Cobia

Cobia

Rachycentron canadum

AKA:

Sergeant fish, Crabeater, Lemonfish

Managed by:

SAFMC, GMFMC


Physical description:

Often mistaken for a shark or shark sucker, the cobia species is dark brown with a single dorsal fin and occasionally found tagging along with sharks, rays, and turtles. Long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects past upper jaw; dark lateral stripe extends through eye to tail; first dorsal fin comprised of 7 to 9 free spines; Young cobia are more active than adults and are colored conspicuously with alternating black and white horizontal stripes with splotches of bronze, orange and green.


Biological description:

Cobia have a circumtropical distribution, and in the United States are found from Virginia to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Both INSHORE and NEARSHORE inhabitating inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around buoys, pilings, and wrecks.They may be seen migrating in the late spring through coastal waters and bays. Cobia are known to live up to 10 years and reach a length of 6 feet and a weight exceeding 100 pounds. Females are usually larger than males, and reach sexual maturity when they are 36 inches long. A male will reach sexual maturity at 24 inches. The spawning season extends from late June to mid-August along the southeastern United States and from late summer to early fall in the Gulf of Mexico. Cobia eat some fishes, although the bulk of the diet is crustaceans (thus the common name "Crab Eater").


NOTE: Recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group cobia (GA through NY) is CLOSED effective January 24, 2017. The fishery will remain closed through December 31, 2017.


South Atlantic Federal Regulations -

FACT SHEET - Recent Regulatory Changes for Mackerels & Cobia (February 2016)

Commercial:

  • OPEN effective January 1, 2017.
  • Size Limit: 33 inch fork length
  • Trip Limit: 2 fish per person/day regardless of the number of trips or duration of a trip.
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • Drift gillnets are prohibited.
    • Must be landed with heads and fins intact.
    • Minimum size limit=33" FL; Daily possession limit=2 per person.
    • Authorized gear includes automatic reel, bandit gear, hand line, rod & reel, and pelagic long-line
    • Commercial snapper grouper vessels must have onboard NMFS approved sea turtle release gear and follow smalltooth sawfish release protocol. See the Handling and Release Protocol from NOAA Fisheries or call 727-824-5312.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Commercial ACLs (quotas) from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates:

Recreational:

  • CLOSED, effective January 24, 2017. The closure applies to Atlantic migratory group cobia (GA through NY) only. The fishery will remain closed through December 31, 2017.
  • Note: NMFS implements accountability measures (AMs) for Atlantic migratory group cobia that are not sold (recreational) in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Atlantic. In 2015 and 2016, recreational landings of Atlantic migratory group cobia (Atlantic cobia) exceeded the stock annual catch limit (ACL), and therefore, AMs for the recreational sector are triggered for 2017. NMFS closes the recreational sector for Atlantic cobia in Federal waters on January 24, 2017, and it will remain closed for the remainder of the fishing year through December 31, 2017. This closure is necessary to protect the resource of Atlantic cobia. For more information, see:
  • Size Limit: 33 inch fork length
  • Trip Limit: 2 per person per day. Note: Florida state regulations only allow 1 per person/day or 6 per vessel/day, whichever is less.
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • Drift gillnets are prohibited.
    • Must be landed with head and fins intact
    • Minimum size limit=33" Fork Length; Daily possession limit =2 per person.
    • Note: Florida state regulations allow only 1 per person/day or 6 per/vessel per day, which ever is less.  FWC Division of Law Enforcement uses the following guidelines for possession limits in FL state waters:
      • A person who is observed fishing in state waters is subject to state rules.
      • A person who claims to have fished in federal waters and returns to port without stopping in state waters (and thus is not observed fishing in state waters) is subject to federal regulations.
      • A person who claims to have fished in federal waters, but who is observed fishing in state waters, is presumed to have caught the fish in state waters and will be subject to state rules.
    • One day possession limit.
    • Charter/headboats require a permit for Coastal Migratory Pelagics.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Recreational ACLs from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates:
    • History of the 2016 Season: The fishery was closed on June 20, 2016. The season reopened on January 1, 2017. The closure was for the Atlantic Migratory group of cobia from Georgia to New York. The closure was put in place by NOAA Fisheries because the 2015 recreational and total harvest was exceeded. Additional information about the 2016 season can be found here: