- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
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 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.
Spawning patterns of the cobia, like other behaviors of this mysterious fish, are still being analyzed by scientists who say it is too early to draw concrete conclusions. It is known that cobia spawn between April and May in the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but it is not known whether they spawn offshore before the young move inward or if spawning takes place in estuaries and bays. In either case, juveniles are abundant in summer along coastlines after the spawning season. It is also known that cobia are multiple spawners, that females lay between 6 and 7 million eggs and that eggs hatch within 36 hours of fertilization.
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.
Once in short supply throughout much of its range, cobia have rebounded significantly and are currently a popular and abundant game fish. They are usually aggressive and more than willing to strike a variety of artificial lures, as well as live baits. Part of the cobias appeal is the fact that it can often be caught by casting and retrieving baits and lures, rather than trolling or stillfishing deep down toward the bottom. It is also a popular target for fly anglers. Cobia are not easily spooked by boats, but, ironically cautioned is practiced when approaching one so as to not draw it to the boat. Once hooked, they are strong fighters in the water and in the boat.
Structures as deep bridge pilings, buoys, channel markers, and oil rigs will hold cobia in summer and fall; during the spring migrations, they are often found cruising at the edge of the surf and near inshore structural elements.
Spinning and bait-casting tackle and 15- to 30-pound line are general tackle requirements. It is often necessary to cast to individual cobia from distances of 60 feet or more, so artificial lures are usually preferred over bait. Common lures include diving plugs and a variety of jigs. Bait preference depends on location, but generally includes crabs, eels and baitfish such as mullet and pinfish.
- 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.