The Cobia, Rachycentron canadum
In the water, Cobia look very much like sharks.The usual color is brown or dark gray above, whitish on the underside, with a dark stripe running from gills to base of tail. The striped appearance is more vivid in juveniles. Several rather sharp finlets on the dorsal surface extend from behind the head to the dorsal fin.
OTHER NAMES: Ling, Crab Eater, Lemonfish, Bacalao
SIZE: Common from 20 to 50 pounds; sometimes up to 80 pounds, and possibly to 100 or more. World record 135 pounds, 9 ounces; Florida record 130 pounds, 1 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent, smoked or fresh.
GAME QUALITIES: A strong but unpredictable fighter. Usually clicks off fairly long, fast runs, and can fight deep with great stamina; however, many individuals put on lackluster fights if not pressured too hard— saving their best efforts for after they are boated!
TACKLE AND BAITS: Surf tackle is the best bet for pier fishing—and for boat fishing when long casts with heavy lures are called for. Since Cobia are notorious for wrapping lines around buoys and wreck structure, most anglers use 30-pound-test line or heavier. Once clear of obstructions, however, even large Cobia can be successfully fought with spinning, baitcasting and fly tackle—although a minimum of 10-pound line or tip- pet is advisable. When gaffed “green” (not tired), Cobia can—and often do—smash up the inside of a boat. Jigs and large streamer flies are the most-used artificials. Spoons and swimming plugs often work well; you might wake them up with a surface plug, popper or tube lure. Live baitfish, such as Pinfish, Mullet, Cigar Minnows, Grunts and Jacks work best, but live shrimp, crabs, dead fish or squid are good too.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Casting; Trolling; Drifting.
RANGE: All Florida coasts; wide- spread throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean, although seldom plentiful.
HABITAT: All the way from shal- low inshore waters to the deep sea. Most Florida Cobia winter in the southern reaches of the state or offshore, migrating northward in the Spring to cover both coasts. Dramatic runs occur along Panhandle beaches in April. Cobia love to hang around navigation markers, wrecks and artificial reefs, where they swim both at the surface and down deep.They also escort wandering Mantas and other large rays, and many are caught around those hosts. Juveniles are frequently caught incidentally by trout fishermen over many Gulf Coast grass flats—and some big ones too.