Cobia Fishing in the Florida Keys


Last week we ventured out to the Gulf of Mexico in pursuit of a Cobia, also referred to as ling or crab eater. Cobia feed on crab, squid and other fish. They have a broad flat head with an elongated body and are known to travel far distances. They spend the winters in the Gulf of Mexico passing through Florida around March. According to one Mississippi study, a fish tagged off the coast of Louisiana was recaptured two and a half years later in South Carolina! Cobia are exciting to catch and always give a good fight!

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First, we checked the tides in the area we would be fishing. We learned the best time to catch Cobia in the Gulf is during a slack tide. On this particular day slack tide was at 2pm, the perfect time for an afternoon fishing trip. We loaded the boat with chum, frozen shrimp, frozen squid and live pinfish, along with plenty of ice and food.

We took a 20 minute trip to our favorite spot in the Gulf to catch cobia just to find another boat fishing the same area. We were bummed but a good captain always has a backup plan. We headed to the second location carefully dodging all the stone crab traps scattered around the back country. Once at our “plan B” spot, we caught our drift and set anchor in 20 feet of water over a small wreck. Not wasting any time, we put the chum bag out and got some baits in the water. Our go-to rig for cobia includes a live pinfish on a knocker rig or a 1/2 oz jig with 40lb leader, then we eagerly waited for a bite.

Pinfish on jig

Pinfish on jig

Pinfish on knocker rig

Pinfish on knocker rig

We fished with at least three lines in the water at all times, one pinfish on a knocker rig, one on a jig, and one on wire. Almost Immediately we hooked up juvenile grouper, grunts, and small sharks. 

Then our pinfish on wire had a bite and the drag started to scream. Emily ran to the rod hoping it would be anything but another toothy shark. To our delight the fish surfaced and I started yelling what Emily already knew, “Cobia! Cobia! Cobia!" She directed me to put the camera down and help get the fish in the boat. It was a team effort and we had our cobia! The fish was a nice size but we weren’t sure if it was a keeper. I grabbed the net and pulled the fish into the boat. Success!! We caught a cobia! Emily picked the fish up and measured it at 31” which was two inches shy of a keeper. After a quick picture the fish was released and sent home to the sandy bottoms of the Gulf.

In a short 4 hour afternoon trip we succeeded in catching our cobia and had a great day catching many other species. Check below for details on our tackle.


The Gale Force Twins

Our Tackle Box:

40 lb leader

40 lb Leader


1/2 oz jighead

Circle Hook 4/0

4/0 Mustad Circle Hook


6 oz Egg Sinker

Barrel Swivel

Barrel Swivel

#4 Wire

#4 Tooth Proof Wire