Chris Castro is host of the YouTube channel Next Level Fishing TV and a successful tournament angler, as well as a Kayak Angler contributor. But his favorite summer target is hard fighting and good eating cobia. For ocean anglers from the mid-Atlantic to the Gulf Coast, cobia are one of the most exciting fish to target from a kayak.
Off Aransas Pass, Texas, Castro searches for cobia hiding around near-shore oil rigs and swimming on the surface. Here are his tips for battling one of the toughest fish in the sea.
How to Catch Cobia by Kayak
I remember when I hooked my first cobia. Instantly, I realized I was battling a fish on another level. These powerful gamefish can grow to more than 100 pounds and measure more than five feet long. Even an average fish of 40 to 50 pounds is a handful.
Cobia love to play hide and seek around inshore structure like buoys and pilings. Cobia are curious and anglers will often spot them swimming just under the surface. In my home waters, cobia are drawn to nearshore oil rigs.
The biggest challenge is to have the right tackle and a little luck. When you’re at war with one of these tanks, expect cheap tackle to break and weak rods to snap.
Where to Hunt for Cobia
Cobia love to hang around structure like buoys and oil platforms. Off the Texas cost, some oil and gas platforms are only a mile off the beach. On a calm day, anytime between April and November, when water temperatures are over 70 degrees, I drive my truck along the beach looking for an oil rig close enough to shore to reach by kayak.
Cobia can be comical. These curious fish almost seem to magically appear and disappear. I paddle to the rig with my head on a swivel looking for a cobia to swim past my kayak.
If I see a fish but it disappears, I dispense a handful of chum to bring it back to the surface. I also slow troll a live bait or drop it into the legs of the rig looking for a hiding cobia. When I suspect cobia may be holding on the bottom near a rig, I will bang on the side of my kayak to draw these curious fish to the surface.
- 4-ounce Tsunami Slimwave lures
- 7-foot, medium-heavy Tsunami Trophy Series rod
- Tsunami Forged lever drag conventional reel
- 80-pound braid
- 75-pound Knot2Kinky wire
- Tsunami No. 8 Glow Sabiki
- 2- and 3-ounce egg sinkers
- 85-pound fluorocarbon
- 7/0 Mustad Demon Perfect Circle Offset Hooks
- Large Kayak Kill Bag from Reliable Fishing
Best Tackle to Choose
To fish live bait for cobia, I use a seven-foot, medium-heavy trolling rod with a lever-drag reel spooled with 80-pound braided line. For shock and abrasion resistance, I use two feet of fluorocarbon leader. If king mackerel and sharks are in the area, I switch to 75-pound wire. The business end of the rig is a 7/0 circle hook.
Cobia Fishing Tactics
When you see a cobia hit the surface, nothing beats a live bait presentation. In Texas, mullet is king of the live baits. Before I launch, I use a cast net to catch mullet in the surf.
Cobia also love to eat live pinfish. I catch pinfish around the platform legs with a Sabiki rig and two-ounce sinker. I pin the bait’s tail to the circle hook and let mother nature take its course.
For dead baits, I use eels, ribbonfish, blue runners and shrimp, but nothing gets the attention of a curious cobia like live bait.
When the cobia strikes, I try to be patient. I never know what mood the cobia is in until it bites. I wait a few seconds for the fish to consume the bait then slowly engage the lever drag to the preset button. I don’t have to set the hook because steady pressure on the circle hook pulls it into the corner of the cobia’s jaw.
Always Land Cobia With Caution
Landing a cobia is a careful operation. A big fish packed with muscle, sporting sharp dorsal spines, a head like a bulldog and personality to match, is not afraid to fight.
I work the cobia until it begins to fatigue. When I get it beside the boat, I grab the line and strike it with a fish bat. Then I gaff it and hit it again with the bat. Once the fish starts to lose color, I drag it into the kayak.
Landing a green cobia is a big mistake. The fish will freak out and break everything in sight before flopping overboard and flipping the kayak. Always make sure the fish is dead before bringing it onboard. I stuff the cobia in my insulated fish bag to preserve its firm, white, sweet-tasting meat.
Are You Tough Enough to Take On a Tank?
Cobia offer anglers the whole package: exciting sight casting, knock-down-drag-out fight, huge size and a delicious dish. The only question: are you tough enough?
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 46. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
Hoisting this cobia catch qualifies as an upper-body workout. | Feature photo: Chris Castro