Cobia, a unique fish with an unusual name, is a popular game fish and is highly valued for food. They are not commercially fished and rarely travels in large groups. Cobia is also known by a number of names including cubby, black kingfish, black salmon, and lemonfish. Wild caught cobia range from Virginia to Texas. The species is tropical and subtropical with seasonal migrations.
Cobia grow rapidly when young, but growth decreases with maturity. They reach a length of 6 feet and weigh between 50 to 80 lbs, though it is possible for the fish to weigh close to 100 lbs. Some have a lifespan of around 12 years and begin reproduction around the age of 3. When spawning, the amount of eggs varies by the size of the female. Cobia can spawn up to 2 million eggs and spawn multiple times in each season.
To identify cobia, look for a dark brown fish with a single dorsal fin. Juveniles have distinct coloring – alternating black and white strips and splashes of orange, green, and bronze. Cobia are long and slim. A dark lateral stripe runs from the eye to the tail. The cobia’s first dorsal fin has 7 to 9 spines.
Cobia don’t mess around at feeding time. They are aggressive predators and eat fish, squid, and smaller cobia. The majority of a their diet, however, is made up of crustaceans.
Found in waters around the world,they are abundant from Virginia through the Gulf of Mexico. The species migrates along the Atlantic coast, moving south and offshore during winter months. Cobia prefer to live near underwater structures or near large animals. Adults travel alone or in small groups. Not all cobia migrate, but some travel as far as 1,200 miles.
Cobia are strongly attracted to floating debris such as buoys, channel markers, and offshore oil platforms. They prefer high-salinity water and are found in both deep waters and near the surface.