Cobia are large, which makes them a fantastic gamefish. With long runs and aggressive power, they are a prized gamefish for any angler. Cobia are also known by various other names: Lemonfish, Ling and Crab Eater.
Cobia can be caught year-round on both coasts. They do migrate throughout the year, so singling out specific locations can be a bit tricky. Generally, Cobia like to stay down south during the winter and up north during the summer.
What do Cobia look like?
It is said that Cobia look like sharks when under the water. With their somewhat large dorsal fin and their dark tops and white under bellies, it may be easy to confuse them with a small shark. Adult Cobia will boast a dark stripe that extend from the gills to the tail. The dark line tends to lighten as they grow. Juvenile Cobia will have alternating black and white horizontal stripes. As if the stripe isn’t enough of an identifying trademark, Cobia will also have a series of sharp ‘fin-lets’ that extend from the back of the head to the beginning of the dorsal fin.
The most common weights for these gamefish range from 20-50 pounds but can be upwards of 80-100 pounds. They can range from 2-6 feet in length.
Rules and Regulations
The Gulf and Atlantic coast state waters regulate fish differently. The Gulf state waters are from shore to 9 miles out, while Atlantic state waters are from shore to 3 miles out. With these strict regulations, be sure you have a valid Florida fishing license on you while you are fishing. Lucky for our Florida residents, Cobia can be fished for year-round off both coasts!
The Gulf and Atlantic coast regulations require a 33-inch fork length. The bag limit in the gulf is 1 per person per day or 2 per vessel, whichever is less. The Atlantic coast’s daily bag limit is 1 per person or 6 per vessel, whichever is less. Cobia regulations also include the use of only the following legalized gear: hook and line, spears/multi-forked gigs and cast or seine nets.
Where can I find plenty of Cobia?
Cobia like their water at about room temperature, meaning they are a migratory species, so finding them in specific locations is rather difficult. They like to migrate to waters that range from about 68-72 degrees. During the winter, Cobia can be found in south Florida, both inshore and offshore. Once spring hits, they move more northward on both coasts. During the summer, the panhandle and the northeast Atlantic coast are the places to be.
These creatures tend to stick to the inlets and bays, whether inshore or nearshore. They can be found around structures like pier pilings, buoys/markers and wrecks/artificial reefs. They can be seen swimming near the surface or down deep near any of these structures. During the summer, look for Cobia around bridges, piers, buoys and markers. Throughout spring and fall, fish for Cobia off your local beaches.
Cobia are also known to stick close to larger predators like manta rays and sharks. They can also frequently be caught around popular trout fishing spots, like grass flats along the gulf coast.
Tips & Tricks for catching your Cobia
Cobia are known for having unpredictable fight patterns. If pressured right, Cobia can put up a long and hard fight. They have great stamina. A typical fight will consist of long, fast runs. However, with the ones that fight hard, there are the few that put up a weak fight in the water…but don’t be fooled, they can put up their biggest fight once in the boat. Cobia have been known to beat up the inside of a boat, so be careful about how you handle them once you reel them in.
These fish’s favorite snacks consist of Crabs, Shrimp and other small fish. Keep these live baits near the surface of the water. However, if you are fishing for Cobia in deep water, you can add just enough weight to get the fish down but be sure the bait keeps its movement. The most used artificial baits are large streamer flies and jigs. The movement from spoons and swimming plugs, like plastic eels will grab the attention of most Cobia.
Medium to heavy tackle will be needed to catch the larger adults. They will put up an excellent fight and use their weight against you. When using a hook and line, it is best to use 50+ pound test. The Cobia’s heavy weight and tendency to tangle and cut line on structures prove that heavier line is needed to make your giant catch.
How to cook Cobia
Cobia is an excellent tasting fish. These are one of the fishes that are presumably tastier when smoked or eating when freshly caught. That isn’t to say if you freeze the remainder of your catch that you can’t make other delicious meals down the road.
With Cobia being a versatile fish, you can cook it just about any way. Take your shot at frying, baking, sautéing or grilling your catch. Like most fish, the flavor will go well with a mango chutney topper, or Asian style. If you really want to taste a yummy recipe, try using our Smoked Cobia Fish Dip recipe.
Cobia can be fished for year-round on both coasts. They are a migratory species and tend to live in the south during the winter and travel back up north during the summer. You can find them inshore, offshore and normally around structures or large predators. Once you have your catch, you can cook it up virtually any way you’d like.