Cobia (Rachycentron canadum)

Cobia (Rachycentron canadum)

The only member of the Rachycentridae family, and with no known relatives, the cobia is in a class by itself and a popular food and sportfish for inshore anglers in areas where it is prominent.


The body of a cobia is elongated, with a broad, depressed head. The first dorsal fin consists of 8 to 10 short, depressible spines that are not connected by a membrane. Both the second dorsal fin and the anal fin each have 1 to 2 spines and 20 to 30 soft rays. The adult cobia is dark brown with a whitish underside and is marked on the sides by silver or bronze lines. A cobia’s shape is comparable to that of a shark, with a powerful tail fin and the elevated anterior portion of the second dorsal fin. It can be distinguished from the similar remora (Remora remora) by the absence of a suction pad on the head.


Cobia can grow to a length of 6 feet and a weight of 90 pounds, the average size being 3 feet and 15 pounds. They generally live 9 to 10 years. The all-tackle world-record cobia weighed 135 pounds, 9 ounces.

Life history/Behavior

Adult cobia often swim alone or among small schools of other cobia or sharks. They are believed to spawn in the offshore waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico during the late spring, between April and May, and the larvae migrate shoreward. Cobia migrate from offshore to inshore environs, as well as inshore from east to west and vice versa. Little about their movements has been confirmed.

Food and feeding habits

Cobia feed mostly on crustaceans, particularly shrimp, squid, and crabs (thus the name “crab eater”), as well as on eels and various small fish found in shallow coastal waters.

Other Names

ling, cabio, lemonfish, crab-eater, flathead, black salmon, black kingfish, sergeant fish, runner; French: mafou; Japanese: sugi; Portuguese: bijupirá.



Found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters, cobia inhabit the western Atlantic from Cape Cod to Argentina (being most abundant in the Gulf of Mexico).


Adult cobia prefer shallow continental shelf waters, often congregating along reefs and around buoys, pilings, wrecks, anchored boats, and other stationary or floating objects. They are found in a variety of locations over mud, gravel, or sand bottoms; in coral reefs and man-made sloughs; and at depths of up to 60 feet.