Scott’s Species – cobia, an enigmatic and powerful sportfish

Often found cruising alongside sharks or manta rays, cobia are a formidable opponent for anglers in WA’s north, according to Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan. In this week’s edition of Scott’s Spots, the well-known fishing writer takes a closer look at the sometime enigmatic species.

Species: Cobia, Rachycentron canadus

Eating: 4 stars

ID: Flat head, dark brown colouring and prominent dorsal fin, prominent creamy stripe along the lower side of their body.

Scott Coghlan tempted this cobia from a passing shark at Exmouth. Picture: Western Angler

Cobia are usually found from north of Geraldton, although they do occasionally show up around Perth, generally in small sizes.

I have heard of the odd one being caught on the south coast and this year could see that happen given the strength of the Leeuwin Current pushing down the State’s west coast.

Cobia are very fast growing and can be found across a huge range of depths from very shallow to out deep.

They are unpredictable and you never know when they’ll show up, with enigmatic a word often used to describe them.

However, they are often found shadowing manta rays and sharks and can grow to more than 60kg, but most fish encountered will be from 10kg to 20kg.

This cobia Glenn Edwards caught simply swam up to the boat while a tuna was being played by another angler.

We’ve had great fun pulling them off manta rays offshore at times and also found a heap following large stingrays in the shallows at the Mackerel Islands last year.

Big cobia are also often found trailing sharks at Quobba and Steep Point and at times they are mistaken for small sharks.

I recall burleying up sharks at Quobba on one trip with the express purpose of catching the cobia following them.

Cobia are a very strong fish possessed of great power. When encountered, cobia are usually not hard to tempt.

They will happily take mulies, squid, strips of fish and other baits, especially when fished with just a light weight or without any weight at all.

They also respond well to most lures, including bibbed lures that are trolled or cast.

A seriously big cobia with its own little companion at the Mackerel Islands. Picture: Western Angler

They’ll happily hit lead-head jigs and sometimes respond well to poppers and stickbaits. Jigs and soft plastics are also very effective on cobia.

Sight casting lures at cobia sitting on manta rays or sharks is a fun way to fish for them. Many lures are lost though by anglers who find themselves hooked to the host rather than the fish!

When hooked cobia are capable of very long and powerful runs, but they will also often come in quite quickly, leading the angler to think the battle is won.

However, they invariably get a strong second wind at that point and it pays to exercise caution when using the gaff, as they are incredibly strong fish and often have a fair bit of fight let when they are landed.

And, to make fishing for cobia even better, they are fantastic on the plate!

Broome fisher Jade Relph doesn’t pass up the opportunity to chase cobia!