Highly mobile, cobia roam salty waters seeking whatthey can devour. They may appear off jetties in water as shallow as 20 feet or100 miles offshore in more than 400 feet of water.
Also called lemonfish or ling, these vicious anddelicious fish can exceed 100 pounds! They usually lurk around reefs,wrecks, oil platforms or other hard structure, but could cruise weed lines orhide under such floating objects as wooden crates, buoys or anything that mightoffer shade and a chance to ambush baitfish. Sometimes, they even hover near anobject as small as a floating drink can — or much larger.
“The best cobia fishing is when we find a whale shark,” said Capt. ChadKinney with Bamm BammCharters in Port Mansfield, Texas. “I’ve seen whale sharks with 50- to 70 ling aroundthem. Unfortunately, we never know when we’ll find a whale shark.”
Often, chasing cobia more resembles hunting than fishing. The highly nomadicbeasts could appear at one weed patch today and vanish tomorrow. Few anglersleave the dock planning to boat a load of cobia because no one ever knowsexactly when or where these capricious fish might appear. While theirunpredictable nature makes cobia difficult to find, that challenge endears themto sportsmen who enjoy searching for the hard-fighting beasts.
“Sometimes, cobia fishing is more of a hit and run proposition,” explained Capt. Tommy Pellegrin of Custom Charters who runs out of Boudreaux’s Marina in Cocodrie, La.”It’s almost like hunting. Cobia don’t stay in oneplace long. Check out every structure and floating object.”
Keep watch while running from place to place or back to port. Withbinoculars and polarized sunglasses, look for movement or color under anydrifting objects. After spotting a fish lurking near a floating object,approach from upwind. Make the first cast count. Toss a baitbeyond the fish and run it past its nose. Even when not actively feeding, theseopportunistic predators may instinctively grab anything that presents an easymeal. If a cobia doesn’t quickly hit a bait, tease it.
“Finicky ones come charging the jig,” Pellegrinadvised. “An inexperienced fisherman stops the retrieve to let the fish eat thebait, but the cobia turns away. Tease the fish. That’s opposite of what mostpeople think. Every time it comes charging at the bait, pull it away a foot ortwo. Keep doing that until the enraged cobia can’t stand it any longer.Eventually, the angler can’t pull it away fast enough if the cobia wants to eatit.”
While nobody can predict where or when hungry cobia might surface, thecurious creatures frequently rise from the depths to investigate any unusualsurface activity. Some captains run circles around structure to stir up thebait before anchoring. Others beat the water with their gaffs or rod tips to makea commotion. Others entice them up with chum.
“We sometimes chum up cobia over the rocks,” Kinney explained. “When we getthem chummed up, we’ll catch them on topwaters or byfree-lining squid. When someone hooks a fish, we may leave it on the line becauseother fish might come up to see what’s happening. When we’re fishing over rocksor coming up to a buoy or other floating object, we’ll sometimes rev up theengines to make them come up.”
When bottom fishing, keep a rod or two rigged and ready to pitch to anycobia that might rise to the surface. Jigheads tippedwith 6-inch curled tail trailers, minnow imitations or soft plastic eels makegreat temptations. For live bait, cobia eat just aboutanything they can swallow, but the vicious beasts particularly love crunchingblue crabs and hardhead catfish. Other favorite enticements include eels, cigarminnows, menhaden, squid, small jacks, mullets, croakers, pinfish, and whitetrout.
“When a cobia wants to feed, it will eat anything thrown in the water,” saidCapt. Kevin Beach with Mexican Gulf Fishing Company out of Cypress Cove in Venice, La. “Sometimes, we’ll toss a live menhaden on a circle hook and keep it on the surfacewiggling. When a cobia sees that, it just can’t say no.”
A cobia or two could add an exciting and delicious addition to any fishingexcursion. Just stay prepared and watch for these illusive and unpredictablefish. When heading back to port or when moving from place to place, keep an eyeon any buoys, weed lines or floating debris that could add extra meat to a fishbox.
Be sure to visit Sportsman’s for the latest assortment of fishing gear.