What We Know About Wahoo
As editor of FishMonster Magazine each and every potential cover photo has found its way to my desk and the ones that make it to the newsstands have my stamp of approval. The most common cover shot for the magazine over the last four years has been wahoo. When a wahoo picture makes it’s way through the FishMonster gauntlet and then to me my eyes, like many other fisherman, sparkle with blue, black and silver followed by an uncontrollable grin. While I’m at the helm of one of our charter boats with a wahoo hooked up, multiply that grin and animation times ten. Wahoo are the “wild” in the ocean wildlife with their torpedo shape and steel beauty. If the brightest and most brilliant hydrodynamic engineers across the globe were to build a perfect ocean-going fish, a wahoo would be the result. They are flawless.
What we know about wahoo here at FishMonster is that certain offshore conditions come together in the South Atlantic Ocean that either drive a strong concentrated presence of wahoo close to the Florida Keys or scatter the wahoo throughout the Florida Straits with no clear pattern as to where they may be. One thing is for sure, there is always a chance to catch wahoo somewhere in the Florida Straits year round. Here are some likely places for winter wahoo and techniques to catch them.
The very BEST way to find an artificial reef that may hold wahoo offshore of one of the Florida Keys near you is to turn the pages until you find the artificial reef section of FishMonster Magazine. Look for the structures that are offshore of the main reef line in water deeper than one hundred feet. Many areas have multiple wrecks and reefs that are situated in such a way that trolling from a shallower wreck to a deeper wreck and then back again is possible. Our best advice is to stay with it, work the pattern. The longer you try the better your chances. Vicki Gail from the Florida Keys Seafood Festival found out with her birthday wahoo cover shot in November of 2013 that wahoo love underwater structure especially when a current edge forms above it.
Trash lines are common offshore of the Florida Keys and in the Florida Straits. The Gulf Stream is a highway for debris to travel along the current edges mixed in with natural flotsam like sargasso and jellyfish. A perfect wahoo current edge has clean blue water, sargasso, some jellyfish and trash. The trash could be anything from flip flops to buckets to pallets and trap lines. Anything that has enough area in the water to be affected by the current. Trees and logs are also included as trash. They are among the most productive for sure. The presence of bait and other pelagics like dolphin, bonita, skipjack tuna and blackfin tuna turns the wahoo volume up high. Big predators have to eat and always work the easiest prey. Baitfish that are gathered around a piece of floating structure generally never leave, making a quick meal easy for the wandering wahoo. Why leave when food is available anytime?
December 2014 was the latest wahoo cover shot for FishMonster Magazine with Key West angler Chris Hong and his very first wahoo which was caught along a Key West trash line that looked much like Duval Street on a Saturday morning. There was trash everywhere.
Don Kramer is an accountant from Iowa who joined us along with his cousin Jeff Bellman aboard the Premium Time out of A&B Marina in Key West last month. An afternoon trolling trip was what he wanted and the conditions were perfect for a well known shallow seamount called the Long Bar situated south of Sand Key and extending to Boca Grande. A current edge had formed in 150 feet of water just offshore of the bar and had already produced a few quality dolphin. Traveling to the west a large wahoo ate the deep trolled ballyhoo. Just before the bite, my deckhand Captain Steve Liberatore and I were talking about the “No Man’s Land” of the Long Bar where our historical fishing production has been very limited. That’s when the 50+ lb. wahoo ate. Needless to say, Steve scrambled down the ladder as angler Don tried to control his excitement. Landing a fish of that size, especially when it’s a Florida Keys wahoo averaging 20-30 lbs. is always unforgettable for everyone involved.
Baits, Rigs and Techniques for wahoo in the Florida Keys
High speed trolling for wahoo is a generally accepted technique worldwide....except for the Florida Keys. The best Florida Keys wahoo fisherman I’ve ever known is Captain Murray Shatt. He had one stretch of success that lasted fourteen trips with at least one wahoo per trip, most of the time he had multiple fish. His trolling speed averaged six knots and he would employ two downriggers with skirted ballyhoo and two skirted ballyhoo on the outriggers. The unique part was his commercial attitude towards catching wahoo. His strategy was tight drags, heavy duty sharp hooks and wire. Driving the hook home into the animal’s jawbone made losing a fish unlikely. His rod and reel outfits were four electric Daiwa Tanacom Bulls loaded with braid. He fished alone and at times would have four wahoo on at a time. A tough situation unless you have someone to reel the wahoo to the boat.
Murray solved the problem by employing the power tools.
Wahoo are just like other mackerels. They are attracted to flashing schools of bait and the underwater noise of fish feeding. Many wahoo have been caught with live baits meant for sailfish or tuna and many live baits without wire have been eaten and cut off by wahoo. Using wire is key to catching wahoo on live bait. Many of the Florida Keys captains will work a wreck or seamount by using live pilchards as chum to attract blackfin tuna. Over time they have learned that wahoo also react well to live chumming.
Hooking a large wahoo from an anchored vessel takes the thrill to a whole new level especially when using pilchards or even live pocket bonito for bait. Any bite is going to be a big fish.
What do we know about wahoo? We know we want to know MORE about YOUR wahoo. Send your wahoo pictures and stories by email to FishMonster@FishMonster.com. Fame and WAHOO Glory awaits....
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