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Home > Resources & Publications > Newsletters & Magazines > Chenier Ecology > 2007 > 6-07

Resources & Publications:  Chenier Ecology

June 2007

Cobia – The Unusual Fish

Most people are intrigued by the unusual and fishermen are no exception.

There is something special about cobia, Rachycentron canadum, also known as ling or lemon-fish that gets an angler’s heart pounding. Although quite common in the northern Gulf from late spring through early fall, this unusual fish is always viewed as a reward from the sea when landed. Another reason for excitement is it’s excellent table fare. The flesh of the cobia is white, flaky and mild flavored, making it a desirable ingredient in many fish recipes.

Cobias are not only an unusual looking fish but are also the only living species in their family and they have no close relatives.

Found almost worldwide in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters, they are open-water fish but tend to locate around pilings, buoys or drifting objects. They are often found around floating objects and may rise and position themselves under boats or make inquisitive cruises around boats. Cobias also appear to be attracted to noise.

They range from saline bays inshore to offshore waters 4,000 feet deep. They are found over mud, sand, and gravel bottoms, over coral reefs and in mangrove sloughs.

In the Gulf of Mexico, cobia winter in the Florida Keys and move north and west along the Gulf coast to Louisiana and Texas in the spring. The cobia fishery reflects these migratory habits. In south Florida, cobia are fished mostly in the winter. Off of Louisiana, the fishery takes place in spring and summer. Some research indicates that cobia also move offshore to deeper waters during cooler months.

Cobia grow rapidly, reaching 7 inches in a matter of months and 13 to 15 inches by one year old. Cobia are known to live at least 10 years and may reach 15 years of age. The world record for rod-and-reel-caught cobia is a 135-pounder from Australia, although 150-pound fish have been reported.

Cobia can be aggressive feeders, often taken by anglers using methods from trolling to bottom fishing. However, they can be extremely tight-lipped, with many anglers sharing stories of frustration when cobia are seen, dropped baited offerings and only to swim away in disinterest.

A food habits study done in the lower Chesapeake Bay area found 28 different species of animals in the 78 cobia stomachs examined. But swimming crabs were by far the number one item in volume and number, making up 78 percent of cobia diet.

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