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    Cobia, Rachycentron canadum

    Cobia is a pelagic fish distributed worldwide in tropical, subtropical, and warmtemperate
    waters. In the western Atlantic, cobia are found from Nova Scotia to Argentina and are
    abundant in U.S. waters from Virginia south through the Gulf of Mexico. Along the Atlantic
    coast, cobia move south and offshore in response to dropping water temperatures during the late
    fall and winter. Cobia found in the northeastern gulf during the summer move to south Florida
    waters in the winter (Shaffer and Nakamura 1989), possibly overwintering near the Florida Keys
    (Franks et al. 1992). Cobia are multiple spawners, spawning from May to September in Florida
    waters. The smallest females with vitellogenic eggs were over 32.8 inches fork length (FL) and 2
    years old in the northern gulf (Lotz et al. 1996) and off North Carolina (Smith 1995). Cobia
    appear to grow more quickly and reach larger sizes in the Gulf of Mexico than off the U.S. South
    Atlantic coast (Burns et al. 1998; Franks et al. 1999). In the northern gulf, males were about
    27.9 inches FL at age 1 and 45.5 inches at age 9; females were 28.1 inches FL at age 1 and 57.5
    inches FL at age 9 (Table 1; Franks et al. 1999). Off North Carolina, males were about 22.0
    inches FL at age 1 and 40.6 inches at age 9; females were 24.0 inches FL at age 1 and 48.8
    inches FL at age 9 (Smith 1995). Observed maximum ages were 9 and 11 years for males and
    females in the northern Gulf of Mexico and 14 and 13 years for males and females off North
    Carolina.

    Cobia are strong, aggressive feeders that opportunistically feed on fish, squid, and
    crustaceans (Franks et al. 1996). In the north-central Gulf of Mexico during April—October, the
    predominant food found in cobia stomachs was portunid crabs (Meyer and Franks 1996). Fish,
    particularly hardhead catfish, Ariopsis felis, were also an important component of cobia diets.

    The importance of fish in the diets of cobia increased as cobia grew larger; fish were prey for the
    largest cobia sampled (1,150 mm–1,530 mm FL), making up 84% (by numbers) of the total
    stomach contents.
    In 2005, total landings of cobia in Florida were 1,027,850 pounds. The recreational
    fishery made 89% of the statewide landings. Most landings were made on the gulf coast (69% of
    total landings by weight). In 2005, commercial landings were greatest in Duval and Brevard
    Counties on the Atlantic coast, and Okaloosa, Bay, Pinellas and Monroe Counties on the gulf
    coast (Fig. 1). Recreational landings were distributed relatively evenly among coastal counties
    statewide (Fig. 2). The 2005 total landings were 23% lower than the average landings in the
    previous five years (2000–2004) and were 21% lower than the 1982–2005 historical average
    landings (Fig. 3). On the Atlantic coast, annual landings of cobia have exceeded 0.5 million
    pounds, reaching a recent peak of about 0.9 million pounds in 2003 (Fig. 3). Gulf coast landings
    peaked in 1997 and have since fluctuated around 0.8 million pounds.
    Commercial catch rates for cobia have been relatively stable on both coasts of Florida
    since 1992 (Figs. 4, 5). Recreational catch rates on the Atlantic coast increased gradually during
    1995-1998 and held relatively steady thereafter; on the gulf coast, they were relatively stable at
    about 0.5 fish per trip since 1991(Figs. 6 and 7).
    In 1990, the minimum size limit for cobia was reduced from 37 to 33 inches fork length
    and a two-fish bag limit was instituted for all fishers. Regulations for U.S. federal waters from
    Texas through New York include the same size and bag limits. The National Marine Fisheries
    Service recently developed a stock assessment for cobia in the Gulf Mexico (Williams 2001); the
    assessment concluded that there was some evidence that the stock was not overfished and that
    the spawning biomass had doubled since the 1980s.
Download complete report
(including figures)
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Upper Keys Fishing
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