Highly mobile, cobia roam salty waters seeking what
they can devour. They may appear off jetties in water as shallow as 20 feet or
100 miles offshore in more than 400 feet of water.
Also called lemonfish or ling, these vicious and
delicious predators can exceed 100 pounds! They usually lurk around reefs,
wrecks, oil platforms or other hard structure, but could cruise weed lines or
hide under such floating objects as wooden crates, buoys or anything that might
offer shade and a chance to ambush baitfish. Sometimes, they even hover near an
object as small as a floating drink can -- or much larger.
"The best cobia fishing is when we find a whale shark," said Capt. Chad
Kinney with Bamm Bamm
Charters (956-802-2269, www.bammbammfishing.com)
in Port Mansfield, Texas. "I've seen whale sharks with 50- to 70 ling around
them. Unfortunately, we never know when we'll find a whale shark."
Often, chasing cobia more resembles hunting than fishing. The highly nomadic
beasts could appear at one weed patch today and vanish tomorrow. Few anglers
leave the dock planning to boat a load of cobia because no one ever knows
exactly when or where these capricious fish might appear. While their
unpredictable nature makes cobia difficult to find, that challenge endears them
to 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 one
place long. Check out every structure and floating object."
Keep watch while running from place to place or back to port. With
binoculars and polarized sunglasses, look for movement or color under any
drifting objects. After spotting a fish lurking near a floating object,
approach from upwind. Make the first cast count. Toss a bait
beyond the fish and run it past its nose. Even when not actively feeding, these
opportunistic predators may instinctively grab anything that presents an easy
meal. If a cobia doesn't quickly hit a bait, tease it.
"Finicky ones come charging the jig," Pellegrin
advised. "An inexperienced fisherman stops the retrieve to let the fish eat the
bait, but the cobia turns away. Tease the fish. That's opposite of what most
people think. Every time it comes charging at the bait, pull it away a foot or
two. 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 eat
While nobody can predict where or when hungry cobia might surface, the
curious creatures frequently rise from the depths to investigate any unusual
surface activity. Some captains run circles around structure to stir up the
bait before anchoring. Others beat the water with their gaffs or rod tips to make
a commotion. Others entice them up with chum.
When bottom fishing, keep a rod or two rigged and ready to pitch to any
cobia that might rise to the surface. Jigheads tipped
with 6-inch curled tail trailers, minnow imitations or soft plastic eels make
great temptations. For live bait, cobia eat just about
anything they can swallow, but the vicious beasts particularly love crunching
blue crabs and hardhead catfish. Other favorite enticements include eels, cigar
minnows, menhaden, squid, small jacks, mullets, croakers, pinfish, and white
"When a cobia wants to feed, it will eat anything thrown in the water," said
Capt. 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 surface
wiggling. When a cobia sees that, it just can't say no."
A cobia or two could add an exciting and delicious addition to any fishing
excursion. Just stay prepared and watch for these illusive and unpredictable
fish. When heading back to port or when moving from place to place, keep an eye
on any buoys, weed lines or floating debris that could add extra meat to a fish
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