If you spend enough time fishing in The Keys, you will inevitably come across a dark, thick-bodied brute that at first glance, may look like a shark. Don’t hesitate. Just toss your bait a few feet ahead of your target and hold on. You might be in for the fight of your life. For the cobia, sometimes called ling by traveling anglers, are one of the true treats of Florida Keys fishing.
Cobia, which travel alone and in schools, prefer structure such as reefs and wrecks, but will also venture into the shallows along with schools of stingrays, an added bonus for inshore anglers during snook season.
Not many Florida Keys fishing charters target cobia, the legendary crab eaters of the tropics, but you might just come across one of these brawlers while out dolphin fishing. Top Florida fishing guides, such as those who work out of the Hawks Cay Marina, are ready and willing to take advantage of the chance to hook a cobia if the opportunity presents itself.
Florida cobia season typically runs from late fall through early spring. If you are interested in catching a cobia, try to work it into your fishing expedition, be it for snook, tarpon, sailfish or marlin. Our full-service marina has seven offshore boats that specialize in everything from big game fishing to spearfishing.
The Tailwalker and the Final Final are full-cabin, air-conditioned sportfishing boats that can accommodate parties of six. But if you are looking for a little adventure, check out the Snapshot, a center-console that will also run tuna fishing charters. The Eagle Eye is a smaller boat that will still get you out beyond the reef. Cobia fishing requires no special tackle or tactics. The same gear used for tuna fishing will work for these tenacious fighters.
Cobia use stingrays the way a hunter uses a bird dog to flush game, which is similar to the relationship of sharks and remoras. The remora, or shark sucker, will attach itself to a large predator and pick up the scraps when the animal eats. So it is not surprising to find that these opportunistic feeders and cobia are closely related. If you want to find a remora, look for a big shark. If you want to find cobia, look for a big stingray.
Offshore anglers also catch their share of cobia regardless of the season. One of the most common ways to catch cobia is simply toss live or dead bait out on the surface of the water while anchored up grouper fishing. Cobia, and the sharks they often swim with, are both opportunistic feeders that will eat just about anything.
Most of the cobia you will encounter will be in the 30- to 50-pound range. But remember, this fish can grow to more than 100 pounds, which makes cobia, on hook and line or spearfishing, a species to reckon with. Cobia fishing is a good sport, great table fare and well worth the extra effort.