In Texas cobia are generally referred to as ling and Texas cobia fishing is seasonal – mid-March through late October. Arriving as early as mid-March, ling are usually the first migrating fish species to be caught in our Texas waters. Like most migrating fishes, they seem to follow the food in the form of bait schools. The ling is prized as a trophy fish growing to over 100 lbs and putting up a substantial fight, especially after they find their way to the floor of your boat. But, they are also very good off the grill. The TP&WD provides some interesting information on Texas cobia and cobia fishing https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/cobia/. Or, for an
extensive article with multiple reference on cobia and cobia fishing, checkout this Texas Saltwater Magazines report https://www.texassaltwaterfishingmagazine.com/fishing/education/fishy-facts/cobia.
First, let’s dispel a well spread myth regarding ling. While most ling are caught at the surface, the cobia is actually a bottom fish. The ling's primary and possibly preferred prey is crab. And, in many waters, the ling is called the “crab eater”. The ling’s preference for the bottom explains why a ling at the surface frequently dives without warning and is not seen again.
When we first began deep sea fishing, we caught a fair share of ling but the catch was usually
incidental to other fishing. While pulling dozens of smaller snapper, a ling might follow one of these snapper to the surface where we would sound the alarm; grab the ling pole, equipped with a heavy mono leader; stab the large hook at the end of that mono leader thru a live or fresh bait and, hopefully, offer it to the ling before he could dive to the bottom once again. It was always a crazy, scramble between sighting and the offer of a bait. Teasing the ling with the small snapper that coaxed him to the surface always seemed to delay the lings inevitable dive and disappearance. Assuming, he did not take our offering.
Or, perhaps we would be chasing .
mahi mahi on a weedline and again a ling would appear from nowhere nibling at a small mahi. Same routine with the ling pole, bait, tease and offering that may or may not be eaten. We noticed that on rare occasions, a ling would be cruising, rather quickly, down a weedline, especially a narrow weedline on a rip, in search of something that would fit in his mouth. We hooked and caught a share of these ling while trolling, but getting that ling pole out and delivering an offer under this scenario proved to be difficult because these lings were really on the move.
After we had a few years of
experience in Texas offshore waters, we began developing techniques for targeted ling fishing. Our first big success, was targeting ling at nearshore rigs. We employed 2 methods that worked extremely well and very quickly we began catching 2, 3 and even 4 legal size ling on a halfday trip. Docking with 4 ling, 3 to 6 shark and numerous kings after a halfday on the nearshore waters was very exciting and filled bags – gallon size zip-lock style bags. Well, these nearshore rigs, like most of the offshore rigs have been removed, but we apply these same techniques to fishing other structure like wrecks, reefs and even under weedlines with
Ling fishing around shrimp boats, now that is a whole nuther story. We raise the odds on the very effective shrimp boat ling fishing method with a few simple considerations like bait and timing.
Ling fishing is regulated in both Texas state and Federal waters. As of Jan 2021, the Texas regulations includes a bag limit of 2 ling with a minimum length of 40 inches. In Federal waters the ling is considered a coastal waters migrator with a bag limit of 2 per day and a minimum length of 36 full length inches.