Why Do Cobia Swim With Sharks & Manta Rays? Explained!

Cobia typically orient themselves around structure, but it is not uncommon to find them close to the surface swimming with sharks and manta rays…but why is that?

Cobia often swim with sharks, manta rays and sometimes turtles, because these large predators feed and disturb prey along the seafloor. A nearby cobia can swoop in and get the scraps for an easy meal.

However, there are other theories too. And the truth is scientists aren’t entirely sure why cobia are seen with sharks and rays. Let’s take a closer look at this migratory phenomenon.

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Cobia Following Sharks

You read that correctly. Cobia swim with sharks, specifically bull sharks or tiger sharks. It may sound counterproductive for a fish to hangout with an apex predator, but a healthy cobia is not an easy meal for a shark.

Of course, if the cobia were unhealthy or exhibited any sign of weakness then the shark would take advantage of the situation.

Cobia swim with sharks because they eat similar prey such as crustaceans and finfish. A feeding frenzy created by a shark offers up a tremendous opportunity for a traveling cobia.

When cobia swim with sharks they make sure not to impede the progress of the shark. They are often spotted swimming off to the side, above, or below the sharks keeping their distance.

Why Do Cobia Swim With Sharks & Manta Rays? Explained!

Cobia Following Manta Rays

If locating cobia swimming with sharks isn’t your cup of tea due to the inevitable battle with the tax man, then have no fear. Cobia will often swim out in open water with manta rays and sea turtles.

The cobia swim with manta rays and sea turtles for the same reason they swim with sharks.

Cobia swim with manta rays and sea turtles to bum a meal. Manta rays and large loggerhead turtles are big enough to create their own ecosystems.

It is not uncommon to come across manta rays and turtles swimming with cobia and other fish like jacks and mahi. Manta rays and turtles act as moving structures.

You can locate cobia swimming with manta rays and sea turtles by actively surveying the surface of deep water channels. The manta rays and sea turtles will move into current breaks or cruise in the current allowing food to come to them.

You will find the cobia swimming above or below the manta ray or sea turtle.

Find The Sharks & Rays, Find The Cobia

When targeting cobia swimming with sharks it is important to understand where to locate these predators. At any level of the food chain, predatory fish are looking for an easy meal.

Cobia and sharks are no different. Locating structures that intersect current are great places to find cobia swimming with sharks.

Shipwrecks, bridge pilings, reefs, large buoys, and ledges near shipping channels are all excellent places to find cobia swimming with sharks.

Each one of these locations provides a holding place for fish of any size to ambush prey. Cobia can be found on shallow flats occasionally, but typically will be found in at least 30 feet of water.

One of the easiest ways to find cobia swimming with sharks is to anchor up by one of those pieces of structure and create a feeding frenzy.

This can be done by using a chum bag and a chum bucket. Lower the chum bucket down to the bottom of the water and hang the chum bag off the stern of the boat and wait.

If you really want to fire things up then bleed out some baitfish like mackerel, menhaden, or mullet.

Once the chum slick is created the smaller fish in the area will begin to feed and the scent will attract the sharks. Keep your eyes peeled to the back of the boat because it won’t take long for the cobia to swim into the slick behind the sharks.

Watch Out For The Taxman

After the frenzy is created and you see the cobia swimming with sharks behind the boat it is time to make a cast. It is almost impossible to avoid the inevitable once you come tight with a cobia. A shark will steal your meal.

There are a couple things that you can do in order to improve your chances of landing the fish. Instincts for the shark tell it to demolish the prey that is wounded or acting erratically. It is also instinctual for a cobia to pull back when you apply pressure to it. So take away the pressure.

When you hook the cobia and see the sharks pursue it, put the reel in free spool. This will alleviate the stress from the fish and most of the time cause the cobia to swim away from the structure and sharks.

As the cobia moves off the structure, fire up the boat and follow it. To do so, make sure that the anchor is tied or clipped to a detachable anchor buoy.

After the fish has moved off of the structure and there are no signs of sharks, flip the bail and reel in the cobia. There is always a chance for a shark to follow the cobia out, but they typically won’t leave the easy meals by the structure.

Tackle for Cobia

When targeting cobia it is important to use a rod with some backbone. A 6’6 or 7’0 medium heavy or heavy spinning rod with a fast action will do fine.

A larger sized spinning reel like a 5000 series or larger will work better when looking for cobia swimming with sharks. You will want the higher line capacity in case you have to let the fish go into free spool.

Depending on the structure you settle on, using 30lb-50lb braid will be fine. A 40lb to 80lb fluorocarbon leader will work as well, depending on the structure you are fishing.

All of the basic cobia baits and lures will work when targeting cobia swimming with sharks. Artificial lures like bucktails and large swimbaits work great. Live bait like menhaden, eels, or crabs will also work.


Looking for cobia swimming with sharks is an exciting and frustrating experience. By understanding where to look, how to fight the fish, and using the proper equipment you’ll be able to land more cobia.

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