Fresh Wahoo steaks straight from your boat’s cooler to the grill..not much can beat that!
Wahoos are an angler’s favorite. Not only for the traditional rod and reel fisherman but also for fly fisherman, too. Catching a Wahoo on the fly is one of the most thrilling experiences.
They are big, fast, and FIERCE.
And if you can land one, they feed a hungry fishing party with some of the best fish tacos you’ll ever eat!
All About Wahoo
Wahoo, or Ono, is one of the most voracious fish in the ocean. They are, without a doubt, an apex predator.
Being part of the mackerel family, they have a mouth full of teeth. And they are razor sharp. Their serrated teeth have cut through even the strongest of wire leaders. And many fishermen have ended their day on the water in a doctor’s office getting stitches for putting their fingers too close. They don’t have to bite to tear up some flesh. They just have to make contact.
The Wahoo or ‘Ono’ is without a doubt one of the most aggressive fish swimming, and if they attacked swimmers I’d never go in the bloody water again! I’ve seen Wahoo lay open a careless deckhand like a surgeon.
These aggressive fish are also one of the fastest, possibly coming in second to sailfish. They reach speeds of 60 mph. And when they take off like that on the end of your rod, whew, it’s a thrill!
Wahoos are torpedo-shaped and grow fast and large. They are commonly between 3 to 5 feet long but can reach 8 feet in a six-year lifespan. The average weight is 45 pounds, but they have weighed in at over 150 pounds. Their most distinctive feature, besides their mouth of razors, is their prominent dark stripes that run vertically down the length of their steely silver-blue body.
Wahoos are mostly found traveling solo or with only a few other fish. However, they sometimes congregate in large schools—often referred to as “wolf packs.” This phenomenon has even shown a pattern around the full moon.
Where to Find Wahoo
Wahoo like warm waters. You’ll find them worldwide in the subtropical and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Some places known for great Wahoo fishing are South Florida, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Australia. The Bahama Banks is a popular spot for sportfishing, and anglers can often fill the limits with Wahoo here easily.
In winter months, Wahoos will migrate from the periphery of their habitats toward the warmer waters. They like water warmer than 70 degrees. This causes seasonal Wahoo fishing in some regions, and higher concentrations during the winter months for locals closer to the equator.
Because Wahoos like to stay warm, they usually spend their time along the edges of the Gulf Stream. Because of this, anglers often use the Gulf Stream’s location maps and water temperature readings to make educated guesses on the best locations. In the winter months, they are more frequently found on the Western edge; in the summer months, they prefer the Eastern edge.
Picking the Right Kind of Location
Wahoos are found offshore, generally between 100 feet to 300 feet of water. They like to congregate around some type of structure. Any place with drop-offs, canyon edges, reefs, or artificial structures, like large wrecks and oil rigs, increases their interest in a location.
Anywhere water wells up and concentrates or attracts schools of bait fish are also highly attractive hang-outs for the voracious feeders. They feed on almost anything, including other pelagic fish like Mahi-Mahi, Tuna, and Jack. But they are also attracted to smaller meals like herrings, squid, and flying fish.
Water temperature also plays a critical role in where Wahoos hang out. This fish can move around with the ever-changing ocean currents, trying to find that sweet spot of warm water, structure, and food sources. They can be found hanging out at any depth above the thermocline. They can even use the “wall” created by cool and warm water to hang out because the underwater phenomenon concentrates the baitfish they dine on.
Tides, like the ocean currents, have a strong influence on where to find Wahoo. They are serious predators and will be drawn toward the current that attracts all the other fish in the sea. Once they find a buffet, they stay and hang out.
Packing the Tacklebox
Fly fishing for Wahoo requires a new setup. For the rod, go with a minimum of an 11 or 14-weight pole. These fish can be big, they fight nasty, and they are powerful. Some say their run is one of the fastest and strongest of them all.
Your reel is just as important—or more important—than your rod choice. Select a high-quality piece with a strong, smooth drag. It will also need to hold A LOT of line. It’s not uncommon for a Wahoo to peel off 100ft of line on their first run.
Line choice varies greatly between anglers. Some swear on a fast-sinking line. Others say it doesn’t matter much because Wahoo usually strike within a few seconds of cast. Experiment to find your own preference.
But one part of the setup that shouldn’t be experimented with is the leader. A 50# leader to a wire tippet is not optional. Wahoo’s mouth of razors will ravish any line—no matter the thickness. These fish are masters at gnashing their way free, even with a leader.
Guess that’s what makes Hoos challenging and exciting to get aboard.
For fly choice, go large. Wahoos are apex predators. They are looking for a real meal. Flying fish or the purple streamers you select for Mahi-Mahi are good places to start.
Tips for Catching Wahoo on the Fly
With Wahoo being the speed demons they are, the best success is to get and keep moving. Wahoos caught by flies usually use a bait-and-switch method. You’ll troll teasers (hookless bait) behind the boat. Some boat captains prefer a traditional six to eight knots. Others believe their success comes from pushing up the throttle and trolling at speeds up to 18 knots.
Once your teasers have caught the Wahoo’s attention and brought them up from the depths, the chaotic dance begins. The teasers get brought in because, well, you don’t want to lose them, but also because if the Wahoo hits them, they tend to leave pretty fast. Instead, you’ll want to pop the fly as quickly as possible.
Wahoos are sight feeders. They need a clean sight of what they are about to attack. But they are incredibly decisive. If they are going to go for your fly, they’ll probably take it as it is popped. At the same time, if they sense things aren’t right, they’ll be out. They don’t hang around to observe.
Once on, though, Hoo-boy! These teethy torpedoes are going to GO. Occasionally they provide an aerial experience, but they will always put on one of the fastest and longest runs. It’s why they are such a delight.
Keep tension on the line as they are powerful enough to do damage and get off if they can give a headshake.
Cooking Your Catch
Unlike so many sportfish, Wahoo has the sweet bonus of being one of the best-tasting fish in the ocean. It’s a white, mild-tasting fish that lends itself to multiple recipes and cooking methods. Its firm texture and large flake mean Wahoo steaks are a popular favorite on the grill.
Wahoo can be diced fresh for a citrus ceviche, seared up for fish tacos, pan-fried, or baked. Because of its light flavor and firm texture, even people not fond of fish enjoy Wahoo. It’s not oily, gamey, or “fishy” at all. In fact, there is a little sweetness to the filets.
Newsworthy Notes About Wahoo
Wahoos are a sustainably friendly catch with healthy populations, even with their popularity as a sportfish and a valued food fish.
Their populations have seen relatively high fishing rates without the detrimental effects to their numbers that so many other species endure. This may be, in part, due to them having a wide habitat—they are found throughout the world in tropical and subtropical waters. Additionally, they have varied food sources to rely on.
Their success may also be in their prolific reproduction. Wahoos begin spawning within a year and continue to do so several times a year. They can produce up to 45 million eggs per year!
Still, to maintain these refreshingly vibrant populations for all our future anglers, commercial and recreational limits need to be followed—check out your local bag limits.
Fishing with Scout Boats
Offshore fly fishing for Wahoo, Mahi-mahi, or Permits is a fly fishing angler’s ideal day on the water. Owning the right boat to deliver you safely and comfortably offshore makes all the difference.
Get that confidence and expand your fishing area today. Scout builds boats with the most technologically advanced composite manufacturing methods and styling that sets them apart in the luxury boat space. Build your Scout today.
It’s time to catch your own Wahoo on the fly.