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Plan on Sport Fishing for Cobia On Your Next Florida Keys Vacation

Fishing for cobia can be somewhat surprising if it's your first time sport fishing for this Florida Keys fish.

The reason is, cobia can be a hard hitting, strong fighter peeling off your line faster than you thought possible.

They also have a history of continuing the battle in the boat if you haven't take the necessary time to wear them out first.

Either way, you'll be fighting one angry fish, that has a legal limit size of 33 inches fork length.

Considering that cobia fish are commonly found up to 50 pounds, you can expect some serious sport fishing action.

Plus since cobia are a good tasting fish, if your Florida Keys fishing trips include sport fishing for cobia, you'll be able to "have your cake and eat it too"!


School of Florida Keys Cobia


School of Cobia
NOAA's Fisheries Collection, Photo By Jorge Alarcon or Dr. Daniel Benetti


If you're planning a Florida Keys fishing trip for cobia, you'll want to check out these experts. These Florida Keys fishing guides are fully equipped with knowledge, fishing tackle, licenses, and the right boat so your fishing expedition is productive and fun.



Going Cobia Fishing?

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Cobia Facts

Cobia are often referred to as ling, cabio, lemon fish and crabeater. The latter because of it's predisposition to crab which is one of the more popular baits used to catch this species.

Since this is one of the more table friendly Florida fish, cobia recipes cater to this species medium flavor and firmer texture.

Cobia have long slender bodies, with an unusual shovel shaped snout, a depressed head, and a protruding bottom jaw. Their coloring is a dark brown fading to a white on their underbelly, and they have an obvious darker strip that runs the length of their body from eye to tail. They also have a dorsal fin, offset by a few smaller fins set ahead of it.

One interesting feature about cobia is that they usually hold their pectoral fins horizontally. This means when viewed from above, this Florida Keys fish is often mistaken for shark, and with it's coloring, a lemon shark is what usually springs to mind.

Fast growing, this species of Florida Keys fish quickly reach a length of 33 inches or more within 2 years. It's not uncommon to reel in cobia weighing 80 pounds, although 15 - 50 pounds is the typical range.

Occasionally cobia exceeding 100 pounds are caught and typically these are females, the larger of the species. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission cites the State Record for a cobia fish at 130 pounds, 1 ounce.

Close Up of A Cobia


Cobia Fish
NOAA's Fisheries Collection, Photo By Brian O'Hanlon or Joe Ayvazian


Due to the fact that cobia prefer warmer water they are migratory by nature with spawning occurring in the early summer months. Through tagging however, it's been determined that some cobia stay all year in the deeper waters of the Florida Keys Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The best time of the year to go fishing in Florida Keys for cobia is later fall through to mid-spring. This is when the migrating cobia have come back to feed in the deeper water around wrecks and reefs.

They also like to congregate around and under buoys, bridges, sea walls, and markers, and they are commonly found in harbors, bays, channels, inlets and in the flats and backcountry of the Florida Keys.

It's possible to catch cobia all year, but when they're not 'in season' it's more hit and miss, typically catching one when you're sport fishing for other Florida fish.

An important cobia fishing tip is that this species enjoys a somewhat protected status. The daily bag limit is 1 per person, or a general vessel limit of 6 cobia, whichever is less. However, the allowed means of fishing for cobia are fairly diverse with spearfishing being included in the arsenal for anyone sport fishing Florida Keys.




How To Fish For Cobia

Cobia fish are attracted to structure where crabs, squid, shrimp and bait fish congregate. When Florida Keys sport fishing for cobia some of the best places to go are buoys, grass flats, reefs and wrecks and over floating debris.

Sight fishing for cobia is very popular, especially when fly fishing or using lighter tackle. When sight fishing, one of the more important cobia fishing techniques that guarantees success, is to cast out a few feet in front of their path. Then on your retrieval, make sure you use plenty of action to draw them to the bait, lure or fly you're presenting.

The best cobia fishing lures are the ones that make noise, but plastic eels are also very effective. The key here is to make sure you set the hook so that the eel runs true in the water. You'll want to run the hook through the mouth with the tip of hook sitting further in the back of the eel.

Cobia are also often found following rays and sharks, in the hopes of scavenging food these other predator fish have caught. If you see manta and eagle rays or sharks and it's cobia season, chances are you'll also find cobia.

Fishing for cobia is successful at a variety of depths, but what's unusual is that cobia are often caught beneath the boat you're fishing from. This produces some rather unexpected results since catching cobia that 'close in' can be challenging and physically 'damaging' due to their fighting strength.




Fishing For Cobia Off Florida Keys Bridge
Courtesy of YouTube and eli58173


Another important cobia fishing tip is they have a different hunting strategy from many other fish. They're not your normal "chase down and eat the prey" type of fish, instead they have a more laid back approach.

They look for structure such as markers where they can hang out and hide, then their preferred modus operandi is to wait for fish to come to them. You'll also find that fishing for cobia is best when the water is clearer, and on a changing or outgoing tide. Cobia are often caught while facing the outgoing tide, waiting for fish to swim toward them.

When fishing for cobia, you can go deep or fish on the surface to catch those hiding out under floating debris waiting for a snack to come their way.

However, if you're fishing near any structure such as piers, buoys, bridges, and wrecks, you'll need to use the heavier 30 pound test because cobia tend to tangle the line around the structure forcing the line to break.

When fishing for cobia, you also need to know that once you've got one hooked, chances are you'll hook another, so make sure you can rig up fast or better yet, have a second, even third cobia rod ready to go.

You'll also want to make sure you've played the fish as much as possible, because if it's the legal length, and you're keeping it, a cobia that's not tired is a true menace in the boat.

If you're going to be fishing the flats, and backcountry you can either fly fish or use a medium spinning rod or casting rod and reel rigged with a minimum of 12 pound test. Sight casting to them by placing the lure or fly directly in their path will produce very lively results especially if your retrieval is active.




Cobia Fishing Tackle

Using the lightest weight fishing tackle you can, will guarantee maximum thrill and impact when fishing for cobia.

Depending on where you're fishing in Florida Keys will also determine what cobia fishing tackle to use.

If you're trolling or bottom fishing over reefs and wrecks you'll need to use a medium to heavy rod and reel with at least 200 yards of strong line. The line should be 20 - 30 pound braided, you'll need a 4 - 6 foot 40 pound shock leader, one or two 4 ounce sinkers, and a 4/0 - 7/0 O'Shaugnessy aka "J" hook with cobia bait.

Close Up of A Cobia


Sport Fishing Florida Keys For Cobia
NOAA's Fisheries Collection, Photo By Charles Gardner


On the J hook, using small - medium size bait is best when fishing for cobia. You'll get the most productive results with grunts, pinfish, eel, jacks, shrimp and of course the favorite cobia bait - crab.

Some of the more popular cobia fishing lures for casting include vivid colored plugs and spoons that make noise. Other top cobia lures include streamer flies, jig heads rigged with plastic eels, and poppers.





Anyone who's ever gone fishing for cobia in the Florida Keys gets goose bumps when they hear the first cries, "The cobia are coming!"

When the first large groups of cobia migrate into the area, the excitement of the serious Florida Keys sport fishing enthusiast is palpable.

It's possible to catch cobia year round but when planning your Florida Keys fishing trips coordinate them to occur during late fall to early spring. Then get ready and prepare for the running of the cobia and some serious Florida Keys sport fishing.










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