Cobia also known as ling or lemon fishOn any offshore fishing trip, the excitement peaks when a cobia is spotted near the surface. Also known as ling or lemon fish, the cobia (Rachycentron canadum) is prized for its delicate, white, flaky fillets. Cobias are the only living species in their family and they have no close relatives. Found almost worldwide in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters, they are open-water fish, but tend to locate around pilings, buoys or drifting objects. They even orient themselves under sea turtles and floating boats. Cobias also appear to be attracted to noise. They range from saline bays inshore to offshore waters 4,000 feet deep.

Cobias are common in offshore waters of Louisiana from May through September. In the spring they migrate out of southern Florida waters north and westward into the northern Gulf of Mexico and westward to Texas. Some fish are reported to overwinter off of Louisiana’s coast in deeper Gulf waters.

Cheri's Slippery Lemon FishCobias become sexually mature at age two for males and three for females, at which time they are around 27 inches and seven pounds. They spawn in the summer months of May to August. A single female may produce between 1.5 and 5.4 million eggs. Fertilized eggs are buoyant and are kept afloat by a large oil globule in the egg until they hatch in 36 hours. Highest hatching rates occur in full-strength seawater at temperatures of 80°F. Cobia grow rapidly, reaching seven inches in a matter of months and 13 to 15 inches by one year old. Cobia are known to live at least 10 years and may reach 15 years of age.

Cobias’ diet consists of many different prey species, however the preferred food is swimming crabs, such as the blue crab. A food habits study done in the lower Chesapeake Bay bears this out. The researcher found 28 different species of animals in the 78 cobia stomachs he examined, but swimming crabs were by far the number one item in volume and number, making up 78 percent of cobia diet. This was true even in large cobia.

The researcher did find one interesting thing that no one had seen before – some of his cobia had eaten cownose rays, a very common species in the Gulf as well as the Atlantic.