Do you Wahoo when your fishing in the Florida Keys?
I’ve always been told that you can’t target Wahoo when fishing. I’m beginning to think that I’ve been fed a line of bull. We’re just now beginning to learn a few tendencies of this fish. Researchers weren’t interested in this species because it wasn’t fished commercially.
The name comes from the yell the angler bellows out when they hook one of these fish. The largest Hoo recorded was eight feet long and it weighed 180 pounds. It’s a fast-growing fish. One that was tagged grew from eleven pounds to thirty-three pounds in less than a year. They’re a close relative to the Mackerel. They eat squid and other fish including their own kind. They have an iridescent green back and silvery sides with vertical dark blue and black stripes. They light up when they’re hooked. They have a very firm white tasty meat. It’s heck of a fish to catch.
One of the thoughts in the past was that they were solitary fish. Now we’re finding out this is not so. These fish like to school up. You’ll find this more so in the smaller “Weehoo.” Safety in numbers probably has a lot to do with this. But the larger ones do school up as well. They don’t seem to stay as close to one another in the school as the smaller ones do. This tells me when you hook one up stay in that area and keep working it. You’ll probably get another one or two. I’ve caught as many as three in one day by doing this.
Hoos tend to school up above any structure on the ocean floor. Drop-offs and wrecks are a favorite place. They’ll also tend to be just outside the coral reef that runs the length of the Florida Keys. Of course the wall that runs east and west twenty-five miles off the reef of the Lower Keys and Key West is a great place to fish for them too.
Structures aren’t the only place you’ll hook up on this fish. They love a color change. You’ll find them near the edge in the blue water. In the winter time here in the Florida Keys we get a good color change where the warm waters of the Gulfstream comes in and meets the cooler water from shore that goes out and in with the high and low tide. These waters don’t mix. This will stack the bait up at the color change. Usually it’s in the 150 to 300 foot depth.
Weed lines, upwellings, rips and any debris floating on the surface in the current is a good place to fish for them. Some fishermen like to drift with live bait and jigging with the vertical jigs is getting more popular.
Wahoo can be found in warm waters all around the world. They are pelagic fish that are found in blue water, rarely are they found in the green water near shore.
I used to think the only place to fish for them was down deep on the downrigger. I think you can do just as good on the surface. It’s true that they spend most of the time down at deeper depths. Their pattern helps them to hide in the diffuse sunlight that filters thru the ocean depths. They watch from below for their dinner to swim by and when they spot it they charge up, ambushing their prey in their sharp teeth and leaping out of the water with a big splash. They can hit their prey at a speed up to 55 miles per hour. Wahoo's are thought to be the fastest fish in the ocean. I believe Tuna's are the second fastest.
I prefer to have a downrigger down at all times when I’m trolling. I’ll use natural baits, usually ballyhoo and I dress him with a skirt for more flash and color. I keep it at fifty to seventy feet down. On the outrigger I troll with both naked ballyhoo and dressed ones. On the flat lines I use a couple of deep diving plug. It’s really tricky to put all these out at the same time and not get back a wad of monofilament after you did a turn that just happened to be a little tight.
One drawback to the deep diving plug is that the ring will fail. I’ve had more rings part than I care to tell you about. Who would think a fish hitting that thing could open it up. It does happen and you know it had to be a really big fish that you just lost. When you think about it, a Wahoo hitting any bait at 55 miles per hour could cause any piece of tackle to fail.
Now days fast troll is becoming my favorite method for fishing Wahoo. I think you get a better rate of hook ups. I like to use the Billy Baits and troll between 10 and 20 knots in a zig zag pattern above bottom structures. It’s an amazing thing to witness that big Hoo blast the bait and soar out of the water and up into the air before the battle begins.
I think this is the most often lost fish. They’ll turn and charge toward the boat. If the captain isn’t on his toes, the fish is lost. You need to gun it to keep the fish from reaching the boat while trying to keep the angler upright and the line tight. The other place they’re lost is at the boat when they’re gaffed. They’ll spin themselves right off that gaff if you’re not careful.
The Wahoo is but one of the many gamefish that roams the waters of the Florida Keys. If you haven’t ever caught one, you’re in for a real treat. It’s one of my favorite fish to catch. And it’s a savory fish to eat.
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