Fall Cobia migration underway in Gulf of Mexico

 The Fall Cobia Migration is underway.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD The Fall Cobia Migration is underway.

The fall Cobia migration is underway in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

Cobia are often spotted and caught around the shallow and deep-water oil rigs on the south side of Horn, Petit Bois and Ship Islands.

The fall Cobia migration began at the end of last month, but the heaviest numbers of Cobia are usually seen between now and the first week of November. In the fall, Cobia often travel in groups of 20 individuals or more.

"The fish are a little further offshore and around the oil rigs and not so much around the beaches at the islands at this time," said Dr. Jim Franks of the Gulf Coast Research Lab. "Before heading back East, they like to swim in deeper water. Cobia leave the beach during the summer. We think that it has a lot to do with their choice of food."

Matt Hill, director of MDMR's Finfish Bureau agrees.

"We definitely are seeing the fall migration of Cobia," Hill said. "In the summer, Cobia move from east to west, and in the fall they go back toward the east. But, in the fall they also move farther offshore. Some of them will stay near the shore, but most of them move offshore, closer to the oil rigs."

Franks, however, believe some Cobia remain in Coastal water year-round. Research collected by the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs over the last several years through its tag and release program indicate that some cobia are caught around the oil rigs in 100 to 200 feet of water in December, January and February.

"We think a large group of Cobia doesn't migrate and stay in the northern Gulf of Mexico," Franks said. "That's what makes the study of Fall Cobia Migration more interesting. I think that has been going on for a while now."

Although the number of fish becoming permanent residents around the deep-water oil rigs where the warmer water temperature is substantial, many do migrate south during the month of November.

"I wish we knew more about them," Franks said.

During the spring migration, Cobia are brought up from the Florida Keys to the mouth of the Mississippi River to spawn. They arrive just in time for the Gorenflo's Cobia shootout in May.