This Spring my good buddy Chris Butler invited me to fish with him in the annual Beaufort Yacht Club Tournament. I’m still learning these waters, so any opportunity I get to go with someone who has been around Beaufort for a while is a big win for me. Chris owns Butler Marine so I knew we would spend the day in a very nice boat. However, I had no idea he was brining a ringer with him in Ja Malphrus!
Ja is a Beaufort area native and he knows the fishing very well. Our day started with a 5 a.m. launch from Chris’ dock which was made a little easier by cracking a Bud Light at about 5:15. We made our way down the Beaufort River and out the Port Royal Sound towards Hilton Head. The first thing we needed to do was to catch some bait, which Ja referred to as Pogies. To find the Pogies we first had to find the Pelicans. We spent about 15 minutes looking for flocks of Pelicans diving for fish. Once we found a good size group of Pelicans we slowed the boat down and Ja retrieved his 12 foot casting net. Ja pointed Chris to navigate toward the fish, which as hard as I tried, I couldn’t see. He cast the net twice and we had about 200 Pogies on the deck of the boat. We put about 75 in the bait well to fish with and the rest in the ice box to cut up for chum.
Once we had the bait we made our way toward the Betsy Ross ship wreck. This was about a 20 mile trek offshore, but well worth it. Chris and Ja navigated the wreck site while looking at the GPS and fish finder for structure and fish. Once we dropped the anchor we put 4 lines in the water - two on the bottom and two on the top. Within minutes we had something on one of the bottom rigs and it was big! Our best guess was a big shark, but Ja thought if we could get it to the boat the Cobia’s we were fishing for would follow it to the top. The shark eventually cut itself loose before we could get it to the boat, but once that happened we started getting bites on the bottom rigs.
Ja pulled in the first Cobia after about 30 minutes. It was a decent size (about 20-25 lbs.), and it was good to have the first fish in the boat for the tournament. A few minutes later we had another one on a bottom rig. I took the rod and fought the fish for a good 30 minutes. I had it close to the boat several times while Chris and Ja decided whether or not we should keep. Starting to feel exhaustion and the distinct possibility that I might hurl if the fight didn’t end, I told Chris that the next time I got the fish close to the boat to either gaff it or cut the line because I was done! Thankfully Chris got the fish in the boat and I had my first Cobia!
Cobia are a strange fish. When you bring one to the boat, there are usually 3 or 4 more behind it just curious to see what is going on. The next fish we had on, I took again and we got it close to the boat. At that point Ja took one of the top water rigs and sight casted at the group of followers behind it. Sure enough, the biggest one in the group hit the bait and we had 2 fish on at the same time. After crossing over each other several times, we decided to cut my line and make sure we brought in the biggest fish. I would guess we were out at the wreck for about 2 hours. We caught 5 Cobia and kept 3.
After catching the Cobia we headed inshore to finish the tournament. We needed a Flounder, a Red, a Trout and one other specie. While we didn’t have as much luck inshore, we did eventually get on a school of Reds and had a lot of fun. For me, Red are the most fun fish to catch. They are all over the rivers and creeks around Beaufort and they always put up a great fight. After many beers and an ice box full of fish, our day ended at a fish camp for the “weigh in”. We ended up taking third place for the Cobia with our largest being about 45 lbs. The winner was what I thought was a massive 55 lbs. fish. However, reading the Island Packet later I learned someone had caught one this Spring in the Beaufort River that weighed over 100 lbs.
I have to say this is the most fun day of fishing I have had since moving to Beaufort! This is an awesome spot to be if you want to get outside and have a blast. If you are in the area and would like to go fishing, I cannot recommend Ja enough. He can be reached at the Old House Club (www.oldhouseclubsc.com). Of course you can’t fish without a boat, so if you are in the area and looking to buy new or used, call Chris at Butler Marine (www.butlermarine.com).