Waterman's Journal

Nov 19, 2010

Winter Wahoo in the Gulf

The Gulf of Mexico offers some of the most diverse fishing in the world. One minute you’re locked to a bruiser snapper or grouper 300 feet down, and the next you have 600 pounds of pissed off blue marlin hell bent on tailwalking all the way to Cuba, with all 1,000 yards of your monofilament trailing behind it. One of my favorite fish out there is the wahoo, or _Acanthocybium solandri_ . The wahoo is a pelagic fish, meaning it inhabits open ocean waters (as opposed to bottom dwellers such as snapper, grouper, jacks, etc.). Wahoo tend to school heavily, and it is not uncommon for us to double or even triple up on them when we are targeting them specifically.

Below : Displaying a lively lit up Wahoo ...

Wahoo have been known to sky on trolled baits as well as natural baits-one minute you are looking back from the tower checking the spread, and then the next, sixty pounds of angry, tiger-striped, wahoo is eye level with your bridge with your lure hanging out of its mouth. This is one of the coolest strikes in the ocean, and any angler who spends enough time targeting these fish and watching their spread is sure to witness this spectacle. Wahoo are generally what we call “short-strikers.” In nature, wahoo generally will hang up current of structure and wait for bait to be pushed in by the currents. While the wahoo has been clocked at speeds over sixty miles per hour, it has been my experience when diving that they tend to be fairly lethargic until it’s feeding time. When resting, they appear to be almost all silver, with some shades of blue on the top half of their body. Upon excitement, when a wahoo “lights up,” vertical bars cascade down the length of its body, and they can be anywhere from silver to purple, blue, with gold mixed in-an absolute beautiful fish.

Below : A massive Wahoo brought aboard courtesy Paradise Outfitters

Usually they will come in from behind and shear off the tail of its prey, circling back to swallow the bait whole. For this reason, when we are targeting them via trolling, we rig our hooks a bit farther back in the skirts than we would our standard marlin baits. Oftentimes when you pull in a ballyhoo with the anterior half missing, it’s generally a safe bet that a wahoo. Wahoo can also be targeting live baiting. It’s much simpler than some magazines make it out though. Start off with thirty-six inches of 104# wire leader, twist on a swivel at one end and a #5 or #7 circle hook at the other end-match the hook to the size of the bait you intend to use. After marking fish on the up current side of structure, we set out two baits-one directly behind the boat and another down on a downrigger at the approximate depth of the marked fish. Leave the reel in free spool with the clicker on, and when the fish strikes, let him run for a solid four to five Mississippi count before sliding the drag up and cranking until tight and the fish is pulling drag.

Below : Wahoo can provide fun and action for anglers of all ages...

With half the mission accomplished, now all you have to do is get the fish to the boat. Wahoo generally make a couple hard runs away from the the boat before turning around and running straight back toward the boat. It is at this moment in the fight that a lot of fish are lost, because the angler fails to keep the line tight. A wahoo will shake his head like a pit bull and even a hard bait with two strong treble hooks somehow can be shaken loose as if the hooks were barbless. No need to pump and wind on a wahoo as if you would a sounding tuna-just keep a bend in the rod and winch them in. The captain of the boat just needs to engage the throttles enough to keep the line tight, especially if the angler needs a break from winding.

Below : Posing with an excellent specimen harvested for supreme table fare

When the fish is brought to wire, the wireman should do everything he can to keep the fish’s head in the water, as an upward pull tends to cause the fish to shake and otherwise freak out, often resulting in a lost fish. While wahoo make great pictures while they are all lit up, everyone in the boat would be wise to stay clear of a thrashing wahoo, as their mouths are armed with small yet razor sharp teeth. A good gaff man would bring the fish straight over the gunwhale and right into an open fish box. Give it a few minutes before taking it out for pictures. Back at the dock, wahoo make for some fantastic table fare, and are good blackened, fried, grilled, raw (sushi, etc.), or in fish tacos.

Below : Cooler months in the Gulf of Mexico can bring masses of large Wahoo to the boat...

Since the April 20th Deepwater Horizon incident, we are enjoying some of the best fishing we have seen in years, particularly for wahoo. A good trip will yield anywhere from three to eight fish in a single day. With the rough seas which usually accompany wintertime fast approaching, we find ourselves a bit more focused on hunting now, and fish only when the seas allow us. Lump season is right around the corner though (February-March), and it’s just a matter of weeks before we go mano e mano with the packs of two hundred plus pound yellowfin tunas which infiltrate our shallow waters off of Venice. Until then, hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that’s just another day at the office…

-Captain Woody Woods

For more information on fishing Venice, Louisiana with Captains Hunter Caballero and Woody, please visit our new and improved website at www.paradise-outfitters.com , or become a fan of Paradise Outfitters on facebook!

Click To view an Exclusive Video Clip of the Wahoo bite, courtesy Woody Woods...