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Mid Atlantic Cobia Fishing

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Among the largest American saltwater fish, cobia are a welcome sight when they appear along the Mid-Atlantic coast and the waters of Chesapeake Bay. Each spring, large numbers of these beautiful fish migrate Northward, providing a challenge to anglers from South Carolina to Delaware.

Cobia are striking fish, with striped flanks, large pectoral fins and a deeply forked tail. The fish have brown backs with a black stripe along the lateral line and white undersides. They have a wide blunt head and large mouth. Although most fish are 15 to 30 pounds, they can reach weights of 100 pounds or more and lengths approaching 6 feet.

Cobia fishermen use a variety of outfits, depending on the type of fishing. Some anglers may choose light outfits, while others employ stronger gear as these fish can reach weights of 100 lbs. For sight casting baits or lures, most anglers use a spinning or bait casting outfit in the 20-30 lb range.

Other situations such as chumming require similar or slightly heavier conventional reels. Because of the cobia's size and searing runs, a smooth drag and fresh, durable line is essential.

Anglers fish for cobia with live bait such as spot, croaker, perch, menhaden, striped mullet, eels, shrimp, crabs and other baits. Top baits vary with season, location, availability and personal preference. Some anglers obtain live baits in local tackle shops while others choose to catch their own with cast nets, hook and line, seines or traps.

Rather than fish with baits, some anglers prefer lures for cobia even though the fish have a reputation for being finicky towards them. Often, anglers will encounter cobia on the surface that will follow a lure but refuse to bite. A few basic lures, presented correctly will sometimes incite a strike from an otherwise un-interested fish.

These include surface poppers, soft bodied jigs and other lifelike lures. The action and presentation of lures can be critical, with experience being a key asset for fishermen. As with rods and reels, lures and terminal tackle need to be sturdy built to handle the stresses of these brutal fish.

Saltwater fly fishing anglers also target cobia along the coast and in the lower Chesapeake. Fly casters seek out fish that are cruising the surface, orienting to structure or drawn to chum slicks. Fly rods and reels must be high quality saltwater versions, capable of withstanding the powerful runs of cobia. Large saltwater flies that mimic local baitfish are often the best choice.

Anglers that catch cobia must choose to release the fish unharmed, or harvest it for the table. Harvested fish are kept on ice and cleaned as soon as possible. The meat of cobia is white, flaky and very mild tasting.

A single large fish will yield enough steaks to feed several families. Fortunately, cobia is very easy to fillet and the meat freezes well. Cobia steaks are easily adapted to most recipes that call for a white, mild tasting fish.

While some anglers elect to harvest cobia for the table, many are released. Catch and release anglers enjoy seeing a trophy fish swim away unharmed and often commemorate the catch with the purchase of cobia t-shirts or other collectibles.

The author is an outdoor enthusiast and writes for several outdoor websites including Virginia Beach VA, Hampton Roads Virginia and Virginia Saltwater Fishing.

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J.C. Banks

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