Parasite population dynamics and the evolution of life history characteristics are strongly associated with the process of host infection. Parasites with free-living life stages have a narrow window to infect a host and have evolved a number of mechanisms to detect and locate a host. Cymothoa excisa is a parasitic isopod that is commonly found on the Atlantic croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, in the Gulf of Mexico. Here, we determined the infection window that constrains host-searching behavior in C. excisa and tested the behavioral response of the free-swimming larvae (mancae) to visual and chemical cues. Mancae were found to have an infection window of 7 days. Mancae were responsive to both visual and chemical cues. Our findings are the first to show that cymothoid isopods use visual and chemical cues to locate a host and that individuals display a host-locating strategy that maximizes host encounter rate, while reducing energy expenditure.