John's Journal...

Summer Fishing off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

Summer Cobia with Captain Mike Foto

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has some fantastic fishing, andalthough you may want to target a particular species of fish on your fishing trip, you never really know what you’ll catch. Let’s take a look at offshore fishing in July out of Biloxi, Mississippi, with Captain Mike Foto of the “Fish Finder” charter boat.

I saw three dark shadows coming up under the boat while I was fishing with Captain Mike Foto on the “Fish Finder” charter boat out of Biloxi, Mississippi. Click to enlargeWe were fishing over an artificial reef located 1/2-mile from a large oil platform out in the Gulf of Mexico. “This is a small, pyramid-style reef that won’t even show-up on sonar unless you drive right over it,” Foto explains. “Most fishermen out of Biloxi fish the oil and the gas platforms because they hold a number of baitfish and sportfish. Unfortunately, since the rigs are obvious structure, they receive a ton of fishing pressure. A little unmarked reef like this one rarely gets any fishing pressure. So, our chances of catching snapper, grouper and maybe even triggerfish are greater on this little reef than on thebig rigs.”

As I watched the three shadows under the boat get closer to the surface, I identified them as cobia, one of which was a keeper. As most Gulf Coast observers know, the cobia run is usually in the spring. However, a large group of resident cobia hold in the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas Coast. “On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we catch cobia from March through October,” Foto reports. “The cobia generally hold on wrecks, reefs or buoys in the channel. When the cobia are hungry, they’ll take jigs and dead bait. But when they’re not particularly hungry, live bait, like eels, pinfish, large shrimp or even saltwater catfish, with their fins cut off make excellent cobia bait.” On an average day of bottom fishing, you may pick-up one or two cobia. But if you’re specifically targeting the cobia, you should do much better.

The cobia circled the boat, and we dropped downpieces of pogey to them to begin chumming. Finally, my son John hooked one of the cobia, and the battle ensued. Cobia generally have tough mouths, so you Click to enlargeneed to set the hook fairly hard. But to land a cobia, you must play it down and try not to boat the cobia while it’s green. John did an excellent job of playingthe cobia and bringing it to the gaff. “On a good day of cobia fishing, we can catch from two to four cobia larger than the limit (37 inches from the nose to the fork of the tail),” Foto explains. “Catching cobia that weigh up to 80 pounds isn’t uncommon in our section of the Gulf.” The limit is two cobia per person, and the undersized cobia can be caught, tagged and released. The Gulf of Mexico has an extensive cobia-tagging program being conducted by Dr. Jim Franks and Read Click to enlargeHendon from the University of Southern Mississippi at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss. You can call (228) 872-4202 or email to learn more. Through this program, Franks and Hendon have dispelled many false assumptions about cobia and have learned that:
* a population of cobia does remain in the Gulf of Mexico year-round, usually holding offshore during the winter months.
* research tends to indicate that not all the cobia come back from the mouth of the Mississippi River and return to south Florida during the fall. Probably some cobia travel all the way to Mexico, catch the Gulf Stream and ride it back to south Florida. As more tagging research becomes available, we’ll keep you posted. Foto will catch, tag and release 20 to 25 cobia a year in an effort to increase the number of tagged cobia in the Gulf of Mexico, so researchers can learn more about this delicious-eating sportfish.

For more information on fishing with Captain Mike Foto, visit, call
601-528-9562 or 228-860-0314, or email To learn more about Mississippi’s great vacation opportunities, go to, call 1.866.SEE.MISS (733-6477), or email For a great place to stay during your trip to Mississippi, call the Isle of Capri in Biloxi, Mississippi at 1-800-THE-ISLE (843-4753), or visit

Tomorrow: Sharks and Porpoises

Check back each day this week for more about "Summer Fishing off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast"

Day 1: Summer Cobia with Captain Mike Foto
Day 2: Sharks and Porpoises
Day 3: Spanish and King Mackerel
Day 4: Take a Family Shrimping Trip
Day 5: Shaggy’s Harbor Bar and Grill


Entry 520, Day 1