Fish Facts » Cobia
The body is elongate and torpedo-shaped with a long, depressed head. The eyes are small and the snout is broad. The lower jaw projects past the upper jaw. The skin looks smooth with very small embedded scales. Easily distinguished by the first dorsal fin which is composed of 7-9 short, strong isolated spines, not connected by a membrane. Second dorsal fin is long with the anterior portion elevated. The caudal fin is round to truncated in young fishes, and lunate in adults with the upper lobe extending past the lower. The origin of the anal fin is beneath the second dorsal apex and the pectoral fin is pointed. Cobia lack an air bladder. The body is dark brown to silver, paler on the sides and grayish white to silvery below, with two narrow dark bands extending from the snout to base of caudal fin. These dark bands are bordered above and below by paler bands. Young cobia have pronounced dark lateral bands, which tend to become obscured in the adult fish. Most fins are deep brown, with gray markings on the anal and pelvic fins.
As a pelagic fish, cobia are found over the continental shelf as well as around offshore reefs. It prefers to reside near any structure that interrupts the open water such as pilings, buoys, platforms, anchored boats, and flotsam. The cobia is also found inshore inhabiting bays, inlets, and mangroves. Remoras are often seen swimming with cobia.
As voracious eaters, cobia often engulf their prey whole. They are carnivores, feeding on crustaceans, cephalopods, and small fishes such as mullet, eels, jacks, snappers, pinfish, croakers, grunts, and herring. A favorite food is crabs, hence the common name of "crabeater". Cobia often cruise in packs of 3-100 fish, hunting for food during migrations in shallow water along the shoreline. They are also known to feed in a manner similar to remoras. Cobia will follow rays, turtles, and sharks, sneaking in to scavenge whatever is left behind. Little is known about the feeding habits of larvae and juvenile cobia.
Cobia is considered an excellent game fish and are highly prized by recreational fishers. It is a powerful fish and exciting to catch on hook and line. In the US, cobia are caught commercially in pound nets, gill nets, and seines. They are also taken incidentally by shrimp trawlers and longliners in the Gulf of Mexico. Cobia are usually caught in small quantities due to their solitary existence. It is a good food fish for human consumption and is typically marketed fresh, frozen, or smoked.
Weighing up to a record 135 pounds (61 kg), cobia are more common at weights of up to 50 pounds (23 kg). They reach lengths of 20-47 inches (50-120 cm), with a maximum of 79 inches (200 cm).
The cobia is distributed worldwide in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate waters. In the western Atlantic Ocean this pelagic fish occurs from Nova Scotia (Canada), south to Argentina, including the Caribbean Sea. It is abundant in warm waters off the coast of the US from the Chesapeake Bay south and through out the Gulf of Mexico. During autumn and winter months, cobia migrate south and offshore to warmer waters. Cobia prefer water temperatures between 68°-86°F. Seeking shelter in harbors and around wrecks and reefs, the cobia is often found off south Florida and the Florida Keys. In early spring, migration occurs northward along the Atlantic coast. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, cobia range from Morocco to South Africa and in the Indo-West Pacific from East Africa and Japan toAustralia. Cobia do not occur in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Florida Museum of Natural History
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