Cobia: heavyweights of the seaFrom the April 21, 2010 Issue
Captain Ryan Hackney lead his father,
Rick, and two brothers to some terrific cobia action last week.
Rick landed this 57-pound cobia, his first ever.
The cobia are mysterious fish of sorts. Although it is possible to target them exclusively, most anglers happen upon them by chance. They are considered to be primarily a pelagic (offshore) species, but they are frequent visitors to inshore waters. As the waters warm in the Tampa Bay region, savvy anglers know it’s time to start looking for cobia in area waters. These feisty game fish can grow to over 100 pounds, but 50- to 60-pound fish are considered trophies during the spring run.
The cobia is often mistaken for a shark whose shape they closely resemble on first glance. In the upcoming months cobia will be migrating into local waters and if the past couple of weeks are any indication, action should continue to be hot. These strong fighters are often hard to find, but determined anglers can improve their chances by fishing structure and chumming. Most often anglers happen upon them while they’re fishing for other species.
Cobias often accompany rays, and that’s just where Captain Ryan Hackney and his brothers Trek and Chase discovered them about three miles off the beaches on south Anna Maria Island. The brothers were treating their dad Rick to a day on the water and conditions were perfect for running offshore. They had their sights set on grouper. After catching bait, Captain Ryan was in the tower when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. “It was just a shadow, but it was enough for me to investigate,” he related. When he did, he spotted a huge ray in about 35 feet of gin clear water. Flying formation on the ray were several large cobia. The first bait in the water was Chase’s, which immediately attracted the attention of a 35-pound fish. The cobia was brought to the boat after a 15-minute battle. After they landed and released the fish, Hackney got back in the tower and found the big ray again, this time with five cobia hovering nearby. Rick who had never caught a cobia, was suddenly hooked up to a bruiser that topped the scales at 57 pounds. The battle took 45 minutes and the frequent urgings of his three sons, but in the end he persevered and brought the fish to the boat. Anyone who has landed a big cobia on light tackle knows that it’s no small feat!
Colored brown on the top with a cream colored underside and sporting a black lateral band, the cobia becomes distinctive on closer examination. They are particularly fond of crabs and can be found on the both coasts of Florida over structure and following rays. The cobia may be considered an easy fish by some because they often can be caught right at boat side, but veteran cobia anglers know they can be extremely difficult to entice at times.
There’s no better time than early spring to target cobia and no better way than with an experienced guide. Captain Ryan Hackney fishes the Tampa Bay area and is based on Holmes Beach. He targets a diverse array of species including tarpon, redfish, snook, cobia and grouper. Hackney can be reached for charters at 941-720-5267. This is one fishery you don’t want to miss!