Wahoo is a prized game fish found in tropical and subtropical seas all over the world. Its slender and streamlined body allows the fish to swim up to 60 mph and is capable of leaping as high as 20 feet in the air when chasing baitfish and zeroing in for a surface kill. The wahoo’s stripes, razor-sharp teeth, and fierce attitude earned it a nickname, “Tiger of the Ocean”. Based on the records of the International Game Fish Association, the heaviest wahoo caught using hook and line is 158.5 lb (71.9 kg).
Wahoo fishing tips and techniques
Want to get your hands on a feisty wahoo? Here are some tips and techniques to help you land one.
Timing is one of the key ingredients of a successful fishing trip so before heading out to sea it’s wise to consult your trusted fishing calendar to know the peak and lean season of wahoo in your area. In Cabo, the best time to target this species is from September to January so better take advantage of this excellent fishing period to land yourself a good-sized one. Angling action slows down a little from February to June but picks up again towards the middle of the year, from July to August.
The weather and the tides affect the feeding and migrating habits of ocean dwellers so coordinate your angling trip with the most favorable conditions to increase your hook-up ratio. For instance, under stable weather, lack of bite in the early-morning falling tide often results in good striking ratio during the afternoon incoming rise and fall of the sea and vice versa.
Pressure changes are also good indicators for wahoo which you can use to your advantage. When barometric pressure drops such as before a cold front or a storm, the Tigers of the Ocean are likely to bite. However, when the pressure escalates, which may take place when the front arrives, this species tends to slow down and stop feeding. It may take several hours or sometimes days for the wahoo to resume its drive to hunt and feed again, depending on how severe the front is.
Another tip to boost your striking rates is to know where the wahoo likes to lurk. This is where the experienced captain of your Cabo fishing charter comes in. A good captain knows that this species is structure-oriented so the best place to spot them are in bottom formations, wrecks, broad ledges, and rips. This game fish may also be encountered along water color changes which may indicate a temperature break, change of current flow, salinity change, or presence of nutrient-rich water. The wahoo often favors one side that is richer with plankton and nutrients which consequently have more baitfish. Watch out for floating debris and weed lines where this predator may tend to hide in ambush for its prey.
Dropping flutter jigs underneath floating debris is bound to get the attention of your target fish because of its inherent erratic action and gradually slow descent. Designed to imitate an injured or fleeing baitfish, flutter jigs can trigger an instinctive strike from the game fish. You can also use live bait such as pilchard, goggle-eye, or herring to entice this species.
Wahoo is often caught by trolling at the ideal speeds of 14-16 knots using a six-lure spread that is proven to yield strikes. High speed trolling (upward of 20 knots) also produce strikes but majority are caught near the 10-knot range. Rapalas and any other swimming plugs are recommended for trolling. Plastic skirted trolling lures may also be used but it can get quite expensive because the wahoo tends to shred them with their sharp teeth.
Standard offshore trolling tackle with 100lb braided line works well for wahoo. You can also use a medium conventional tackle with 80lb braid when casting but remember to use a wire leader to protect it from the razor-sharp teeth of this species.
When you get a strike, coordinate with the captain to keep the boat moving at the same trolling speed and direction in order to drive in the hook and get additional hook-ups in the process. Crank the reel to keep the fish on top and the lack of water flowing past the gills will tire the fish quickly. Bring your catch steadily into the range of the crew’s gaff. When the fish is hauled on-board, make sure it is away from your legs and feet because the last thing you would want to happen is to get injured by your prized catch.
Did you know that Hawaiians call this species “Ono” which means “good to eat”? It’s a fitting name because of its mild-sweet tasty white flesh and firm texture. You can arrange to have your catch filleted, vacuum-packed and frozen so you could safely transport it home. If you prefer to have your catch mounted, you can ask your captain where the nearest taxidermy is.