Cobia are found in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate waters, averaging between 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit. In the western Atlantic Ocean they range between Nova Scotia and as far south as Argentina. They are most abundant in the coastal waters east of the United States, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. In the eastern Atlantic they hug the coast of Africa and continue along the tip of South Africa, and into the Indian Ocean all the way further east to Australia and Japan in the Indo-West Pacific. They do not enter the cooler eastern Pacific waters.
Cobia have elongated bodies with long, torpedo-shaped, depressed heads. Their coloration varies from dark brown to silver, growing lighter along the sides, with hues that blend from white to silver below. Up to two narrow dark stripes extend from the snout to the base of a wide fan tail. Seven to nine small free spines rise before the dorsal fin, and their lower jaw projects past the upper jaw. A high dorsal fin and long pelvic fins are carried horizontally, causing this fish to be mistaken for remoras and sharks. Juveniles are marked by alternating black and white horizontal stripes. Female Cobia mature at three years of age and males at two years; fully-grown specimens average 15 to 30 pounds, although 50-pounders are common. The IGFA record for Cobia is 135 pounds, nine ounces, taken in Shark Bay, Australia.
Cobia seek inshore shelter in harbors, mangroves, bays, and around reefs and wrecks. Offshore they congregate around reefs, flotsam, and over the continental shelf. Anchored boats, buoys, pilings and anything else that interrupts the open water may serve as home to schools of Cobia. They frequently share waters with sharks, and remora sightings will often indicate their presence. Shadows attract these fish, interestingly, and they can be found following large rays and even turtles near the surface. Migration occurs in early spring, northward along the Atlantic coast. These runs are significant and mark a tremendous rise in angling action as Cobia cruise along beaches and can be landed from small boats, piers and jetties. Spawning occurs in spring and early summer, in large offshore groups. By the 30th day of life young Cobia will have already taken on the appearance of adults. They feed on crabs, squid, and small fish, often scavenging from larger marine animals.
Powerful and determined, these fish are a favorite among sporting anglers. Though they provide excellent table fare, due to firm texture and great flavor, Cobia are not sought after by commercial fisheries. Many aquaculture farms raise these fish to be processed and sold fresh. They can be caught year-round and in many different ways from many convenient locations, further adding to their popularity and enhancing the joy of fishing.