Cobia are one of my favorite species to catch in the Florida Keys. They’re strong fighters, can be targeted in a variety of areas and depths, and are unrivaled when it comes to food quality. In this week’s fishing report, I offer advice on targeting cobia in the Atlantic. The cool water has really turned on the cobia fishing, and hopefully you’ll be able to get out this week and experience first-hand the excitement of reeling in a trophy cobia!
Sight fishing is the best way to target cobia in Hawk Channel. Slowly work color changes where dirty brown water meets green water, and be on the lookout for schools of cobia swimming on the surface. Always have a live bait or bucktail jig with twister tail ready to pitch, and make certain you can cast a long distance. These fish are often spooky and will dive down and out of sight if you don’t cast to them quickly and from a good distance away.
The best cobia fishing I’ve experienced on the shallow reefs has been during slack tides with clear water conditions. When sight fishing for cobia on the reef you may have to spend a good amount of time hunting for the fish, and you may not always find them. But when you do land a 50-pound fish, it makes it all worthwhile. In addition to sight fishing, also be on the lookout for cobia up while you’re anchored. Have a rod ready to pitch, and make an accurate cast with a live bait or bucktail jig when you see the fish pop up.
When fishing the deep reef and wrecks drop a large live bait (big pinfish or grunt) to the bottom and hope a cobia finds your offering. Cobia are ferocious feeders and a tell-tale sign you have hooked one is the fish will swim along the bottom for a while before swimming up to the surface. Have a rod ready to pitch if another cobia follows your fish to the boat. The trick to catching multiple fish is to be prepared. Cobia will disappear as fast as they show up.
Know your cobia regulations and bag limits before heading out to sea. Below are the most recent cobia regulations, courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Minimum Size: 33” measured to the fork.
Bag Limit: 1 per person, or 6 per vessel, whichever is less.
Florida Keys Fishing: The Week Ahead
Look for dolphin out to 500 feet. This past week we caught keeper schoolies with some quality fish up to 25-pounds as well. Target wahoo around any floating debris you come across, and also keep an eye out for blackfin tunas moving in as shallow as 100 to 200 feet.
With clearer waters pushing in you’ll likely need to lighten up on your fluorocarbon leaders while targeting snappers. On the shallow patches we’ve been catching good numbers of mangroves and yellowtails, and on the deep reef (50-100 feet) we’ve been landing big flag yellowtails up to 25-inches. You may need to go as light as 10 pounds on your leader to entice the big yellowtails.
More and more sailfish have moved in, offering an excellent chance to go out and catch one of these high-flying gamefish. Sight fishing as well as trolling live and fresh ballyhoo will yield the best results.
The bridges continue to offer up a steady mangrove bite. Fish the Seven-Mile with live pilchards, shrimp, or small pinfish.
Capt. Bobby Mankse put Marathon resident Lisa Cofield on her first sailfish this week aboard The Best Best.
Manske also led these anglers to their limit of mangrove and yellowtail snapper on the patch reef.