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Cobia

Rachycentron canadum

Cobia are mostly solitary, but sometimes form small groups. (NOAA Photo Library)
Cobia are mostly solitary, but sometimes form small groups. (NOAA Photo Library)

Cobia are large, long fish with a dark stripe running along the sides of the body. They visit the lower Chesapeake Bay’s open waters from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • Long body that that is blackish on the back and brown on the sides
  • Two silvery bands sandwiching a dark band that runs along the sides from the head to the tail
  • Yellowish- or grayish-white belly
  • Flattened head with a large mouth and protruding lower jaw
  • 7-10 sharp spines in front of the dorsal fin
  • Forked tail fin
  • Usually grows 3-4 feet long and weighs more than 50 pounds

Habitat:

  • Lives in the Bay’s deep, open waters
  • Often found in the shade of wrecks, buoys and pilings
  • Mostly solitary but sometimes forms small groups

Range:

  • Found in the lower Chesapeake Bay from May-October
  • Can move as far north as Tangier Sound and the mouth of the Potomac River
  • Around October, cobia migrate out of the Bay to warmer southern waters near the Florida Keys

Feeding:

  • An opportunistic hunter with a broad diet and big appetite
  • Eats mostly crabs and shrimp, but will also feed on squid and smaller fish

Predators:

  • Larger fish prey on young cobia

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from June through mid-August near the mouth of the Bay or just offshore
  • Can spawn more than once during the spawning season
  • Eggs collect near the surface of the water. They usually hatch within 24 hours of being fertilized.
  • Young grow rapidly during their first two years. They have prominent white stripes on their sides that fade as they grow.
  • Can live up to 12 years

Other Facts:

  • Known by many different names, including crab-eater and kingfish
  • When hooked by an angler, cobia will put up quite a fight, leaping and running to escape
  • The Chesapeake Bay record cobia, caught at York Spit near Hampton, Virginia, in June 2006, weighed 109 pounds and measured 69.5 inches long

Sources and Additional Information:

  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Cobia – FishWatch
  • Cobia – Florida Museum of Natural History
  • Rachycentron canadum – FishBase



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