Cobia: Rachycentron canadum
- Long, slim fish with a broad depressed head
- The lower jaw protrudes past the upper jaw
- Dark lateral stripe extends through the eye to the tail
- First dorsal fin has 7 to 9 free spines
- When young, has conspicuous alternating black and white horizontal stripes
Cobia are found in nearshore and inshore waters with inlets and bays. Cobia are frequently found around buoys, pilings and wrecks in these areas.
They spawn in spring and early summer.
130 lb 1 oz, caught near Destin
Fishing Tips and Facts:
Cobia start showing up around springtime in the Tampa Bay Area, although in the Panhandle they're pretty much an all-year thing. The beautiful fish often are found on our flats, and whenever you see something big swimming in the water -- whether it's a gorgeous Leopard Ray or a Manattee -- you might see a fish shadow that looks for all the world like a shark. Watch for the white line on their laterals; it's a dead giveaway that it's a cobia. You will often find a second or third fish following the first one, too.
Look on the down-tide side of big markers and pilings in the bays, too. They sit so the water's coming into their faces, so if the tide's coming in they're looking out towards the sea; if it's going out they're looking inshore. Keep long (six- or eight-inch) plastic eels with lead head on them on an eight-foot spinning rod in the summer. If you see one, put the bait into the fish's path.
They love crabs the most, with pinfish, threadfin, and white bait in that order. You'll catch them on those eels (or sometimes a banana peel -- see below) and other artificials (bigger the better), but live bait's the bait-o-choice with Cobes just like it is with any fish we chase.
Something interesting about the cobia we love to catch (and eat) is their life span and the resultant intelligence the fish exhibits. They're not smart fish. If you're grouper fishing, you should always keep a pinfish on a freeline right under the boat. Keep quiet (which you should be doing anyway) and put the bait ten-or-twelve feet into the water column. The shadow line often draws big fish, that appear to be curious about the shape of the boat as much as they are attracted to the (new) shadow line. They're not smart because they don't live long. A 90lb Cobia that takes the tournaments in Destin, or a 60 pounder you catch on the flats in Tampa Bay are about four -- maximum five -- years old. They don't have the time a 30lb Snook has to get smart.
Image Credit: Diane Rome Peebles