Cobia Fishing in Destin Florida
A little expert from our very own, Captain Jayson's father…Jay Cee Self:
Spring is a magical time of year to the Gulf coast of Florida. Gentle southeast winds and rising temperatures were signaling the arrival of the cobia, lemonfish or ling to the northern Gulf of Mexico. From the seat atop the tower of your boat you look over the brilliant emerald green waters just off the sugary white beaches of the Florida panhandle, in the distance to the east you can the high rise condo’s of San Destin, looking west toward fort walton you can see the Okaloosa Island fishing pier and just to the north within swimming distance are the fine white sands of some of the worlds most popular and beautiful beaches. Today, the beaches were the domain of that unique spring animal known as the “spring breaker”, mostly college students escaping the boredom and monotony of the classroom.
The tan bikini clad girls on the beach and the fishing boat with men in the towers cruising up and down the coast were the sure sign that spring was coming. Each year during the middle of March until the end of April the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico were filled with fishing boats of every size. As warms winds blow from the southeast bringing warm air and warm waters it is inevitable that each year’s beginning of spring will bring both coeds and cobia, just as certain is that young men will come to chase the girls, the older men will just as eagerly chase the cobia.
Panhandle beaches have become a destination for college students from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and any other state within a days drive. Unlike the highly publicized and somewhat unrestrained spring behavior of Daytona beach in central Florida and Palm Springs in California, spring break in Destin is much more reserved. Many of the students have parents with vacation homes in the area and do not come only at spring break. every year old acquaintances are renewed and new friendships begun.
March and April have become transition months in a number of communities along the florida panhandle that are economically dependent upon tourism. Snowbirds from the north are beginning to leave, spring breakers are coming in and the fishing industry is gearing up for the hunt of the migrating cobia. Highway 98 through Destin, the first thing visitors see when coming over the destin Bridge is a big billboard welcoming visitors to the “worlds luckiest fishing village”. Brilliant colors of the rainbow flash from the windows of tackle shops with signs proclaiming “new cobia jigs”. If you are in Destin in April you will quickly learn that for a short time every spring the illusive cobia dominates the attention of every fisherman with a pair of polarized sunglasses and access to a rod, reel and a jig.
The cobia is a migrating fish that begins its trek in south Florida each year between the months of March and April, they move north in wads along the coast of Florida with one branch of the herd swimming north in the Atlantic and the other half up the gulf coast heading to Louisiana to spawn and then back to where they began down in south Florida during the fall. The cobia caught out of Destin average about 30 lbs with some of the big females getting up over 100 lbs, some of the biggest cobia in the world have been caught out of Destin during the spring migration.
With a delicate white meat that finds it way to the grill or fryer, the cobia is worth the time and effort spent searching for them. Unlike most fish caught in the Gulf the cobia is caught with 30 lb test spinning tackle by sight fishing and casting live eels, other live baits and colorful jigs that sometimes can be seen hanging from the rear view mirrors of avid cobia fishermen.
Every morning as you come out the pass you need to make the all important decision on whether to go west or to go east. Long time Destin fishermen will spend hours arguing the topic of “east is least and west is best” but the cobia fisherman has found that some days it’s one and some days it’s the other. No matter what direction you pick make sure you are ready for some of the most beautiful scenery and the possibility of catching a fish of a life time. Hope to see you all out there on the water and at the scales.
Credited to Jay Cee Self