Cobia Migration Patterns in Coastal Waters

Common Cobia names:

Black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeater, prodigal son, aruan tasek, and “Man in the Brown Suit“.

Farm Raised Cobia: The Other White Meat

Cobia grow so rapidly, going from egg to an 11-pound fish in about one to two years, that they were destined to be farmed. A fully matured Cobia can be as long as six feet and weigh over 100 pounds. Cobia flesh is white and firm, making the fish ideal aquaculture operations. Cobia prefer a water temperature between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

A few years back marketers had the bright idea to call farm raised Cobia “black salmon.” How they came up with black when the fish is mostly brown and silverish grey, and the meat is white, is a mystery. Whatever you call it, It is good!

Cobia rarely congregate in schools except during the spring and fall spawning seasons. Instead, Cobia tend to shelter in harbors, bays, sounds, and around nearshore wrecks and reefs.

Cobia consume crabs, fish, squids, and are considered to be voracious feeders with breeding populations existing in the “West and East Atlantic Ocean, throughout the Caribbean, and in the Indo-Pacific off India, Australia and Japan” and now eastern Pacific.

Spring Cobia Migration Patterns

On the east coast Cobia begin the move north in the spring to the spawning grounds of Georgia Sea Islands around the end of February. During the spring migration on the west coast of Florida, Cobia migrate north up from the Keys and west along the pan handle to the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta. Buoys, channel markers and towers are points of interest for the inquisitive Cobia and anglers alike.


Summer Cobia Migration Patterns

Cobia in the northern Gulf of Mexico are often seen and landed around shallow water and deeper offshore oil rigs in early summer. Cobia leave the beach during the hottest part of the summer, possibly due to their food choices. At which time Cobia move from east to west, then in the fall they go east back toward the Delta for wintering. On the east coast Cobia move to deeper water after spawning and await the fall migration south.

Fall Cobia Migration Patterns

In the fall they move back south to the wintering grounds of the Florida Keys. Even so, some Cobia seem to stay in coastal waters year around and may linger offshore during the winter months in 100-200 feet of water. However, most Cobia migrate when the time comes. During the fall Cobia migration patterns begin in October, but the heaviest numbers of Cobia are usually seen between mid-October and mid-November. In the fall, Cobia often travel in schools of 20 or more.

Top Proven Cobia Baits


best cobia migration pattern lures

Investigate around buoys, channel markers and towers. And if you are drift fishing look for them as they swim by, they tend to be very curious. Pitching jigs with white and chartreuse tails will usually get one to bite equaling loud screams of, “fish on!” When you get a large Cobia in the boat you need to get it straight into the cooler box. If not be prepared to stand clear or dispatch it with a club as Cobia tend to go bloody nuts on the deck.

Rogue Cobia are Maruading the West Coast of Baja and Southern California

Sometime in late 2015 “tens of thousands” of Cobia, escaped from an aquaculture facility off the west coast of Ecuador and started migrating north. These Cobia have set a nothward pace of 200 miles a month. By the time you are reading this, these Cobia are relaxing in the kelp beds of California while they spawn and feed on California crabs. These Cobia were nearly full grown adults of breeding age when they escaped and female Cobia can spawn up to 30 times per season.

Milton Love, a research biologist with UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute thinks chances are good that these rogue Cobia will spawn as they move up to California. “The idea is intellectually interesting and vaguely horrifying at the same time,” he stated. “This is the first time that Southern California waters potentially could have a large and voracious non-native species invade…What effect that will have on the native fishes, no one knows,” he added.

"Cobia-Habitat" Occurring in a range of marine environments, the Cobia habitat is found over coral reefs, off rocky shores, over mud, sand and gravel bottoms, around drifting or stationary objects such as rigs, and occasionally in estuaries. It is found at depths of up to 18 metres. see Cobia Migration Patterns

“It might not have any observable effects or it might have considerable ones. A possible scenario is for these fish to become well-established and start chomping down on native species the way Pac-Man slurps down pac-dots. For instance, Southern California’s rock crab fishery could be affected if a lot of these animals show up and start eating crabs at an alarming rate.”

Love also stated, “You might expect to see Cobia as summer migrants like Yellowtail,” Love continued. “They seem to be able to compete well with other fish in the vicinity and are generalists as far as what they feed on. Here, they would be in competition with Yellowtail, bonito or even with reef fishes like kelp bass.”

Southern California anglers will be as excited to catch Cobia as as east coasters are. And yes Sir, Cobia are delicious.

seasonal cobia migration patterns

NOAA Fisheries: FB16-018: Announces the Atlantic Migratory Group (Georgia to New York) Cobia Season

Cobia Migration Patterns Season Closed

NOAA Fisheries Announces the Atlantic Migratory Group (Georgia to New York) Cobia Recreational Fishing Season will close on June 20, 2016. The recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group cobia (from Georgia to New York) will close at 12:01 a.m. on June 20, 2016. Recreational harvest of cobia will reopen on January 1, 2017. The Atlantic migratory group includes cobia from Georgia through New York. Cobia off the east coast of Florida are part of the Gulf of Mexico migratory group. There are separate annual catch limits for the recreational and commercial sectors of Atlantic migratory group cobia. If the annual catch limits are exceeded, accountability measures are in place to ensure overfishing does not occur. If the Atlantic migratory group cobia recreational and total (recreational and commercial combined) annual catch limits are exceeded, NOAA Fisheries is required to reduce the length of the recreational fishing season in the following fishing year. In 2015, both the recreational and the total annual catch limits of Atlantic migratory group cobia were exceeded. Thus, the accountability measure is triggered for 2016. Because the commercial annual catch limit was not exceeded, this closure is only for the recreational sector. During the closure, recreational harvest or possession of cobia is prohibited. This closure is required by regulations implemented under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region and is necessary to protect the cobia resource. “

Cobia Migration Patterns Crab Cruncher Classic turns into $60,000 payday for Team Outcast

Team Outcast wins the Crab Cruncher Classic with a 71.9 pound Cobia! This super Cobia helped earn the team $58,555.50


South Carolina has now Implemented a Southern Cobia Management Zone that started in May and now Lasting Forever Here After

Two bills passed in SC to stop you from fishing for Cobia in the month of May,

“The bills would establish a Southern Cobia Management Zone, essentially all of South Carolina waters from Edisto Beach south to the Georgia line and out to the three-mile federal waters line. This legislation establishes a catch-and-release-only requirement during the month of May,” said David Whitaker, assistant deputy director for the Marine Resources Division of SCDNR. “It will also reduce the limit to one fish per person, per day with a boat limit of three fish per boat for the remainder of the year.

N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission defies South Atlantic Fisheries Management Councils mandated COBIA Closure

Out of compliance with the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (NCMFC) voted in defiance at a meeting in Morehead City, NC on Thursday to keep its Cobia fishery open in state waters past the federally mandated June 20 closure. Choosing instead to adjust the Cobia creel and size limits in order to stay below the quota.

Cobia with a Lemon Caper Sauce

Fresh Cobia with a lemon caper sauce

Servings 4


  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 1/4 lb Cobia or Sea Bass fillets cut into 4 pieces

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley


In a shallow dish, stir flour, salt, and pepper. Coat the fish in flour mixture (save the excess flour). In a 12 inch non stick pan heat oil over medium heat. Place floured fish in the oil. Cook for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from the heat. Save the drippings, keep fish warm.


Released un-harmed, this big female Cobia took an hour and half to land, weighed 60 + pounds and for sure is one of the biggest ever caught on a fly rod.