If you spend enough time fishing the Gulf of Mexico you will inevitably come across a dark, thick-bodied brute that at first glance, may look like a shark. You may be scouring the grass flats for tarpon or circling an offshore buoy in search of blackfin tuna when you come across a torpedo-shaped shadow just within casting distance.
Don’t hesitate. Just toss your bait a few feet ahead of your target and hold on. You might be in for the fight of your life. For the cobia, sometimes called ling by traveling anglers, are one of the true treats of Florida fishing.
Not many Florida fishing charters target cobia, the legendary crab eaters of the tropics, but you might just come across one of these brawlers while out dolphin fishing.
Cobia fishing requires no special tackle or tactics. The same gear used for tuna fishing will work for these tenacious fighters. Top guides are always ready and willing to take advantage of the chance to hook a cobia if the opportunity presents itself.
Cobia, which travel alone and in schools, prefer structure such as reefs and wrecks, but will also venture into the shallows along with schools of stingrays, an added bonus for inshore anglers during snook season.
Cobia use stingrays the way a hunter uses a bird dog - to flush game - which is similar to the relationship of sharks and remoras. The remora, or shark sucker, will attach itself to a large predator and pick up the scraps when the animal eats.
So it is not surprising to find that these opportunistic feeders and cobia are closely related. If you want to find a remora, look for a big shark. If you want to find cobia, look for a big stingray.
But offshore anglers also catch their share of cobia regardless of the season. One of the most common ways to catch cobia is simply toss live or dead bait out on the surface of the water while anchored up grouper fishing. Cobia and the sharks they often swim with are both opportunistic feeders that will eat just about anything.