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Cobia

Rachycentron canadum

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