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Cobia Fishing — Complete Guide for Beginners

Cobia is a powerful gamefish. This species can put up an outstanding fight for recreational anglers with its aggressive demeanor. 

Anglers seek out cobias, whether it’s for competition or for consumption purposes. If you’re a beginner, cobia fishing can be a challenge because it requires great angling skills, patience, and the use of high-quality equipment.

To be successful in your first try, learn more about when, where, and how to fish them.

cobia fishing
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About Cobia Fish

There are two kinds of cobia—Gulf cobia and Atlantic cobia—found in the waters of Florida, Massachusetts, the Bahamas, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are migratory fish that can grow up to three to four feet with an average weight of 15 pounds up to 100 pounds.  

The cobia can be identified easily through their physical attributes. They have an elongated torpedo-shaped body in color gray or brown with dark stripes flowing from their gills through the base of their tail.

If you spot them from afar, you would think that they are sharks because of their body shape and color. 

Where Does Cobia Hang Out?

Cobia loves to hang out nearshore as shallow as 3 feet and as deep as 20 feet.

They usually rest or eat around navigation markers, offshore and inshore reefs, ocean rocks, wrecks, buoys, or other floating structures. Anglers also sight them around the shoal.

What Does Cobia Eat?

Cobia has a protein-rich diet that contributes to the reason why they grow so fast. Wanna know where to find them? You must be familiar with their diet.

They are known to be an aggressive eater because they eat whatever that comes in their way, but they usually prefer blue crabs, crabs, eel, squid, and smaller baitfish.

They are often seen together with rays and large turtles. The stingrays used to stir their wings at the bottom of the sea for the shrimp and crabs to go out.

On the other hand, the turtles scare up creatures that cobia loves eating found on the grass beds.

Where Can I Fish Cobia?

This fish is one of the eurythermal species that can withstand a wide range of temperatures, but they are most active in warmer waters.

When the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico drops to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, they move to the north as far as Massachusetts to spend the summer, and they move back to Florida for the winter season. 

You can easily spot them if you would be familiar with their seasonal migrations. Cobia travel in small schools together with stingrays.

Sometimes, when anglers see ray’s wings breaking at the water’s surface, it could be a great indicator that cobia is also around.

Equipment to Use

Cobia is a large and heavy fighting fish. You need to have the appropriate set of equipment to be efficient in catching them. You must need to have a lure, bait, tackle, fishing line, and your rods and reels. 

Rods and Reels

For a smooth drag, use a medium to a heavy spinning rod with a length of about 6-7 feet paired with a sturdy reel. The reel should be at least 230 yards of 20-40 pounds test. 

Lures

Anglers make use of artificial lures that are similar to what cobias naturally feed on. For example, cobias have a great appetite for crabs, so using a plastic crab as a lure is effective to attract them. You may also use 2-5 oz jigs. Jigs move gracefully, just like a squid. 

Another commonly used lure is the bucktail. Bucktails come in different colors and sizes, but choose the one that’s about 2–3 ounces. No matter what lure you use, make sure that it has large and durable hooks so the cobia won’t escape. 

Baits

In using bait to catch cobia, it’s important to ensure that they don’t die. A live bait easily attracts cobia than dead bait.

Strong baits that don’t die easily are croakers and eels. A technique to keep your live baits alive after hooking them is by placing them in a fishing bucket with saltwater. 

Tackle

The ideal fishing tackle in catching cobia must consist of a medium or heavy spinning, conventional outfit. The stout tackle is more efficient when you’re targeting them near heavy structures like sunken wrecks or oil rigs. 

Fishing Line

When it comes to fishing lines, anglers have two choices when catching cobia: the monofilament line and the braided line. The commonly used is the braided line.

It has a thin diameter to accommodate more lines in the spool for longer casting distances. A braided fishing line past the 50-pound test line suits an even larger cobia.

How Do I Hook Cobia?

Anglers use different techniques to catch cobia. It can either be through the use of bait or a lure. In warmer temperatures, cobia swims near the surface of the water, so catching them without the use of a bait or lure is still possible.

Here are two effective ways by which you can catch them: 

Fly Fishing

Level up your fishing skill with fly fishing. It works well in spring when they are spawning. During this time, they stay inshore or close to the water’s surface. 

Anglers who want to practice their fishing skills in preparation for the summer season where cobias are most active must try fly fishing in spring.

Drift over in any structure where cobia may seem to hang out and cut your motor if you’re aboard a boat before casting the line.

Spinning and Casting

During the migration period, cobia stays close to the water’s surface, so spinning and casting are where you can show off your light tackle skills.

It’s ideal to use artificial lures like bucktail jigs, Texas-rigged plastic eels, and worms to make things easier. 

Spinning and casting are great ways to have easy access to the structures where they love to hang around. Just make sure to present your bait or lure properly for a successful catch.

Cobia Fishing Regulations

Fishing regulations for cobias in different states differ. In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, there’s no need to secure a permit to harvest cobia, but the use of drift gillnet is not permitted.

Instead, you can only use rod and reel, long pelagic line, bandit gear, and automatic reel. 

Most states where cobia is spotted only require one cobia per day for each vessel. Both commercial and recreational anglers must follow the minimum size limit of about 33 inches, and it must still be in its same body condition as you reach the shore before cleaning it.

Final Thoughts

Engaging in cobia fishing is rewarding for anglers because they are one of the biggest fighting fish. For you to be able to catch them successfully, you must know where they hang out, their migrational pattern as well as their feeding habits.

Your fishing adventure won’t be complete if you haven’t tried cobia fishing yet. We hope this guide is useful.

Johanes Godoy
Fishing Editor
Johanes is a talented Editor for Cast & Spear. She's helped edit and write hundreds of articles on fishing and the outdoors. When she's not editing, she's exploring the world and documenting it on her own blog.
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Articles » Saltwater Fishing » Cobia Fishing — Complete Guide for Beginners