Cobia Conundrum

Cobia (rachycentron canadus) or “black kingfish” as they are often referred to, are an enigmatic species generally found in our tropical northern waters but has been recorded as far south as Jervis Bay in NSW. 

Cobia are best recognised by their very short spines of the first dorsal fin as well as distinctive pale and dark horizontal banding along the side of the fish. At first glance they appear shark-like and have a broad flattened head and slightly overlapping lower jaw. Juvenile cobia have a rounded tail whereas adults have a forked tail. The IGFA All tackle record for Cobia was actually caught at Shark Bay in Western Australia and weighed a whopping 61.5kgs ( 135lbs 9 oz ) on the 9th July 1985.

They congregate mainly around in-shore reefs with a particular attraction for current and wave action. Cobia can be found from the surface to the bottom around headlands, inshore rock ledges, deep water wharves, offshore islands, ocean rocks, offshore deep water reefs, inshore reefs and around navigation beacons and wrecks.

Cobia generally arrive in numbers across Hervey bay from September/October each year and stay in the area until around March/April when water temperatures start to taper off again. I have encountered Cobia right across Hervey Bay from the flats south of moon point to Roonies point at the top of Fraser Island as well as the deeper reefs off Platypus Bay and the Southern Gutters to the East off Bundaberg. 

I have generally hooked cobia while fishing for other species such as snapper which can be a problem as the average sized cobia in the bay is around 15+ kgs . Trying to stop a Cobe on relatively light spin gear and 20lb leaders is generally a drawn out affair and often ends in tears. One of my more memorable battles a few years back was on exactly that tackle. I was fishing for snapper with a G.Loomis GLX 852 – Shimano Stella 4000FE spooled with 20lb Power pro and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I was using a Squidgy 145mm Flick bait in Pillie on a 2/0 – 9gram Fish head and had already suffered a couple of wipe outs on this particular morning. The take was pretty subtle, just a sharp tap followed by heavy head shakes, then all hell broke loose with the fish screaming off for the horizon. We got our first look at it around one and a half hours in when it came to the surface as cobia will often do during the fight after hanging deep. That’s when we realised just how big it was and how little chance I had of landing it! But patience and great boat driving by my mate Nathan Nitschinsk saw us finally get a net shot just under the four hour mark – it then took us both to lift it on board. We estimated it to weigh around 40kgs as it measured 1.6 metres in length. We revived it for quite a while and it swam off strongly to give some other angler a fight for their life!

I will suggest that you should start off with more appropriate tackle if targeting Cobia with a light game outfit around 15kgs-24kgs being more suitable. Cobia are suckers for a live bait with a willingness to eat everything from sand crabs and yellowtail (yakkas) to legal sized snapper and tailor. This generally makes catching bait a simple task. Just about anything will work! 

A great combo for this is the Shimano Terez TZC 66H and Tyrnos 12 spooled with 50-80lb Power Pro braid. We generally run a 60lb – 80lb leader using a paternoster style rig with 8/0 circle hook on a dropper. You can also use a standard running sinker rig with solid ring or swivel. 

If targeting them with lures, I would go with the new Ocea Offshore 731 matched with Stella 6000 SWB spooled with 30lb Power Pro Depth Hunter. I like to go large on the plastics with my favourites being the Squidgy 145mm Flick baits and 160mm Wrigglers. The NEW Whipbaits will also be awesome and come in 150mm and 200mm sizes. Match these to the Weapon Jig heads which offer great strength and the option of adding an extra assist hook. We have also caught them on knife jigs and deep diving minnows while trolling.

As far as moon phases and tides go we have found the week leading up to the full moon appears to offer more activity. This may be due to increased run in the water with the old saying ”No run – No fun” being relevant when chasing most pelagics. In saying that we generally then get our most bites around the tide change with best results being on the low tide change. You will often encounter large longtail tuna, golden Trevally, giant trevally, mackerel and kingfish in the same areas. 

Cobia are also a fantastic table fish however you need to be aware of the Ciguatera risks with fish found around Hervey bay. They truly are a great sportsfish and well worth the effort to target!