Thread: Where are the Cobia?
04-20-2012, 07:15 AM #1
Where are the Cobia?
Here it is the middle of April and what should be the peak of cobia season and a lot of fishermen are rolling up their poles and calling it quits.
I’ve discussed this situation with some cobia fishermen trying to get a handle on what has happened this year, notably Marshal Anderson, and we can’t come up with an answer that makes sense.
Marshal gets a kick out of all the reasons the so-called experts from pier fishermen to the boat crowd have come up with for the demise. The reasoning ranges from the oil blowout to global warming, to they just by passed us this year. I’m afraid global warming is going to be the blame for everything from hurricanes to the extreme number of black flies we are going to have this summer.
Another reason they are bouncing off the wall is the warm water temperatures we had in February and March. That one could have some merit, but this isn’t the first time we have had warm gulf water temperatures early. I can remember in the 1960s when we could swim in the Gulf in January.
Every year we seem to have fewer cobia show up on the beach. Marshal used to catch an average of 90 cobia a season and then it started to decline to 40 and then 25. Last year he reached his low of five fish. This year he hasn’t caught any.
Has it ever occurred to anyone we have just caught them out, or at least to the point it isn’t worth the gas to look for them?
At one time there was no limit to the number of fish you could bring home. Then some far-thinking person said if we didn’t put a limit on them we would soon run out. The government put a six-fish limit per boat, one fish per person and a length limit of 33 inches to the fork.
Maybe it is time to revisit the cobia situation.
Some will tell you there are plenty of cobia, but they are just in deeper water. That kind of thinking will bring a fish stock to the verge of collapse. I wish we could go out and catch them like we did years ago, but every year there are less and less brought to the dock.
A man once commented on the supposed shortage of oil and wondered if we began running out of oil the minute we drew the first gallon out of the ground. I suppose the same holds true with cobia. We are catching them faster than they can reproduce.
The theory of fish passing by in deep water is nothing new. I would bet about half the cobia population passes by our beaches in water most fishermen don’t care to fish in. After all, the fun of cobia fishing is sight fishing on the Green Reef where they are easy to see.
Fishermen near Destin figured out years ago that the bigger cobia are in water of 50 feet or more. That never seemed to catch on over here. We still cling to shallow crystal clear water simply because it more exciting that way.
Some fishermen are moving offshore, but that generally requires a nose-bleed tower to be able to see them in dark water. Smaller boats just don’t have that.
I think if half the population of cobia that passes our beaches comes up on the sand reef and the other half travels in deep water then we may have just caught the lion’s share of the shallower-water fish and now we are hammering the deep-water fish.
You have to remember these fish are chased all the way from the Keys through the waters of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Their final destination is off the mouth of the Mississippi River where they are thought to spawn.
The killing doesn’t stop there. Plenty of cobia are caught under the oil rigs by people on the rigs and boats that run to the rigs from shore. These fish are having something thrown at them from the time they hatch to the time they are either caught or die of old age.
Only recently have these fish been tagged and studied. We really don’t know where they come from or go when they leave the beaches. The one thing no one can argue with is there are fewer of them.
I think it is time to revisit what can be done to bring the population back to the way we remember before they go the way of the Gooney bird. Since everything is driven by money, I’m sure it will be an uphill fight.
I thought I would throw in a “Did you know” question. Did you know it is illegal to harvest or even possess a red drum or as we call them a redfish in federal waters?
If you catch and keep a redfish in federal waters or if you catch a redfish in state waters and transport it to federal waters while you are fishing for some other species you are breaking the law.
Just a little something that might save you some gas money while snapper fishing.
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