An increase in size limit and decrease in bag limit for cobia is OK by most local charter boat fishermen in Destin.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission met earlier this month in Orlando to discuss changes to management of cobia.
The changes in the proposed draft include increasing the minimum size limit in Gulf state waters from 33 to 38 inches and making the recreational and commercial bag limits in Gulf state waters the same by reducing the commercial trip limit from two to one fish per person.
Also the draft reduces the recreational and commercial vessel limit in Gulf state waters from six to two per vessel per day.
They also defined Gulf state waters as waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line.
“I think it definitely will help the fishery,” said Capt. Curt Gwin of the Only Way. “Thirty-three inches was way to small,” he said.
However, Gwin said it wouldn’t change their fishing habits for the cobia much because they only keep the bigger ones.
Cobia fishing takes place along the panhandle from about mid-March through the first week of May. Anglers sight fish for these fish just off the beach along the Emerald Coast. However, in recent years there has been a concern that the cobia are not as plentiful as they once were.
Earlier this year the FWC held public workshops throughout the area to get the thoughts of anglers as to what they would like to see done to help the fishery.
About 35 local fishermen attended the FWC meeting in May at the Destin Community Center. The sentiment of those gathered were to increase the size limit, decrease the bag limit, but don’t close the cobia fishery.
Aaron Smith, first mate on the charter boat Sea Fix, loves to cobia fish.
“I think it’s good,” Smith said of the size limit. “We don’t catch that many small ones.”
“But it needs to be Gulf wide, not just Florida,” he said.
Capt. John Tenore of the Dawn Patrol, had concerns about the bag limit for just those in Florida as well.
“I like the size limit, but I don’t like the two per boat,” he said noting that was more than a 50 percent decrease of what they could do in the past. Tenore not only charter fishes for cobia but commercial fishes for them as well.
“Also if they don’t do it Gulf wide it’s not going to work. Don’t penalize the people in Florida. People love to eat them.”
The cobia is a migrating fish that works its way along the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida.
Tenore’s concern is that the limits for cobia need to be across the Gulf, not just Florida.
“We’re going to preserve them while the other states can destroy them,” he said.
Capt. Travis Ream of the Kitchen Pass, who just came in with a cobia from bottom fishing this week, was all for the increase in the size limit.
“It’s only five more inches … I’m cool with that,” Ream said.
As for the bag limit, he said he was good with that as well.
Capt. T.J. George on the High Cotton said, “Nothing wrong with two big cobia. That’s fair … a gracious plenty.
“Any steps to promote the fishery are good,” he added.
George and his crew snagged a couple of cobia off the bottom on Thursday. Captain said they actually caught five, but tossed three back.
The draft rule changes for cobia will be brought back before the Commission in September for a final public hearing.