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 many of my dreams 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 month to go.
Then several 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 on by far one of the best wahoo bites I have ever had anywhere.
As a matter of fact, the only hits we took that day, and the only fish we caught, were all wahoo. It was absolute wahoo-mania and every one of the fish we landed was a monster for these parts, with only one under 60 pounds.
If you keep up with my writing from year to year, then you know that when it comes to Gulf Stream fishing I couldn’t care less about catching a marlin or sailfish, both of which I have caught my share of. 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, or mahi, 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”? For us old guys who watched Superman in black and white, that famous phrase epitomizes a wahoo.
Starting with their speed, there are few fish in the ocean that can outswim a wahoo. Easily able to reach speeds over 50 mph, a big wahoo can hit a bait so fast and so hard that I sometimes panic, thinking that it is going to dump all the line off a reel. That rarely happens since most of the reels I use hold over 600 yards of line, but when you watch that line burning off the reel in a blur, that thought often goes 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 to 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 to 20 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 going that fast through the water but one fish can — a wahoo.
Personally, the fastest I have ever caught a wahoo was doing 18 knots, and when that bite happened, you only had seconds to slow down before: (A) the fish dumps every bit of line off the reel or (B) you rip its face off.
Now back to the Superman saying about being more powerful than a locomotive.
A wahoo’s mouth is lined from front to back with razor sharp triangular teeth and even a pit bull’s teeth can’t hold a candle to the damage a wahoo’s teeth can do. They are, simply put, savage.
After the initial run by an angry hoo, 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, it would be something like this: A wahoo catches a glimpse of the lure going by, quickly dives down 60 or so feet and like a military jet with full afterburners on, comes straight up under the quarry.
Once, at first light, I was sitting way up on the fly bridge of 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!
Even more amazing to me is their accuracy.
One big wahoo a year ago took a liking to a lure I had out and came a good 15 feet in the air. The amazing part was it didn’t grab the lure as it came up but rather on its way down. It helps to remember that the lure was traveling at 7 knots when this happened, requiring a mathematical formula of some sort by that fish.
It reminds me of those horrible math problems in high school that started out with “if one train is heading south at 50 mph and another is heading the opposite direction at 30 mph then …” Remember those? I never once got the answer to one of those correct.
If you are wondering why I am so all fired up about wahoo fishing it’s because the SC Wahoo Series is in full swing and I have until mid-April to go wahooing the allotted three times before the tournament ends.
With over 100 boats entered, most have at least one or two days under their belt already.
It just seems that until now the days I had planned to go have had monkey wrenches thrown in at the last possible second. But should conditions finally improve I am more than ready to go.
Hopefully by then my hands will have healed from hours and hours twisting wire, sharpening hooks and getting ready for the first day the wind lies down. I guess until that day comes, my dreams of these super fish will just have to do.