Are you serious about catching cobia? Joe Persohn is, and every year he pursues them around the oil rigs and marker buoys near Sabine Pass, on the Texas Gulf Coast. Lucky for us, he's observant, too. "For several years I saw a cobia with unique markings hanging around a small, unmanned oil rig. It was around the same leg of the tower every time I saw it," Persohn says. "It would come right up to the boat, open its mouth when it neared my bait, and just when I thought I'd get a hookup, the fish would turn away. But I was sure it was the exact same fish, time and time again."
Turns out a Mote Marine Laboratory tagging study conducted in Florida, which fitted more than 300 fish with tags, provided some results that back up Persohn's conviction. The study had an unusually high return rate for a migratory species, with 55 tags recaptured. The kicker? Twelve of the fish were caught at the exact same location they were initially tagged. Why should anglers care? Because this should tell you that any area where you spotted fish in past years but were unable to catch them will likely hold the exact same fish in the future. Of course you may need to vary tactics to get those fish to bite-if you tossed lures last year, go with live baits this season, for example-but the location is likely to still hold the fish. And if you caught and released a fish just shy of legal size last season, go back to that same spot during the same time frame this year. There's a good chance he'll be present after having grown enough to put in the box.