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How to Catch Cobia : Fishing Tips & Techniques

Table of Contents

The Cobia (Rachycentron canadum)is known to be excellent game fish because of its fighting abilities. They are one of the biggest members of the grouper family, which includes many other types of fish that can also provide a great fight. This article will explain how to catch cobia successfully.

Some simple fishing tips for cobia:

  • They are typically fished near land, in shallow water, especially near mangrove roots.
  • A common technique is to find a floating object, such as an oil drum or cooler, and attach the line to that object before fishing. This can be useful because it allows you to stay in one spot for longer periods of time while you fish.  
  • Blackfin tuna are known to hang around with cobia so it is a good idea to fish where there are blackfins when actually looking for cobia. You can also use cut bait on your hook if there are no blackfins close by.

When to Fish for Cobia

The best time to fish for cobia is in the spring time months from April to June. This is a good time to fish specifically for cobia because other types of fish that they like to eat often come into the area during this time as well. For example, certain types of mullet and menhaden move closer to shore in the springtime too.

According to Florida Sportsman magazine, May has been shown to be a great month for fishing for cobia because their food sources are abundant at this time so “Cobia will roam farther offshore, sometimes deep.”

However, from mid-May to June, chumming can be an effective technique to fish for cobia. This is often done by placing one or more chum bags in the water and dragging an attractor such as a fish head, mullet belly, cut bait, or whole herring behind your boat while fishing for cobia. To set up chumming, we recommend using a 5-gallon bucket with an open bottom that you attach your bait to on the ocean floor.

In New Jersey, July seems to have been an ideal month according to Bayshore Discovery Project, with many cobia being caught near bridges or marinas where there is a lot of boat traffic, which also serves as an indicator that other fish will be in the area.

July is also prime time for cobia because there are many menhaden moving to estuaries at this time of year, which makes for a good food source for them.

September has been called “Cobia Playtime” by The Fishin’ Tipster. This is because they love to feed during the fall months when baitfish start gathering offshore before winter. So September seems like the best month to look specifically for cobia because it’s no longer spring and other gamefish haven’t yet claimed these areas where their prey reside.

Where to Catch Cobia

There are several places that are best to catch cobia and they are the following:

  • Oil Rigs
  • Mangrove Root Systems
  • Near Major Rivers

Oil rigs are the best place to fish for cobia specifically because there is a large concentration of food sources in close proximity.

For example, when fishing near mangrove roots, you will likely only catch one or two at a time while you can catch 10 or more when they are around an oil rig. Fishfinder equipment has played a major role in locating these areas that contain many different types of food sources along with cobia.

Such equipment allows fishermen to locate specific objects underneath the water’s surface which helps immensely when trying to find places where there are groups of cobia swimming above. Other structures such as shipwrecks and natural reefs can be great places to find cobia as well.

Mangrove root systems are an excellent place to fish for cobia because the roots are so dense. Fishfinder equipment can be used to figure out how deep into the water these root systems go, which will indicate where there are large concentrations of food that the cobia eat nearby.

Near major rivers is an excellent place to find cobia because they also contain a large number of food sources. The types of food that venture into the river often do so at night and this is when cobia feed actively.

Cobia typically lives in locations near rivers like this for the majority of the year but migrates during their reproductive spawning seasons which occur in the early summer and fall months.

Is it Hard to Catch Cobia?

Cobia is usually caught using methods like trolling, bottom fishing, and jigging. They are most effectively hooked while they are feeding near the surface of the water or when they are chasing their prey.

When they are in schools, you can attach many baits to one line that is attached to a single rod so that when they bite onto one bait it will not feel your presence because there is another bait swimming alongside it which is the cobia cannot detect. When you have them on your hook, be careful to avoid putting excess pressure on them because you could possibly injure or kill them.

Cobia can be hard to catch once in a while due to their skittish nature but if you apply what you’ve learned here about where and when is best to catch them, you should have a very high chance of success.

Fishing Techniques

There are a variety of techniques and baits for Cobia.

  • Sight casting on Cobia: Sight casting to cobia is an exciting experience. They can be found hanging out around oil rigs, bridge pilings, and other major structures. The best technique for sight casting to these fish is using a heavy surf rod, 50-80 pound test line, and a 30/40 baitcasting reel loaded with a 65lb braided super line. Using a 3′ – 4′ leader of fluorocarbon tied to your mainline will help reduce the appearance of your line as it drifts towards the fish which might otherwise spook them so dive on in!
  • Live Baiting Cobia: While any bait fish will work, Eels, Spot Menhaden, and Croaker are the go-to live baits for baiting Cobia. When live baiting Cobia it is important to fish that bait at different depths until you find what the fish want. Sometimes they will be suspended near the surface and other times they will be well below your boat heading towards the bottom structure. If you are using Croaker it is best to fish them on or near the bottom especially if you are live-lining them between two rods for trolling purposes.
  • Artificial Lures: A wide variety of casting options is important for targeting Cobia. They will swim just under the surface of the water, suspended at different depths and going up to mid-depth areas. Using a planer board is a great option for trolling a lure around a structure because you can cover a lot of space quickly.

Gear for Cobia

The following gear for cobia is recommended:

Rod: A 7′ ultra-light surf rod is a good choice for sight casting to cobia. This will help you get your bait out deep into the water where the fish are often found.

Reel: The best reels for bottom fishing gear are spinning reels with at least 30-pound test line and a retrieval ratio of about 1:3. A high-quality line such as a 40-pound test Seaguar Invizx FluoroCarbon will help reduce visibility when live baiting Cobia or other game fish species.

There are rod and reel combos available as well in the market. We made a buyer’s guide where we believe that the PENN Battle II is the best rod and reel combo for cobia fishing.

Baitcasting Gear: When live baiting for cobia it is best to use baitcasting gear because this allows you to put two rods across two planer boards which increases your likelihood of catching the fish.

Terminal Tackle: A three-way swivel system is a great choice for live baiting Cobia as this will allow you to keep your line straight and level as your planer boards tow behind your boat.

Hooks: Size 1-5/0 Owner Stangle Lock circle hooks are recommended for catching cobia because they create a high percentage of hook ups and their design helps reduce deep hooking the fish which often results in death.

Weights: If you’re using lead core lines, make sure you have some kind of weight on the end, such as a bank sinker or worm weight. These can be purchased at most fishing supply stores affiliated with major national brands like Lowes or Walmart.

These weights will help your bait get down deeper into the fish.

Cobia prefers water temperatures ranging from 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit (20-23 celsius) however they can tolerate temperatures as high as 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 celsius). This makes them an excellent fish to target along the coasts of Washington State, New Jersey, and Florida.

Basic Information on Cobia

Cobia is strong, powerful fish that spend their days feeding on eels, mackerel, mullet, or menhaden. They are very inactive fish so it is important to be stealthy when trying to catch them with live bait.

Cobia Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)

Family: Rachycentridae

Genus: Rachycentron.  Cobia, which is also known as black kingfish or ling in some parts of the US, is a member of the family Rachycentridae and genus Rachycentron.

Common Locations: Cobia is found all over the world. In the eastern Pacific Ocean, they range from British Columbia south to San Benito Island. They can be found along with Mexico and Central America and in countries such as Japan, Korea, and throughout Southeast Asia where they are widely fished for human consumption.

Dominance: Cobia tend to be the dominant fish in their habitat and as such, they play a very important role in determining how many fish of other breeds will survive.

Interesting Facts: Cobia are not only extremely large; they can also jump out of water during feeding time. This is part of what makes them so difficult to catch using live bait which you have to cast into the water well away from your boat.

Cobia Size (Length, Height, Weight): Cobia can be extremely large. They are typically 10-12 feet long and weigh about 300 pounds, however, they have been recorded at 15 feet long and weighing up to 700 pounds!

Cobia Taste: Cobia is white flaky meat that has a mild flavor which can be compared to swordfish or mahi-mahi. It is high in Omega 3 fatty acids which makes it an excellent choice for heart health.

Average Lifespan: The average life span of Cobia is 25 years.

Mating/Breeding: Cobia reproduces by spawning. Males will gather a harem, mate with them, and then abandon them afterward. Females do all the work because after fertilization takes place they will carry their eggs for about one month before releasing them in shallow coastal waters where they are left to hatch on their own.

Cobia Diet: The diet of cobia consists primarily of invertebrates such as squid, octopus, shrimp, crab, lobster, and crayfish. They also eat fish such as sea bass, snapper turtles, flatfish, needlefish whiting, ladyfish porgies, anchovies smelt, menhaden mullet, threadfin bream, herring Mackerels, soles flounders

Cobia Predators: Cobia are preyed upon by sharks tuna swordfish Goliath groupers. Humans are the biggest threat to cobia because they are often fished for their meat.

Largest Recorded Cobia: The largest recorded cobia was caught in Korea in 1992 and weighed 746 pounds (source).

Fishing Regulations: Some states require catch limits for cobia whereas others do not so it is best to check your local fishing regulations before going out on the water.