all."
Redfish, blackfish, blacktip sharks, tarpon, Spanish mackerel and speckled trout
This month the redfish also will be in high numbers on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, as will the blackfish (aka tripletails) and blacktip sharks.
"As long as the water stays warm, we still can catch blackfish," Bellas explained. "But when that water starts getting cold, the blackfish will leave like many of our other species.
"The redfish are here year round, until the bait leaves. Plenty of pogies means the redfish and the blacktip sharks will produce outstanding fishing."
When red minnows move in there are other options.
"The red minnows also mean we'll start seeing tarpon and occasionally catching them when we're trolling for king or Spanish mackerel," Bellais said. "The Spanish mackerel also will be relatively easy to catch close to shore, with the fall Spanish weighing up to 5 pounds.
"We haven't mentioned the speckled trout and slot reds, but October and November are two of the best months for these two inshore species."