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Catching Migrating Cobia

with Mark Davis

Mark Davis cobia

Cobia are what I call a near-shore pelagic species. Yes, you can catch cobia at different times of the year in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico, but the best time to catch them are when the cobia are migrating in certain regions of the gulf. The captains at Mexican Gulf Fishing Company had been seeing numbers of cobia showing up on the near-shore rigs (called the short rigs). After we caught tuna, we decided to go after the cobia. These rigs are usually 3-5 miles from the mouths of the passes where the Mississippi River flows. The rig we caught the most cobia on was in about 60 feet of water.
Fishing from Venice, Louisiana, the last week of August through late October or even into November is the time when the cobia show up in large numbers on the short rigs. When we were there, we had high river and mud out in the Gulf on the short rigs as well as the big rigs. Luckily on this trip, one of the guys we had with us is a Mexican Gulf Company Fishing captain, Paul Miller, who’s also a free diver and a spear fisherman. He explained that we had about 2-3 feet of muddy water on top of very clear salt water, and when he’d been diving, he noticed the water around the rigs was really clear.

So, we weren’t able to see any of the cobia holding on the rigs. We were using 2-ounce Spro Power white bucktail jigs that have big, beefy, heavy 4X hooks. I used 3 feet of Blue Label fluorocarbon line as a 3-foot leader going to the jig and 80-pound test Threadlock braided line from the leader to the reel. I fish this heavy line for cobia because when these fish are hooked, they try to go back into the rig and break your line. Since the cobia has a big, powerful, thick tail, if you're going to turn those fish when they start to go back into the rig, you have to have a heavy drag and a stout rod and put a lot of pressure on them with a heavy drag. I’ve designed a Power Bucktail mainly because it has such a strong hook in it that you can pull just about any fish that bites it into the boat without bending the hook. We were using either white or chartreuse curly tail grubs on the back of the hook as a trailer.
You can catch a large number of 30- to 40-pound cobia around these near-shore rigs, and occasionally you’ll catch one bigger than that. On most rigs, at the time of the year that we fish from now until November, there usually will be from 1-15 cobia holding on each rig you fish. When the fish stop biting, you can move to another short rig and continue to catch more. On our trip we caught five or six of those 30-pound cobia, but what I was hoping for was for us to catch a double to close the show. We were able to do that. We caught two nice cobia to close the show. But if you like cobia fishing, now’s the time to be heading to the Gulf of Mexico and fishing the rigs out in the Gulf from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way back to Mississippi and Alabama.

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