March is here and the cobia will be too. With cooling water temperatures that have moved into our area, cobia will also be coming into the waters off the Treasure Coast. When weather allows and you can get outside the inlets, it is a great time to target cobia. Cobia is an awesome fighting fish and one of the best tasting fish in the ocean. These fish will be found from just off the beach on out to 80 to 90 feet depths.
There are various ways to find cobia. They follow manta rays, swim behind turtles, and swim with sharks or with bait schools. On days with westerly winds or if there are days with light to no wind, you will be able to sight fish cobia. Look for manta rays or turtles and cast behind them to see if there is any cobia following them. I suggest trolling live baits such as pilchards, greenies or sardines slowly while looking for cobia on the chance that they may not be visible.
You can run the beach on calmer days looking for schools of sharks. When sharks are found, scan the area to see if any cobia is mixed in with the sharks. Whether you locate a cobia or not, cast a two to two-and-a-half-ounce jig, preferably with a tail on it, or a big bass worm or an eel like jig, past the school of sharks and work it back to the boat. This will catch the attention of any cobia. Keep in mind, when picking out your jig, eels are a favorite food of cobia. Cobia will check out the jig and many times hit it. If they don’t eat the jig, they will often follow it back to the boat. In this instance, have another rod ready and rigged with live bait or a whole squid to toss at the cobia to entice it to eat.
Cobia can also be caught while bottom fishing. They are a curious fish. They will swim right up to your boat to check it out. While bottom fishing, always have a rod rigged with a bait or jig in case a cobia shows up and always keep an eye on the water.
I recommend using a seven-foot rod with a good backbone. The length of the rod will help on casting a lure farther to the fish and the backbone will help for the fight. I would recommend a 6000 to 8000 sized reel spooled with at least 30-pound braid and 50-pound leader with a 6/0 live bait or circle hook. On our coast, cobia are caught up to 50 to 60 pounds and the chance of a bigger one is always there. You will want tackle to handle the big one that may be around.
When you catch a cobia and get it boat side, if you are not sure that it is legal size, it is best to use a net to land it so you can release the fish unharmed if it is too short. Also, if at all possible, use a net to land even a legal fish; it will be just a little bit calmer when landed. Be careful after landing these fish because they are powerful, they can destroy anything and everything in the cockpit. The best bet is to get them on ice in the cooler or fish box and the lid locked down as soon as possible. Be careful of the spines on a cobia’s back between the heads and dorsal fin. They are very sharp and covered with bacteria from the slime and can cause a painful puncture through your skin.
Have fun and tight lines!