Cobia, also known as ling and lemonfish, are swimming along the Alabama coast en route to spawning grounds amid the numerous petroleum platforms off the Louisiana and western Mississippi coasts.
Sight fishing is the most common practice for cobia, especially during the spring. To take advantage of this migration, Alabama anglers will head out and cruise up and down the coast at 4 or 5 knots to try to spot the dark brown, torpedo-shaped fish that can weigh more than 100 pounds but most often fall in the 40- to 50-pound range. Alabama has a two-fish per person daily creel limit with a minimum size of 33 inches fork length, which is measured from the fork of the tail to the tip of the nose.
Weather and water conditions determine how well you can spot migrating cobia. Many cobia boats will utilize “tuna” towers to get up high for a better vantage point. If you spot a cobia, or a group of cobia, it’s time for action. If you’re heading toward the fish, cut the engine and drift. Have a rod rigged with live bait if possible and toss it in front of the fish. If you are going the same way as the cobia, ease past the fish and set up to make a cast when you’re well past the fish.
Whether the cobia will take the bait is anybody’s guess. Most the time, if the bait is alive, the cobia will eat it, but I’ve seen fish absolutely turn up their noses at anything tossed their way, whether brightly colored cobia jigs to a fresh, live eel. If the fish won’t eat a live eel, it’s probably not going to eat at all, so head out and try to find another fish.