Cobia: The Fish That’s Found Everywhere
There’s a species of fish that every angler is happy to catch. They will eat almost any reasonable bait, they fight like the Tasmanian devil. These critters are great to eat and literally can be found almost everywhere. I have caught them on Gulf and Atlantic wrecks, on patch reefs on the south side, on the reef while snapper fishing, on floating structure while fishing for mahi offshore; I’ve even seen them caught in 600 ft of water while deep dropping, and I have friend’s that have caught them on the flats. Have you figured it out yet? Yep, cobia. I can’t think of a species that can be found in so many different places and can be caught with so many different baits or rigs.
The craziest approach I’ve seen was to chum sharks off the palm beaches and sight cast to the cobia following the sharks into the chum slick. The trick was to tie off the anchor ball and chum together when we hooked up so we could put some distance between the hooked up cobia and the sharks. We ended up leaving the cut up cudas and bonitos on the anchor ball and getting away from it after a couple fish were lost to the sharks.
The straight forward approach to catching cobia is to use a 20 pound outfit with a 50 pound leader with enough lead to fish the conditions, a short shank live bait hook and a large live bait. I like live grunts, large pinfish, and mullet - in that order. If fishing the reef, I like to drop said rig to the bottom and slowly reel it up about half way and let it sit. They will find it. On the gulf side, fishing structure of any kind, I like to in conjunction with the live bait rigs use a buck tail jig 1 oz or bigger. Drop it to the bottom and work it slowly back up to the surface. I have caught a few on vertical jigs but I think they have a hard time catching a darting lure. I can’t count how many times I felt two or three bumps on a vertical jig with no hook up only to hook up on a cobia moments later on the live bait rig.
Another more standard approach to targeting them is to look for turtles or rays cruising in the gulf or down the reef. Once sighted, a live bait or jig tossed within sight of a cobia normally won’t be refused. Once tight to a fair sized cobia, don’t be in too big a hurry to sink the gaff into it. Take your time and play it for a while. As a young guy, I tore the door off my dad’s center console. Well at least he said it was my fault. Truth be told, a cobia bumping 60 pounds did it. He came off the gaff and got between the gunwale the center console and proceeded to turn the teak door into toothpicks! Once on the gaff, treat a cobia like a mahi. Put it straight into the fish box and sit on the lid. No matter where you’re fishing in the Keys, keep a bucktail jig on an appropriately sized rig and keep an eye out for ‘em ‘cause you never know when one or maybe six will swim up.
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