Catch ‘em while you can — at least in federal waters: This year, no cobia can be legally kept in federal waters by sport fishermen on the Atlantic coast from Georgia north as of June 20.
That closure for the recreational cobia fishery was announced March 9 by NOAA Fisheries for what’s known as the Atlantic migratory group of cobia. (Cobia off Florida are considered to be part of the Gulf of Mexico migratory group.)
So far, following the announcement, two states have weighed in regarding cobia fishing in state waters (within 3 miles of shore): Georgia will not close cobia fishing to match the federal closure; South Carolina, on the other hand, will implement compatible regulations. Anglers should check regulations for any state’s waters before keeping cobia.
If the Atlantic migratory group cobia recreational and total (recreational and commercial combined) annual catch limits are exceeded, NOAA Fisheries is required to reduce the length of the recreational fishing season in the following fishing year, according to the agency.
In 2015, both the recreational and the total annual catch limits of Atlantic migratory group cobia were exceeded. Thus, the accountability measure is triggered for 2016. Because the commercial annual catch limit was not exceeded, this closure is only for the recreational sector.
Retention of cobia in federal waters off the Atlantic coast will again be allowed on Jan. 1, 2017.