How To Catch Cobia
Cobia (or ling) are a larger, structure-oriented fish that tastes great, puts up a heck of a fight, and is incredibly accessible thanks to them spending time in nearshore waters. Thanks to seasonal fleets of boat sight casting, they’re fun to target and are voracious predators that you can usually lure into striking with the right bait.
In this all-new guide, you’ll learn:
- Cobia biology
- Fishing tactics
- Insider tips
- Gear suggestions
So if you want to get more traffic from your content this year, you’ll love today’s guide.
Let’s get started.
Learning About Cobia
To catch fish consistently, you need to know the behaviors and tendencies of your target species. So here we’ll go over some common facts about cobia, where they spend their time, how to identify them, and what they eat.
Where Can I Catch Cobia?
Cobia can be caught from New England down to Argentina and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are also found South of the equator to South Africa in the Eastern Atlantic and throughout the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. They tend to hang around structures like reefs, buoys, markers, and oil rigs, both near the surface and down deep. You can also commonly find them escorting large mantas, turtles, and rays, so finding those groups can yield great success.
Cobia tends to like a variety of depths from thirty to over 300 feet, preferring water between 68 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit and seasonally migrating between deeper offshore spots and shallow nearshore waters. In Florida, they tend to spend their time in the Southern end of the state or offshore in the Winter, moving Northward and closer to shore in the Spring. In the Panhandle region, there is a huge run of cobia every Spring. They migrate along the beaches in shallow water, making it one of the best cobia fisheries and seasons anywhere in the world.
How to Identify Cobia
Cobia tends to look a bit like sharks when in the water. They’re usually a dark brown or gray on their backs with a white belly and a dark linear stripe down their sides. They have sharp finlets leading from the head to the dorsal fin, which runs all the way to their tail in a short fin.
Cobia can grow to over six feet in length and over one hundred pounds, but most cobia are around four feet in length and tend to run twenty to fifty pounds.
Cobia’s Preferred Food
Cobia is indiscriminate predators, feeding on everything from shrimp and to baitfish and eels. If it fits in their mouths, there is a good chance a cobia will eat it. They tend to love eels and crabs, and both of those are excellent baits for cobia, especially the smarter ones that don’t bite on shrimp, lures, or baitfish.
Cobia Fishing Tactics
This chapter will go over how to best target cobia and some basic fishing tactics for getting better results when fishing for them.
Most Popular Ways to Target Cobia
The most popular way to target cobia is sight casting. Try to get up high in a cobia tower to help you locate the fish, and then cast your bait out in front of them to elicit a strike. This fishing works best in shallow water but can be as effective when cobia hangs around near the surface offshore.
Dealing with Picky Cobia
While they do tend to eat everything, cobia are known for having difficult individuals. They won’t always eat whatever you throw at them, with many fish turning up their noses at typical dead baits and jigs based on their mood. They have a hard time turning down live shrimp and crabs, though, so these should be go-to baits when all else fails.
Best Time of Year
The best time of year to fish for cobia, regardless of location, is Spring. This is when the water warms up, and they migrate into nearshore waters, making them easier to find and target. When they’re near the shore, you can even target them from piers without the need for a boat. You can target cobia on artificial reefs, wrecks, and around buoy markers throughout the year, but finding them consistently will be more difficult than during peak season.
Best Cobia Tackle
The best cobia tackle is a solid spinning combo. A six or seven-foot, medium/heavy spinning rod will do the job with a 4500 to 5500 series saltwater spinning reel. Make sure to have a smooth drag to evenly put pressure on the fish because they pull incredibly hard.
Best Line for Cobia
You’ll want at least 220 yards of 20-30 pound test line on there, scaling up to a 65-pound line for bigger fish or when you’re fishing near structure so you can keep them from tangling you up. A braided line works best for this as you can go much heavier without compromising your line capacity.
Cobia can be caught on a variety of baits and lures. Large shrimp, crabs, and baitfish are all excellent cut baits, with live eels being one of the hardest for them to resist. Big bucktail jigs (called cobia jigs) are a popular choice in lure, but you can also use artificial eels, ribbonfish, and big spoons and jigs to elicit strikes as well.
Best Cobia Rigs
Rigs for cobia are pretty simple since you’ll usually be casting bait right to them. A simple 18-inch length of fluorocarbon between 40 and 60 pounds with a swivel to tie onto is all you need. Cut baits usually work best on snelled 6/0 and 8/0 circle hooks. Go heavier and longer on your leader when fishing around structures to help keep you from breaking off.
Insider Tips to Catch Cobia
#1: Don’t forget to chum
A good chum line is a great way to lead cobia right to you. In the busier seasons, with a ton of boats cruising the beaches, going a little farther out and chumming can help you find a lot more success than you otherwise would with that many competing boats.
#2: Keep your eels cold
Live eels are amazing cobia bait and are usually seasonally sold during cobia season. Keep them in a cooler with ice and cold water but don’t freeze them to death. When they’re kept cold and then cast out, they hit the warm ocean water and instantly (for lack of a better word) freak out, wriggling crazily. This is almost guaranteed to get a nearby cobia to take your bait.
#3: Tire out cobia before gaffing or netting
Bringing on a cobia before it’s tired out (green) can lead to a lot of damage. They’re incredibly strong, energetic, and fairly large, and a fresh fish can flop around, damaging parts of your boat or hurting you when you board it too early.
#4: Be ready to be on the move
Whether you’re going to cruise beaches or check for cobia and other gamefish on likely spots, be ready to move around a lot. Both are finding cobia and sight casting to them are very active styles of fishing. You may need to check around a bunch of buoys or comb a few miles of shoreline to find a cobia you want to cast to.
#5: Take the right gear
Your fishing tackle is essential, but for the best results, you need to be fully prepared. Polarized sunglasses and a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes give you a massive advantage in seeing into the water when you’re trying to locate a fish.
#6: Get up high
Whether you’re fishing from a boar or sitting atop a ladder out in the water, getting higher makes it easier to spot fish. Cobia towers in boats let you control your boat from a platform that’s an extra six to twelve feet above the water. Looking down not only expands your field of vision but makes it easier to see through the water both farther away and deeper.
Cobia Gear Recommendations
Best Cobia Rod
Shimano Teramar Spinning Rod
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The Shimano Teramar is one of the best cobia rods you can get. They’re lightweight and comfortable to use, plenty durable and strong, and the extra length from the 8-foot model makes casting baits to cobia that much easier.
Best Cobia Reels
Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Reel
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The Spinfisher is an excellent saltwater spinning reel with all the long capacity and drag power you need for big game fish. A full metal body and sealed internals make it amazingly resistant to saltwater corrosion. For cobia, aim for a 5500 to 6500 series to get the power and line capacity needed.
Shimano Spheros Spinning Reel
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The Shimano Spheros is an absolute beast of a saltwater spinning reel. The 20000 sizes can handle absolutely anything you’re after with its huge line capacity on heavy braid, 41-pound drag weight, and 41-inch retrieval.
Best Cobia Baits
We’ve discussed that you can use almost anything for cobia bait but some stand out above others. Local baits are usually the best, with mullet and large shrimp being extremely popular. Live eels and crabs are excellent choices when other baits fail, though they run more expensive than other options.
Cobia fishing is incredibly rewarding with the adventure of finding and sight casting to big fish that put up a ferocious fight. After reading through this guide, you should be pretty well-equipped to start targeting these lesser-known but impressive fish on your own.