Because cobia migrate from Florida across the Gulf of Mexico into waters off the Louisiana coast, offshore fishermen should be aware of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute study of the species in Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean stocks.
It’s a species Louisiana anglers call “lemonfish” or “ling,” and the species moves in big numbers into Louisiana’s coastal waters during the early summer and will linger into the fall.
Institute spokesman Jim Whittington said researchers “... are using conventional dart tags and implanted acoustic transmitters to track mature fish. An array of acoustic receivers along the coast can detect the individual fish when they swim nearby.
“The movement patterns will provide more information to management to make informed decisions on the stocks and to provide a geographical location of the biological stock boundary. In addition, scientists are collecting genetic samples from tagged fish.”
While the 150 transmitters were used on 50 fish each collected in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, expectations are that the species will move into the Gulf of Mexico even during the one-year study.
“The transmitters, however, will last for up to four years allowing researchers to continue collecting information after the initial report is complete,” Whittington said, who added that researchers from NASA/Kennedy Space Center Ecological Program, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are involved in the program.
Whittington asked anglers to attempt release of the specially tagged cobia.
“ If you catch a tagged cobia (two plastic tags should be visible on the back of the fish, one on each side) record the tag number, fork length, date and general location of the catch. Release the fish in good condition, and report it by calling (888) 824-7472,” he said.
“If you accidentally harvest a tagged cobia, report all of the information above and return both the internal acoustic tag and plastic dart tag to:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Attn: Jim Whittington
Tequesta Field Laboratory
19100 SE Federal Highway
Tequesta, FL 33469.
If you want to see the program’s results, go to MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Angler Tag Return.” Florida’s regulations on cobia can be found on the website: MyFWC.com/fishing, then click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations,” and “Cobia.”