|Florida Fish: Bluefish, Bonefish & Cobia|
(Pomatomus saltatrix) The bluefish also know as tailor
(Australia), shad (South Africa) and elf (west coast) is a popular game
fish that can be found off the coast of Florida during the winter
months. The bluefish is most commonly a sea-green color above, fading
into a silvery shade on its lower sides and belly. Bluefish rarely
exceed 20 pounds and 40 inches in length. These broad forked tailed fish
are voracious and are the only known fish that will kill for the sake a
killing. Adult bluefish are opportunistic feeders, commonly focusing
upon schooling species such as menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring,
mackerel, alewives, scup, butterfish and cunners. Bluefish generally
feed in schools, actively pursuing prey in tidal rips or in inshore
shallows where food in easier to catch. The feeding behavior of
bluefish is legendary! Bluefish are reputed to dash wildly about within
schools of prey species, biting, crippling and killing numerous small
fish that do not get eaten. Bluefish frequently drive schools of prey
species into shallow inshore areas where it becomes easier to cripple or
catch fish that are trying to escape.
Bonefish (Albula vulpes) Bonefish are named for the many fine bones they contain. Bonefish are also commonly known throughout the world as banana, bananafish, Indo-Pacific bonefish, ladyfish, round jaw, salmon peel, tarpon, tenny, and tenpounder. Bonefish appear blue-greenish on the top and top half of its body with bright silver scales on the sides and underneath. The average size of bonefish in Florida waters and the Bahamas' range from 4-6 pounds, with fish over 8 pounds regarded as large. However, bonefish found in Africa and Hawaii can attain weights over 20 pounds. The bonefish inhabits tropical and warm temperate waters worldwide and although western Atlantic bonefish can be found as far north as North Carolina, New York, and New Brunswick, this species of fish is most plentiful in south Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Bonefish love the coastal area and are commonly found in intertidal flats, mangrove areas, river mouths, and deeper adjacent waters. They can be found in any flats whether sand or grass to rocky substrates. Bonefish can tolerate the oxygen-poor water they sometimes encounter in coastal habitats by inhaling air into a lung-like air bladder. It is not unusual to see bonefish school, sometimes in groups of up to 100 individuals. In south Florida bonefish prey on crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps, mollusks particularly clams and snails, polychaete worms, and some fish primarily the gulf toadfish. The gulf toadfish is commonly found in the stomachs of larger bonefishes.
Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) The Cobia is a large, long, slim bodied fish with a broad depressed head, a protruding lower jaw. At first glance when scuba diving cobia can be mistaken due to its shark like shape and well proportioned size. The Cobia body is elongate and torpedo-shaped with a long, depressed head. The eyes are small and the snout is broad. The lower jaw projects past the upper jaw. The Cobia is overall a dark brown color with a prominent dark lateral stripe that runs from the eye to the tail. Its distinguishing first dorsal fin is composed of 7 to 9 spines that are not connected by a membrane. The Cobia is a sleek and extremely strong fish. They range in size up to about 135 pounds. The largest Cobia ever caught in Florida weighed about 104 lbs. An average size fish will weigh 20 to 40 pounds.
Cobia are found around the world in tropic and warm temperate waters. Remoras are often seen swimming with cobia. They migrate so their numbers will very with the seasons. Cobia inhabit the warm tropical waters in the winter and move to more temperate waters in the spring, summer and fall. Cobia prefer water temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Cobia spend the winter (December – March) in the harbors and around the wrecks and reefs of the south Florida Keys, since they love to be near structures. In late March, early April they begin their northward migration up the Atlantic Coast reaching Fernandina Inlet in late May, early June. Along the Gulf Coast, Cobia inhabit the Panhandle area in late February, early March. They travel southward along the coast beginning in April and peaking all along the Gulf Coast in July and August.
Cobia are voracious eaters and will eat their prey whole. They are carnivores, feeding on crustaceans and small fishes such as mullet, eels, jacks, snappers, pinfish, croakers, grunts, and herring. A favorite food of cobia is crab which is why they have the common name of "crabeater". Cobia will often cruise in packs of 3-100 fish, hunting for food during migrations in shallow water along the shoreline making an incredible sight if you are fortunate to see them.
This fish is well known by many common names including cobia, black kingfish, black salmon, cabio, crabeater, cubby yew, kingfish, lemonfish, ling, prodigal son, runner, sergeant fish, and sergeantfish. The Cobia is a powerful fish and a thrilling catch. It is one of the most sought after game fish to catch.
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