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Big Bend Florida Sportsman Guide

Fishing Tactics

Cobia, Big Easies

By Capt. Ken Roy


ďIíd sure like to catch a Cobia.  Iíve been trying for several years and only caught a few shorts.Ē  I hear that several times each summer and I donít remember many folks going home without catching one.  If folks want to target Cobia, we generally catch them.  In fact, it is an unusual day in the summer when we donít catch several with 50% or more being legal whether we are targeting them exclusively or not.  This doesnít mean that Cobia are accidental catches for Whopper Stopper, though. 

 cobia fishing tactics from big bend florida sportsman guide

Cobia are, by far, the easiest to catch of all large fish on this coast.   For the life of me, I canít see why more folks donít catch Cobia almost every trip.  Here are a few tips that should make you a better Cobia fisherman.


Live bait works best but I often catch them on a Bonita fillet lying on the bottom while fishing for Tarpon and Sharks.


Basic rig #1 is the rig that catches about 65 % of the Cobia brought aboard Whopper Stopper.  Basic rig #XX   catches most of the rest with a few taken on artificial lures and flies.


Wire leader is not necessary except when lots of Kingfish and big Spanish mackerel are around.  Sharks are seldom enough trouble to make me use wire.


Where?  Darn near anywhere from the rivers and flats to grass lines a hundred miles offshore. 


A large percentage of grass flats Cobia are accidentally hooked by Trout fishermen on bait or artificial lures.   Notice that I said ďhookedĒ instead of caught.  Fifty % of folks who are fishing for Trout will loose every Cobia they hook because they are not prepared for a fish that can pull more than 5# of drag.  I have seen more than one person grab the spool to stop the fish when line started screaming off the reel.  Not a good technique when you are fishing with 8# test!  Iíd venture to say that 25% of the boats out Trout fishing on a given day donít have a gaff aboard and if they do, they donít have a clue how to use it.!


Lots of decent sized Cobia are hooked on the flats but the larger ones are landed by guys who are prepared.  For most shallow water Cobia, 8# mono is entirely adequate as long as you have a smooth drag, set right.  With a 6í long 20# shock leader with a foot or so of 50# mono for a bite leader, Iíll cast at any Cobia that ever swam and feel pretty confident as long as I have Rhett handling the boat.  In deep water, light tackle isnít a good idea because you canít apply enough pressure to lift a fish. 


We catch more Cobia while bottom fishing for Grouper than any other time.  Why?  I make 10 or more moves most days.  Sooner or later we are going to drop a baitfish in front of a Cobia and hook up.    Move around enough and you should get lucky too.  Cobia hang out on the same rocks that hold Grouper.


Ok, so you are too lazy to move around.  Invite Cobia to come to you.  Enough fresh chum will pull Cobia a long distance.  Frozen ground chum works but fresh is best every time.  If you are going to stay in one spot and chum, pick a good spot.  Large breaks, channel edges, especially channel bends and intersections, artificial reefs and wrecks are all great spots to chum.  How you are anchored in relation to the spot you are fishing is all important.  I canít stress this enough.  Try to anchor so that your chum ! disperses over as much of the structure as possible.  Your baits should be deployed so that any fish that follows the scent trail of your chum will see them.   Chumming on the grass flats and around deeper bars works fine too.

 cobia fishing tactics from big bend florida sportsman guide

Last summer, I added a new fishing weapon to my arsenal, a Chum Churn.  The Chum Churn is the best new piece of equipment I have added to my boat in years.   On tough fishing days in mid-summer, sooner or later you are going to call in a Cobia.  Most days it doesnít take long.  The sound made by the Chum Churn may be as attractive to Cobia as the scent and chopped bait trail it produces.  Iíve seen Cobia, Spadefish and Mangrove Snapper come up long before they could have scented the chum.


Think about this.  If your bait is right on the bottom, it may be hard to see for a Cobia that may be swimming a few feet off the bottom.   I like to have one bait about 6 feet off the bottom and another right under the boat within 3 feet of the surface.  Believe me, this shallow bait gets bit often and you better make sure that the drag isnít locked.  A baitfish suspended about 6í under a float and about 30 feet behind the boat gets hits from fish attracted by the chum.


I canít help but mention fishing channel markers.  Everybody fishes channel markers and they catch Cobia.  Sometimes you need to stand in line or have a reservation to fish some of the gang markers.  One Saturday last year I was chumming for Spanish mackerel and Cobia along the edge of the Crystal River Coal Canal.  A steady procession of boats stopped to fish marker 28.  As soon as one boat left, another tied up (illegal) or anchored near the marker.  This went on the entire tide.  If there isnít a boat fishing a channel marker, I ride by close and look.  If I see a Cobia, I usually catch it. 


Which bait?  Most of the time it doesnít matter what live bait you use.  Cobia will eat about anything from Glass minnows to Stingrays, crabs to Filefish and seagulls to turtles.  Live Eels are hot bait but not always easy to obtain.  For tournament fishing, I wouldnít enter unless I had several Eels.  Eels are a pain in the butt to handle because of the slime and a fresh out of the well Eel will twist up into a ball and around your line.  In my opinion, a 10-12Ē live Squid is the best of all baits for almost any fish I fish for.  I donít think anything t! urns down a Squid.   Unfortunately, the only time I get to use a Squid Is when I catch one at night.


From my point of view, a Cobia is the best fish we have around here.  It is great to eat, much more fun to catch than Grouper and they average a heck of a lot bigger than most other fish.  For many of my clients, the Cobia they catch will be the biggest fish they have ever caught.  Try to explain why you have to release the biggest fish they have ever caught when they catch a 32 incher. 


I have a couple of other Cobia fishing tips that I share with my clients if the occasion to use them arises.   I gotta hang on to something.







During the months of May and June, Big Bend fishing centers around the many annual Cobia tournaments. 

Cobia (ling)

Homosassa Fishing

Family Rachycentridae, COBIA
Rachycentron canadum

Description: long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects past upper jaw; dark lateral stripe extends through eye to tail; first dorsal fin comprised of 7 to 9 free spines; when young, has conspicuous alternating black and white horizontal stripes.

Similar Fish: remora, Echeneis naucrates.

Where found: both INSHORE and NEARSHORE inhabiting inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around bouys, pilings, and wrecks.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

*Florida Record: 103 lbs., 12 ozs.

Remarks: spawns in spring and early summer; feeds on crabs, squid, and small fish.

* The Florida records quoted are from the Department of Environmental Protection's printed publication, Fishing Lines and are not necessarily the most current ones. The records are provided as only as a benchmark.


Min. Size Limits: Not less than 33" at the fork 

Closed Seasons: None.

Daily Rec. Bag Limit:  1 per person per day or 6 per vessel per day, whichever is less 

Remarks:  A Saltwater products license and restricted species endorsement are needed to sell cobia or exceed bag limit.