MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - The annual spring cobia migration from the Florida Keys to the Mississippi Sound began in late April. During this time, the highly sought after fish invades the waters near the barrier islands of Petit Bois, Horn, Ship and Cat, through May, during its migration toward the mouth of the Mississippi River to spawn.
Fast forward six months. Some of the same fish will track back toward the Florida Keys during late October and early November for the winter months and warmer water temperatures.
The fall and winter trek is well underway, especially around the barrier islands and the offshore and inshore reefs built by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi.
Reports to the WLOX Fish and Game Report center around anglers spotting schools of fish on the south side of Horn Island and around the buoys near Ship Island.
"We had a report of a pod (school) of fish coming up to the surface near one of our Fish Haven Reefs, south of Horn Island," said Matt Hill of the DMR. "The anglers said the fish were in the 30 pound range, but they saw a lot of them. That's good."
Another report dealt with large schools of cobia being spotted on the east side of Chandeleur Island.
The fish spotted south of Horn Island and east of Chandeleur are likely migrating back to the Florida Keys.
Research collected by the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs over the last several years through its tag and release program indicate that some cobia are caught around the oil rigs in 100 to 200 feet of water in December, January and February.
That means some cobia do not migrate, and spend the winter months in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
"It's that time of the season for cobia to migrate back toward Florida," Jim Franks of the research lab said. "It's their traditional behavior during the fall. Seeing fish swimming toward the east and southeast is a good indication that it's (migration) starting. The cobia that are being caught around the islands and shallow water reefs are the ones probably migrating back to South Florida. Of course, some cobia do not migrate back either. The water temperature is not that cold right now, so they (anglers) are still seeing fish. I would say in a week or two, the fish will move off. Right now, cobia are still here."