Heading out 60 to 80 miles in the ocean is probably alien to many of you, but to someone like me, it is the stuff of dreams -- especially these past few days.
It used to be that nobody around here even considered heading to the Gulf Stream in March because May was always considered the time to go. Then about five years ago, my fishing compadre, Don McCarthy, and I rolled the dice and headed out to the blue water around the first week in April and stumbled upon one of the best wahoo bites I have ever had anywhere. As a matter of fact, the only hits we took and the only fish we caught were all from wahoo. It was wahoo-mania, and every one of the fish we landed were monsters for these parts.
When it comes to Gulf Stream fishing, I couldn't care less about catching a marlin or sailfish -- I have caught my fair share of both. They are both spectacular fish when hooked as they leap and greyhound across the ocean, but for me, wahoo are the cat's meow of pelagic species. Even a big bull dolphin can't excite me the way a wahoo can.
If I had to come up with a reason for my addiction to these fish, the answer would be their bad boy attitude. Remember the old Superman tagline that went like this, "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?" This is how I see wahoo.
There are few fish in the ocean that can out swim a wahoo. Clocked at 50 mph, a big wahoo can hit a bait so fast and so hard that I sometimes panic, thinking it is going to dump all the line off a reel. That usually doesn't happen -- only because most of the reels I use hold more than 600 yards of line -- but when you watch that line burning off the reel in a blur, the thought does go through your mind. To further illustrate their speed, one proven technique for catching these speedsters is called "high-speed trolling."
Most of the time when you fish the Gulf Stream, you run six to eight lines at any one time while trolling between 5 and 7 knots. But if you plan on doing high-speed trolling for wahoo, you can only fish three rods at a time, and the trolling speed is a mind-boggling 12-16 knots. Listen, folks, that is cooking along, and the first time you try it, it's hard to believe that anything could catch a lure at that speed.
But one fish can -- a wahoo.
Personally, the fastest I have ever caught a wahoo was doing 18 knots and when that bite happened, I only had a few seconds to slow down before the fish dumped every bit of line off the reel or I ripped its face off.
Now, back to the Superman saying about being more powerful than a speeding locomotive. A wahoo's mouth is lined front to back with razor-sharp triangular teeth -- even a pit bull's teeth can't hold a candle to what a wahoo's teeth can do. They are, simply put, savage. After the initial run by an angry wahoo, there is no question what type of fish is on the end of your line because during the entire fight, they stay down there shaking their head from side to side like a dog trying to wrestle a rope from your hands. Even after being gaffed, those jaws keep on snapping, like a Cuisinart that has gone berserk.
All it takes is one tooth touching you, and you'll be paying for stitches.
And lastly, what about the man of steel being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Especially at first light, wahoo just love to ambush a trolled bait from underneath. If I had to imagine how it all goes down under there, it would be something like this: A wahoo catches a glimpse of the lure going by, dives 60 feet down and, like a military jet with full afterburners on, comes straight up under the quarry. Once I was sitting up on the flying bridge on a big sportfishing boat when a wahoo hit one of the short baits that was right next to the boat. When it reached its apex, I was eyeball to eyeball with that fish. I'm talking at least 20 feet up.
If you are wondering why I am so all fired up about wahoo fishing it's because Don McCarthy, Harry Morales and I are one of 26 boats in the 2013 Wahoo Series tournament based out of the Hilton Head Harbor. The way the tournament works, each boat can fish any two days between now and the first week in April, and the biggest fish takes it all. My fingers are like hamburger because for the past two weeks I have spent hours and hours twisting wire, sharpening hooks and getting ready for the first day the wind lies down enough that we can go.
I guess until that day comes, my dreams will just have to do.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.