May’s “Best Bet”

May’s “Best Bet”
At Last… Huge Migrating COBIA Have Finally Arrived in Northeast Florida!

By Terry Newsome

When it comes to chasing the ultimate coastal angling experience in Northeast Florida, very few outdoor adventures can deliver the overwhelming excitement of stalking and landing a 40-pound Cobia! At last, good numbers of huge migrating Cobia have finally arrived in the coastal waters of Northeast Florida. The Cobia bite is on… but remember, the minimum size limit for Cobia is 33 inches
(at the fork) and the daily bag limit is 1 per harvester per day (with a maximum of 6 per vessel.) There is no closed season for Cobia and the official Florida state record for Cobia is 130.1 pounds. The best time to catch that 40-pound Cobia you’ve always dreamed about is right now… so don’t miss your window of opportunity!


Cobia (or commonly referred to locally as “Ling”) are one of
the most popular sport fish in the entire state of Florida; and for
good reason. Cobia can be found year-round in good numbers throughout Florida’s vast coastal waters and marine environment. (This hard-fighting sport fish is also excellent table fare and one of
my favorites!) Cobia are highly-mobile and the best time to catch Cobia in Northeast Florida is during their migration. Cobia prefer warm water temperatures (above 68 degrees) and begin migrating south from mid-Atlantic coastal waters in October to avoid the colder water temperatures of late fall and winter. In the spring, Cobia begin to migrate north (from south Florida) in search of warmer water temperatures and huge pods of migrating baitfish. Historically, coastal anglers targeting Cobia simply look for migrating Manta Rays in late April and May as the primary signal that the Cobia bite was on. Cobia love to follow huge Manta Rays as the migrate from south Florida. If you can find the Manta Rays, you will find Cobia! However, the latest “alternative theory “on Cobia migratory patterns suggest that Cobia move from east to west (in the spring) from deeper off-shore reefs
and natural ledges to shallower reefs (around 100 feet) then eventually to within 100 yards of the beach. This new theory is based on fishing reports and “harvest data” collected over the last 20 to 30 years and implies that Cobia migrate to the shoreline first and THEN start following the Manta Rays as they migrate up the coastline. Either way, when the water temperatures hit 70 degrees in Northeast Florida, the Cobia are usually within 100 yards to 5 miles from the beach chasing Manta Rays and following huge pods of Menhaden (“pogies.”)

The best strategy for catching Cobia is to employ the proven “sight- fishing” or “visual targeting” method and be sure it is a bright sunny day! (If it is overcast, you will be wasting your time.) Your best bet, is to slowly approach floating buoys, channel markers, floating objects, tide lines, weed lines etc. and search for feeding Cobia near the surface of the water; (polarized sunglasses are a must!) If you approach too fast, you can easily “spook” the Cobia which will significantly diminish your chances for success. Using a slow, deliberate “stealth” approach, many times you “sneak up” on huge Cobia holding close to these “structures” feeding on fish, crabs, shrimp and squid. Also, (as you will discover later in this article) Cobia can also be found in shallow water along the beaches, over sandy flats around inlet “bays” and even inside the Mayport jetties in the lower St. John’s River! And when it comes

to the best baits to use, a hungry Cobia will take almost any “live” bait including live eels, pinfish, menhaden (pogies,) mullet and even large live shrimp! However, most local Cobia anglers prefer whole frozen squid or live menhaden. Large artificial top-water and suspending lures can also be effective for catching Cobia in certain conditions. In fact, swimming soft plastics like the 4.5” to 5.5” Strike King’s Shadalicious lure (available at Strike Zone) can be deadly for catching hungry Cobia!

For best results, use a premium spinning or bait-casting reel
with a quality graphite rod (heavy-action) and 20 to 30-pound test monofilament line with a 6 foot, 40 to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. Be sure to use a laser sharp, 4/0 to 6/0 live bait hook to improve your success rate! Let the chase begin!


The owner and editor of Coastal Angler Magazine (Northeast Florida Edition) is my good friend, Captain Danny Patrick. Danny
is one of the most talented and versatile coastal anglers in the entire state of Florida. Two of Danny’s favorite sport fish to target in the month of May are Tarpon and the hard-fighting Cobia!!! Every year, (during the full moon in May,) Danny travels to the Florida Gulf
Coast to the north tip of Anna Maria Island (near Sarasota) and fishes for schooling trophy Tarpon at the infamous Bean Point. Last May, Danny and his son (Chris Patrick) finished fishing for Tarpon around 10:00AM and decided to go fishing for Speckled Trout near Long Point inside Sarasota Bay. “My son Chris and I were Trout fishing with light spinning tackle in 6 feet of water over a grassy flat area in Sarasota Bay near the Intracoastal Waterway several miles inland from the open Gulf of Mexico” Danny explained. “Chris was fishing with a small
live menhaden (pogie) under a small cork using 15-pound test line and a #4 wide-bend hook” says Danny, “then the surface of the water exploded around Chris’s live bait!” When the strike first occurred, Danny and Chris knew it was a nice fish, but did not realize that Chris had hooked into a 40-pound Cobia! “We had no doubt that the fish was huge… and with 15-pound test line and a small hook, we knew the chase was on,” added Danny, “and with the line screaming of the spinning reel, we quickly picked up the anchor and aggressively chased the 40-pound Cobia into deeper water. Chris would not give up the fight and after 1 1⁄2 hours of intense concentration and excitement, Chris finally landed his 40-pound Cobia; and it was a sight to behold!”

With over 25 years of corporate experience as a writer, director and producer, Terry Newsome has personally filmed and produced over 100 outdoor television shows and instructional fishing videos internationally. He is an avid coastal angler and is a former co-owner of Pine Island Fish Camp on the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Augustine, Florida.