I nearly lost a good friend over a 50-pound Cobia and that’s no joke.
It was my first trip out with my buddy, Scott McLemore, on his boat, the Julie-Ann. We were about 60 miles offshore, Snapper fishing mainly, but I had been chumming religiously all day, free-lining two Ribbonfish rigs in hopes of tight lines. We had already hooked up with one small Kingfish when I looked up and saw a monster Cobia explode on the water’s surface and turn on the bait. These are the moments I live for, intense adrenaline running through my veins as the drag begins to squeal and line spools out so fast that, if not careful, it will burn right through your finger. I shot up, set the hook and immediately turned to Scott and started screaming, “I Got Him!” Scott was already right next to me with open arms waiting for the rod. (Offshore 101: it takes 3-4 people to work a big boat while offshore, so etiquette states that each man takes his turn at the rod, especially while fishing for the larger pelagic since they usually only strike in singles and it is a collective effort for that tight line.) By the look on Scott’s face, it was obvious that he figured it was his turn. I looked down at the rod, back up to Scott’s face and back down to the rod once again, weighing our friendship against the odds of experiencing such a monster in the future. For a split second, I hesitated and thought about keeping the fish. I mean, when will I ever get a chance to land a 50-pound Cobia? (I still haven’t, by the way.) Well, I chose to keep the friend over the fish.
Scott and I with that Big-Ass Cobia
Lemon Fish, Crab Eater, Ling, Sergent Fish, Cobia (Rachycentridae Canadum) -- these are all names for one of the most sought-after game fish in the Gulf, prized most likely because of its propensity for swimming close to shore and its tenacity as a fighter. Land a Cobia and you’re sure to have a story to tell back home During the summer months, you can see boats cruising the beachfront from Florida to Texas with spotters standing at the highest point, searching. Lord knows I burned plenty of gas trying to track them down myself. Cobia have flat heads and a distinctly shark-like appearance while swimming; they average 3-7 feet long and 20-30 pounds (although the world record weight for one is 135 pounds). A Pelagic fish, they are the only member of the Rachycentridae family and are found world-wide in warm waters (but are most populous in the Gulf of Mexico). Cobia have an extremely fast growth rate which has made them perfect candidates for open ocean aquaculture.
While at the Boston Seafood show, I saw an open aquaculture vendor calling them “Black Salmon” – kind of a stretch. They are mostly found congregating in twos and threes around reefs, buoys, pilings, wreckage and anchored boats and will follow larger animals like sharks, turtles and manta rays looking for table scraps. Their diet consists mainly of crustaceans, hence the name Crab Eater.
Cobia flesh has a steak-like quality, similar to Swordfish but with a higher fat content and fuller flavor, which makes it perfect for grilling as well as sashimi. If cooking on the grill, take special care not to cook it past medium, as it will get very dry if overcooked.
Grilled Cobia, Plantain and Long-Bean Sauté, Pickled Plum Jus
About Whole Fish
The food, cooking and coastal culture of the South are just a natural part of who and how I am as a person, chef and restaurateur. Whole Fish gives me a chance to do what I do best…show off: to brag about my hometown -- Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area -- as the best place in the world to live, work and eat.
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