By Peter Krause
Spring signals the season of migrating fish throughout the Brevard coastline, and the offshore vanguard of migrating sportfish is the cobia.
Cobia are not only odd looking, they are odd genetically as well. Many gamefish such as mackerel or grouper come in a wide variety of species and genera. Cobia, on the other hand, represent the only member of their genus and family. Their closest relative is actually the remora.
Anglers unfamiliar with swimming cobia sometimes mistake them for sharks due to their strong tail action, outthrust pectoral fins and wide mouth. Cobia are easy to see on the surface because they are not shy. Similar to their distant relatives, cobia love to hang around objects - floating debris, buoys and large sharks and rays.
Since they are so curious, sight-casting is the preferred method of fishing, though cobia are sometimes caught on a slow troll, or deep around wrecks when fishing for grouper or snapper. Purists prefer spinning reels with 15 to 30 pound test, depending on target size. Cobia love crabs of any kind, and have a fondness for eels. They will also go for live pinfish, mullet, jumbo shrimp and the normal sardine-type baitfish. Artificials include large colorful bucktails, spoons and most fish-like lures.
As a gamefish, cobia are very strong fighters. They typically make several long runs when hooked. Gaffing is always tricky, as cobia tend to save up enough energy for a final burst when brought aboard. They can and do destroy boat equipment and interiors when flopping around the cockpit.
As a food fish, cobia is well loved. The meat is white with red streaks, but the red is not badly flavored as it is in some fish and can be left in.
Cobia are a fast-growing fish, perhaps living 10 to 12 years in the wild. The Florida record is 114 pounds (world record, 135), though most Brevard catches are from 25 to 40 pounds, with the occasional fat 60-plus- pounder bringing an exhausting workout.
In Florida waters, Cobia must be 33 inches from tip of the jaw to fork of the tail. Only one cobia may be kept per person, with a six cobia maximum per boat.
Federal regulations include the same minimum size, but allow two cobia per angler, with no boat maximum. Keep in mind that even though you may be legal with two cobia in federal waters (three to 200 miles offshore), if you stop even once in Florida waters with that catch, you are in violation and can be fined.
High seas have been frustrating the weekend cobia hunters, but grouper and snapper are still being picked off the bottom, from 100 feet on out. Look for tripletail around weeds or other debris.
High surf frustrated surf fisherman for most of last week. Piers and jetties will get you behind the surf, where whiting and pompano are still biting shrimp and sand fleas. Murky water will bring small bonnethead sharks as well.
For thousands of years, Mosquito Lagoon redfish were isolated from the Indian River population. Then, the current Haulover Canal was built in the 1880s and a link was created between the lagoons. Warming waters this time of year kick off big bull redfish activity in and around the canal.
There are reports of bedding bass in area freshwater, which may keep the bass bite down until after the spawn. There have been some catches around grass and dropoffs, using flukes and slow retrieves.
Peter Krause has fished all over the Florida ever since his childhood, when he pulled bream out of the Everglades canals. He has fished Brevard waters for more than 10 years. Peter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of great catches can also be sent to him at that address.