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AKA: ling, lemonfish

Description: Cobias have elongated, torpedo-shaped bodies with long depressed heads. The eyes are small and the snout is broad. The lower jaw projects past the upper jaw. Cobias are dark brown in color and have a darker, lateral stripe from the eye to the tail. Young cobias have alternating black and white horizontal stripes with splotches of bronze, orange and green.

Size: Cobia grow to 6 feet and more than 100 pounds.

Sometimes confused with: sharks, remoras, and sharksuckers

Habitat: Cobias are a pelagic species normally solitary in nature except when spawning. They are found off the United States from Virginia south and throughout the Gulf of Mexico in both inshore and nearshore waters of the inlets and bays. Cobias prefer water temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They migrate south to warmer waters during autumn and winter, and journey back north when temperatures rise again in the spring. They are commonly found near natural and manmade structures such as reefs, wrecks, buoys and shelves.

Eating habits: Cobias are opportunistic predators that eat some fishes, such as mackerels and eels, but the bulk of their diet is crustaceans, like shrimp and crabs.

Life cycle: Spawning season runs from late June to mid-August along the southeastern United States. Females reach sexual maturity at around age 3. Cobias grow very fast through age 2.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch cobias by sight casting with bucktails as they migrate along the East Coast. Anglers also catch cobias while trolling for king mackerel and by bottom fishing with live bait near reefs and wrecks. Often anglers will see cobias hanging around an inlet buoy or other navigation marker. Cobias are also a favorite fly rod catch.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for harvest of fish, 40 pounds or greater. 
Award for live release of fish, 36 inches or longer.

See the list of weigh stations

Apply for a release citation online


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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