Wahoo (or “ono” if you’re hanging out in the Hawaiian Islands) are one of the baddest fish in the ocean. They can reach speeds of nearly 50 mph, have some seriously nasty teeth and can grow quite large — the world record is 184 pounds. They are a top-notch game fish in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the globe and are divine table fare.
Some folks say that the name Wahoo is a derivation of the name of the Hawaiian Island Oahu…while others say “Wahoo” is what you shout when you hook one. Their Island name, Ono, comes from the Hawaiian word for delicious: ‘ono.
Whatever you call ’em, wahoo are a blast to catch and even more fun to throw on the grill!
Here’s how to catch ’em:
Water Temp & Tides
Wahoo are taken mostly when the water is in the 70- to 80-degree range, but that can very a bit depending on the location you’re fishing. You’ll find your best action during the part of the tide that pushes bait across structure and out into deeper water.
Take a quick glance at a wahoo and you’ll see that they are designed for hunting. The streamlined body is built for speed and their big eyes help them locate and follow prey. And those teeth…well…we know what those are for.
Wahoo lures need to imitate large-sized baitfish and have to be capable of being trolled at high speeds. Wahoo are not accustomed to eating slow-moving targets, so the faster you troll the better. Marauders and similar styled baits (think giant Rat-L-Traps) have long been the staples of ‘hoo anglers and they can be trolled effectively up to at least 13 knots (don’t forget those wire leaders!).
There are also several bullet-style lures such as Black Bart’s Wahoo Candy that can be trolled up to 28 knots.
Super-high speed trolling has gotten really popular in recent years and has been producing some incredible wahoo catches. The only downside to trolling that fast is you start to eliminate other species like marlin, tuna and dorado from you list of potential catches. That’s not to say those fish won’t hit a bait going that fast, but if you’re “potluck” fishing for variety, keep the speeds down. When fishing for a mixed bag of species, drop one Wahoo lure well back in the spread…these wolf-like predators seem to like the bait that’s different and isolated from the rest.
Though you chase Wahoo in blue water, you need to locate some structure — look for ledges, shelves, oil rigs, pinnacles and reef lines. The fish will prowl just off the edges of this stuff, looking for baitfish pushed over the edge by the currents.
On the Grill
Wahoo flesh is extremely tasty, but you need to be careful not to overcook it…it dries out quickly. Take it off the grill earlier than you normally would. Or, make Baja-style tacos out of it.