Also Called: Black Kingfish, Black Salmon, Cabio, Crabeater, Lemonfish, Sergeantfish
A beautiful species with dark brown sides streaked with silver, Cobia are an extremely popular catch of large, premium white fish. Cobia can be found both inshore and offshore and relatively easy to hook, though can be challenging for beginners to reel in.
Cobia are most abundant in Hilton Head from May to August, which is their spawning season. This is when they are most likely to thrive in inshore waters due to minimal rainfall, which means the water maintains high salinity (the amount of salt in the water).
People love Cobia for its firmness, its fresh, buttery flavor and relatively low fat content. It’s also fairly mild in terms of “fishiness.” Cobia is one of the best fish for eating in the area.
Adults congregate as far out as the continental shelf (approx. 65 miles offshore), but at the right time of year, there are plenty to chase throughout Hilton Head’s inshore waters. They feed along the sandy, muddy and rocky bottoms, and around natural and manmade structures such as rocks, docks and bridges.
Bait: Go with the Cobia’s natural food supply - blue crab, Shrimp, small fish, etc.
Approach: Look for Cobia hanging around natural structures like reefs and among patches of seaweed, or around floating debris. Cast your hook as close to these structures as possible.
Tackle: A standard rod and reel with a weighted circle hook is best. You can catch them with a fly lure as well, though the precision casting required to draw Cobia to the surface makes this method more challenging.
The rules for keeping Cobia are tricky. In Hilton Head (and all waters south of Jeremy Inlet and Edisto Island), you can keep one Cobia per person per day and no more than 3 per vessel per day. You cannot fish for Cobia in the month of May if the annual catch limit has been met.