- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Cobia coloration is dark brown with a light underside and black fins. They have elongated bodies that are somewhat shaped like a shark’s and allow the cobia to be very strong and swift swimmers. A dark lateral stripe extends the length of the body from the eye to the deeply forked tail. There are two dorsal fins; the first a series of 8 to 10 separated spines, the second one to two spines and 20 to 30 soft rays. The head is broad and depressed. They have a large mouth and the lower jaw projects far past the upper jaw.
Young cobia are more colorful than adults, with spotting of green, orange and bronze and alternating black and white stripes. As the only species in the family Rachycentridae, their closest relative is the remora, also known as the sharksucker because they will attach themselves to the sides of sharks.
Cobia are opportunistic feeders that usually feed near the bottom but will also take prey at or near the surface. They forage on crabs, squid and small fishes. As cobia mature, fish become a more prominent part of their diet, but crustaceans, particularly shrimp, squid and crabs, still make up the majority of their forage, thus their common name crabeater.
Cobia are found worldwide in all tropical and temperate seas except for the eastern Pacific. In the western Atlantic, cobia inhabit waters from Cape Cod south to Argentina; in the eastern Atlantic from Morocco south to South Africa; and in the western Pacific from Japan to Australia. They are most plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cobia inhabit both inshore and offshore environs in relatively shallow waters along the continental shelf. Location is based largely on season and water temperature. They will generally migrate between inshore and offshore locations depending on which area is closest to the cobias preferred temperature 67 F. Near shore, cobia like bays, bridges, inlets and mangrove forests, and are attracted to areas with current and wave action. Offshore, they often congregate near navigational buoys and large stationary objects such as boat wrecks and oilrigs.
Young cobia are frequently schooling fish, but adult tend to be solitary or will travel with schools of shark mixed with a few other cobia.
- Because cobia have similar features to sharks, such as their wide heads, slick skin and pointed dorsal fin, they are often mistaken for sharks.
- A cobia tagged at Port Canaveral, Florida turned up in the northern Gulf of Mexico, close to 900 miles away, 46 days later – an average of almost 20 miles a day.
- Cobia are often found with manta rays, so whenever manta rays are observed cobia may be nearby.
- The all-tackle world record for cobia is 135 pounds, 9 ounces, caught off the coast of Australia in 1985.