Cobia Fishing

May 15, 2020

couple holding cobia, Kent Island

Once you catch a cobia, you’ll be hooked on this aggressive and tasty fish. It isn’t a calm day of fishing when you’re going after cobia. Whether you call them ling, lemonfish, or cobia, you’ll be coming back for more after a day of reeling in this spectacular species.


We’ll admit it, cobia is a strange looking fish. They are long and sleek, with a depressed head and short dorsal fin. They have sleek dark coloring (from brown, dark gray, or black) on the top and a white belly. Sometimes people will mistake them as sharks, but the lack of teeth will prove their identity. Cobia can grow as long as 6 feet and weigh over 150 pounds. They use this weight to fight your line, so keep that in mind when it comes to landing this incredible fish.

Anglers from the Texas Gulf Coast to the Florida Keys, and all along the Atlantic Coast (including Chesapeake Bay and into Massachusetts) enjoy fishing for cobia. The season and water temperatures will determine where they are located; and there is a migration season to consider when scouting a fishing spot. During the winter (and colder months) they will move south or offshore to warmer waters. When the temperatures warm up, they move closer to shore and enjoy the warmth of the shallow waters. If you’re visiting the Florida Keys in the fall or winter months, cobia should be on your mind. But for those in South Carolina, wait until April or May and fish near the shore for your cobia catch. Understanding these migration patterns will increase your success rate.

Cobia are bottom dwellers and are known for eating whatever comes their way, including smaller baitfish, squid, eel, and crab. They can be found in waters as shallow as 3 feet, or as much as 20 feet deep. Again, season and water temperature will determine where to start your cobia excursion. To see cobia in action, start your fishing excursion in the mid-morning or early afternoon. As opposed to some other fishing excursions, cobia are more active during this time of day and the fishing is better.

Fishing For Cobia

If cobia are in shallow water, you should be able to sight fish for them. This is what makes fishing for cobia in the spring and summer months so exciting. You can see them looking for food, present your offering for the taking, and enjoy the fight getting them to the boat. During the winter in the Florida Keys, anglers will search the many reefs for cobia, moving from reef to reef until a pair is found (cobia are rarely in schools, but will often pair up).

If you’re fishing deeper waters, try your hand at chumming for cobia; this is a technique where anglers will toss smaller bait fish or fish parts into the water to attract bottom feeders to the surface of the water. Then you’re once again sight fishing, adding your bait into the chum once you see a cobia. First use Fishfinder or other radar technology to locate cobia, then toss your chum line into the water. Then you can toss either live, cut, or artificials into the mix and wait for the cobia to take your bait. Other techniques often used when fishing for cobia include jigging, fly fishing, and surf fishing.

If you’re unable to fish for a boat, there are several piers along the Gulf and Atlantic Coast that you can fish from. Catching cobia from a pier is not only possible, it is sometimes preferable. Cobia are aggressive fighters and you can tire them out in the water long before pulling them up. You will need heavier tackle than most other pier species, so preparation is key. Luckily for Sammy Thornton of Nags Head, North Carolina, he was ready and knew just what to do when he saw cobia from a local pier.

As we’ve mentioned, cobia are tough fighting fish. They will run the line, usually adding some thrashing for good measure. If you land cobia too soon, they’ll bring this behavior on board and cause havoc on the deck. Make sure you leave the hooked cobia in the water and let them get all the aggression out, then bring them on board. recommends practicing the catch-and-release policy for cobia; this helps protect the population and future fishing opportunities. But if you are going to harvest your catch, make sure you know the regulations for the state where you’re fishing as it’s different throughout the county.

If you do end up taking some fillets home, get ready for a delicious meal. Cobia have white flaky meat that some consider the best tasting of all fish. You can grill, pan fry, or bake your fillets with just light seasoning. Add a salad, maybe rice or vegetables as a side, and with a nice glass of wine you’ve got yourself one of the best meals you can imagine. Bon appetit!

Book A Cobia Fishing Charter

We know you’ll be hooked on cobia once you see how much fun they are to catch! Take our word for it and try this super fun fishing adventure. Let help you find a cobia charter near you; your adventure is just a click away!

Planning a fishing trip?

Find a Fishing Charter

Search Trips