Cobia are perciform marine fish, the sole representative of their family, the Rachycentridae.
Attaining a maximum length of 2 metres (78 inches), cobia have elongate fusiform (spindle shaped) bodies and broad, flattened heads. Their eyes are small and their lower jaw projects slightly past the upper jaw. On the jaws, tongue and roof of the mouth are bands of villiform (fibrous) teeth. Their bodies are smooth with small scales, their dark brown coloration grading to white on the belly with two darker brown horizontal bands on the flanks. These may not be prominent except during spawning when cobia lighten in colour and adopt a more prominently striped pattern. The large pectoral fins are normally carried horizontally (rather than vertically as shown for convenience in the illustration), so that, as seen in the water they may be mistaken for a small shark. When boated, the horizontal pectoral fins enable the cobia to remain upright so that their vigorous thrashing can make them a hazard. The first dorsal fin is composed of six to nine independent, short, stout, and sharp spines. The family name Rachycentridae, from the Greek words rhachis meaning "spine" and kentron meaning "sting," is an allusion to these dorsal spines. Mature cobia have forked, slightly lunate tail fins with most fins being a dark brown. They lack air bladders.
Cobia are pelagic and are normally solitary except for annual spawning aggregations; however, they will congregate at reefs, wrecks, harbours, buoys and other structural oases. They may also enter estuaries and mangroves in search of prey.
They are found in warm-temperate to tropical waters of the West and East Atlantic, throughout the Caribbean and in the Indo-Pacific off India, Australia and Japan. The largest taken on rod & reel was taken from Shark Bay, Australia weighing 60 kg (135 lb). They are able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures (eurythermal) and salinity (euryhaline) between 1.6 and 32.2°C and 5-44.5 ppt in the environment.
Cobia feed primarily on crabs, squid, and other fish. Cobia will follow larger animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays in hope of scavenging a meal. Cobia are intensely curious fish and show no fear of boats and are known to follow other caught fish up to a boat and linger to see the action. Their predators are not well documented, but the dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) is known to feed on immature cobia. Shortfin mako sharks are known to feed on adult cobia and have been seen by fishermen following cobia during their annual springtime migration in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Cobia make seasonal migrations along the coasts in search of water in their preferred temperature range. Wintering in the Gulf of Mexico, they migrate north as far as Maryland in the Summer, passing East Central Florida in March.
The cobia is a highly rated, hard hitting game fish that is prone to long, powerful, determined runs and occasional leaps. Often when one is hooked the entire school will surface along with it. Preferred fishing methods are trolling with lures or baits, bottom fishing, jigging, chumming, and spin casting. They can be caught on crustaceans (which is why they are nicknamed “crab eaters” in Australia) as well as on smaller fishes. Good baits are squid, crabs, small live fishes, cut baits, and strip baits. Spoons, plugs, and weighted feathers can also be used. They rate high as table fare.
|Scientific Name:||Rachycentron canadum|
|Ideal Temp:||68-72°F (20-22°C)|
|Technique:||Casting, Chunking, Jigging, Trolling|
|Lure Type:||Plugs, Spoons, Trolling|
|World Record:||61.5 kg (135 lb 9 oz) Shark Bay, W.A. , Australia|
|Other Names:||lemonfish, crab eater, cobia|
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