South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Cobia

Cobia

Cobia

Ling, Rachycentron canadum
Recreational
All areas are open for recreational fishing.
Commercial
All areas are open for commercial fishing.

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.

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”).

Commercial Cobia: Regulations are presented, however, dealers with a federal Gulf or South Atlantic dealer permit can only purchase cobia harvested in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico or the Florida East Coast Zone from a vessel with at least one of the following federal permits:

  • Commercial Spanish Mackerel Permit
  • Commercial King Mackerel Permit
  • Coastal Migratory Pelagics Charter/Headboat Permit

Regulations

NC

  • Season is currently open.
  • Season Closed: January 01, 2023 – April 30, 2023
  • Season Closed: January 01, 2024 – April 30, 2024
  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 1 Vessel Limit
  • Min. Size: 36 in Fork Length
  • Notes: PRIVATE VESSEL LIMIT for Recreational Purpose (All vessels not engaged in a For-Hire Vessel operation): From May 1 – June 30, may possess one (1) cobia per person per day or two (2) cobia per vessel per day, whichever is less; From July 1 – December 31, may possess one (1) cobia per vessel per day.

    For-Hire Vessel (While engaged in a For-Hire Vessel operation as defined by G.S 113-174) from May 1 through December 31 may possess one (1) cobia per person per day or four (4) cobia per vessel per day, whichever is less.

    For more information, see NC Proclamation FF-29-2022.

    NC Division of Marine Fisheries asks anglers to report the length and weight of all cobia harvested in state waters. You can report your cobia catches here: NC DMF Cobia Reporting.

    These regulations are for Federal Waters offshore of North Carolina. For more information, see SAFMC-cobia.

SC

  • Season is currently open.
  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 6 Vessel Limit
  • Min. Size: 36 in Fork Length
  • Notes: In SC state waters north of 032° 31.0 N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island), vessel limit is 6 cobia per vessel and there is no closed season.

    In SC state waters south of 032° 31.0 N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island), vessel limit is 3 cobia per vessel and the season is open May 1 – May 31

    In South Carolina state waters may only be taken by rod & reel and gig.

    These regulations are for Federal Waters offshore of South Carolina. For more information, see South Carolina DNR.

GA

  • Season is currently open.
  • Season Closed: November 01, 2022 – February 28, 2023
  • Season Closed: November 01, 2023 – February 29, 2024
  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 6 Vessel Limit
  • Min. Size: 36 in Fork Length
  • Notes: These regulations are for Federal Waters offshore of Georgia. For more information, see Georgia DNR.

FL

  • Season is currently open.
  • 2 Bag Limit
  • Min. Size: 33 in Fork Length
  • Notes: These regulations are for Federal Waters offshore of Florida, i.e., the Florida East Coast Zone. For more information, see SAFMC-cobia.

Recent news

  • No current items

Upcoming meetings

Amendments in progress

  • CMP Amendment 33

    Revises sector allocations for Gulf migratory group king mackerel.

    Scoping
  • CMP Amendment 34

    Updates catch levels for Atlantic migratory group king mackerel and revises management measures for Atlantic migratory group king mackerel and Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel.

    Final approval
  • CMP Amendment 32

    Includes actions to end overfishing of Gulf cobia and update the Coastal Migratory Pelagics framework procedures.

    Secretarial review

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