It’s almost that time of year again, when the manta rays are making their way back through the Florida waters. Right along with them, you’ll find the huge Cobia tagging along for the ride. This time of year, cobia fishing reaches its peak!
ANGLR Expert, Josh Baker tells us all about the Cobia runs in Florida and why they’re such a popular time to head out.
Cobia Fishing: Chasing Them Down
Everyone loves the thrill of catching these fish. They’re fun to find and even more fun on the end of your line. They’re a brown capped fish with a white belly. Cobia are a real goofy-looking fish. They have flat heads with eyes on both sides of the head. They resemble the remora sucker fish that follows along with sharks and whales and collects their remnants.
While their habits resemble remora, anglers must remember, these are some pretty big fish!
The state record is currently just over 130-pounds, caught near Destin, FL. The last one I caught was around 65-pounds.
They’re coveted, not just for their spunk on the hook, but for their flavor, as well. They are a delicious fish that eats very well, as it’s a firmer, thicker filet almost like a steak.
The Cobia come through Florida twice a year: on their way down from as far north as Massachusetts in the fall, and then back up from the Gulf of Mexico in the spring.
How to Sight Fish When Cobia Fishing
There are a few different ways to fish for Cobia. With the runs we have here in Florida, people are looking to find them inshore. They’ll go sight fishing for Cobia, running along the beach lines looking for giant manta rays and the Cobia that will be following. Many of them swim with the manta rays that run along the beaches inland. The Cobia tag along because they feed off of what the manta rays pick up. As the rays swim in the 10- to 25-foot waters, their wing movements kick up sand. With it, comes the bait.
The Cobia will tail along behind and get the scraps.
When that massive run happens, that’s when you’ll see a lot of people sight fishing for them. There’ll be tons of boats just off the beach watching for the manta rays. It’s like a game of hide and seek for fun, so the thrill of the chase is all apart of it.
These fish are already looking for food, so you want to throw anything that will draw their attention and pull them off of the manta ray. Pitch baiting with live eels and threadfins is usually the way to go, but a lot of people also have really good luck with brightly colored bucktail jigs. They’re a real inquisitive fish, so they’ll usually come over to check the bait out and see what it is.
Cobia Fishing: Finding Them In the Summer
At other times, you can find them offshore around the metal shipwrecks. They tend to draw a lot of Cobia. I’m not sure what, specifically, it is about the metal they prefer over other structures, but they do seem to like their metal wrecks. I catch most of my Cobia in the summer this way. When we fish on a wreck, we look for fish markings on the depth finder to be above the wreck by about eight to ten feet. They won’t hang out right on top of the wreck, so anything that you’re seeing around that range is probably going to be Cobia.
Over on the Tampa Bay side, it’s a little more shallow. Cobia are usually found inshore around the buoys and pilings. You’ll see many guys over there catching them around channel markers.
Offshore, you should be looking to use anything like live crabs, small bait fish, and frozen threadfins or grunts.
Gearing Up For Cobia Fishing
You should be rigged with 40-50-pound braided line on a heavier class spinning rod with anywhere from a 50-80-pound leader. You can catch them on lighter tackle, too. You just have to fight them a bit longer, making the lighter tackle more fun. Let them run a bit more by using a 30-pound braid with 15-30-pound leader and turning your drag way down so you’re not testing your equipment.
Cobia Fishing: Prepare for a Hard Fight
Once on the end of the line, Cobia are a hard-fighting bulldog of a fish. They’re not known for jumping, but they’ll put up a good fight. They’ll go on long runs, pulling a lot of drag. That constant tug and the sound of it is fun for new and younger anglers. You usually don’t have to worry about them wrapping themselves around structure, as they tend to stay higher up in the water column and just put up a nice fight. Once they get near the boat, you’ll have to worry about the props and things, because they just keep running around.
Usually the first sight of the boat causes them to take off and run again, which is what helps to keep things interesting.
A typical fight will last anywhere from 10-14 minutes, depending on how big the fish and what he’s got left in the tank for you. Your heavier tackle can bring him in more quickly, but you wind up with a little less of an exciting time.
Be very careful bringing Cobia on board. It’s once they’re on the boat that they really can be dangerous. You don’t want to bring one up on the boat when he’s too ‘green’, or you’ll really have a tough time of it. They’re like a giant, tough muscle. Once they hit the deck they thrash around with the power of an angry linebacker, beating the daylights out of the boat. They’ve been known to snap rod holders and break legs. Fight them a bit to tire them out so they’re not so ‘green’ before gaffing them up onto the boat.
Either way you go about cobia fishing, you’re bound to have a great time and go home to a delicious meal.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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