Spring Break season? Tourist season? Well, yes, but the season I’m referring to impacts my life far more than the traffic and crowded beaches do.. I’m talking about cobia season.
Cobia season spans from mid-March to mid-May. My husband fishes in the Cobia World Championships every year, along with a smattering of weekend tournaments. He also runs a couple restaurants at the same time, which often demand his attention in the evenings. This means I hardly see him awake, except for when I bring him coffee in the morning or when we meet the boat at the dock in the evening.
Fishing for cobia is unlike fishing for any other species and could probably be better-termed “hunting” for cobia. Fishermen must stand on the highest part of the boat – the tower – in order to see the fish. Once a cobia is spotted, it must be lured, hooked, reeled, gaffed, and hauled into the boat.
Basically, you may spend 8 hours staring at the water looking for a fish and never see one, or you may spend 8 hours staring at the water looking for a fish and then experience 5 – 30 minutes of pure chaos trying to get it in the boat. (Hopefully, you experience several patches of pure chaos. This means you have had an exceptional day.)
Cobia are not pretty fish, but they are big, tasty, and extremely fun to catch, so the Destin fishing community goes a bit crazy for cobia every spring. Restaurants have cobia on the menu, people are constantly talking about who brought in what, and there is a festive atmosphere on the docks.
Every day, like many Destin wives, girlfriends, and family members, I wait for a text or call from my fisherman to determine how pleasant our evening is going to be.
Often I don’t receive a text or a call. On these days I know a fish was not sighted and to plan for grumbling about being tired, sunburned, and everything else (quite understandably, 8 hours standing in a fishing boat tower is no walk in the park).
A text saying “got a good one” means Carla May and I will rush to the docks for weigh-ins right after work. We usually meet my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, fellow fishing wives, and all of their children and enjoy some wine while we discuss who is rumored to have caught the biggest fish of the day.
The boats come in one by one hauling in their catch on big wheeled carts. The weigh-master hooks the fish onto a scale, keeping the scale turned around as people in the crowd estimate the weight and where that would put the fish in the tournament standings. A paper with the weight is slapped onto the fish to a chorus of applause and the fishermen take their pictures beside their catch.
I have gone out with Chatham to fish for cobia a few times and have caught a total of one fish. I also learned on that particular trip that I get dreadfully seasick… I’ll leave cobia fishing to the pros and stick to bottom fishing!