Wahoo are open-water pelagics, which means they roam all over the place with little rhyme or reason to their movements. As a rule, you find wahoo in water from 70 feet deep on out, with the majority of fish in 120 to 400 feet of water a over reef or other structure. Wahoo also like floating objects, particularly those that sit deep in the water column—things like large logs, garbage bags or waterlogged pallets. Sometimes a half dozen or more small wahoo (under 20 pounds) will gather around the same piece of flotsam.

In Florida, the majority of wahoo encountered are under 40 pounds, but fish up to 90 pounds or more are caught every year. For this reason, it’s best to use at least 30-pound line. I like monofilament like Sufix Superior or the Sufix Key Lime IGFA for wahoo fishing because it stretches and is more forgiving when a fish hits your lure or bait going in the opposite direction at a high speed.

Deep-Water Feeders

For the most part, wahoo are deep-water feeders. You’ll catch a lot more fish just by getting your baits down under the surface. Even four or five feet can make a big difference. The pros use wire lines, downriggers or planers to do this, but an easy way for average anglers to improve their shots at wahoo is to utilize a 16- to 30-ounce cigar weight.

Place that weight about 50 feet ahead of your baits when trolling; that will get it down anywhere from 8 to 20 feet depending on your speed and the size of the weight. Remember, when you hook a fish and reel it in, you have to handline it the last 50 feet because the sinker is too large to go through the rod tip.

New and Full Moons

You can catch wahoo any time of year, but we do seem to see a big push of fish in July, August, September and October—particularly around the new and full moons. Those moon phases really move a lot of current, which in turn pulls baitfish along with the tides. The wahoo know this and feed heavily for three or four days on either side of those moon phases. There’s also a tremendous dawn bite in the summer months around those moons, and a lot of guys run out in the dark, fish until 8 am, catch a wahoo or two and then run in and go to work.

We also see a lot of wahoo in the winter months, particularly over towards the Bahama bank and down in Key West, where the fish gather in schools to spawn. Wahoo can travel in small packs at any time, so whenever you hook a wahoo, you want to mark the location, and then make repeated passes through the area.

Fast-moving Baits

When targeting wahoo with live bait, make sure you’re getting the baits down deep, so a downrigger or cigar weight will really increase your chances of getting those fish to bite. Wahoo are toothy, so you want to always use wire when targeting them. I like #7 or #8 wire because the big fish will bite through the light stuff. For hooks, a 7/0 VMC Circle Hook is pretty hard to beat.
I also like to use large baits, whether that’s a 12-inch mullet, large threadfin, small bonito or even a small blackfin tuna.

Wahoo like the baits to move fast, but with live bait, you want to go at a speed that doesn’t drown the baits and allows them some freedom of movement. Make sure you have a stinger hook placed near the tail, as wahoo are notorious short strikers.

When trolling rigged baits, my favorites are a double-hooked swimming mullet with three ounces of lead under the chin on #7 wire. You can add a red and black or pink and black Ilander Lure ahead of the mullet. Double-hooked rigged ballyhoo are another good option, and I always add the Ilander Lure ahead of the bait.

For high-speed trolling, the black and purple Williamson Australian Runner, Yo-Zuri Bonito and Braid Speedsters are three of the more popular lure models that allow you to run upwards of 14 knots. Wahoo love fast-moving baits, and high-speed trolling with these lures at dawn on the July full moon is a deadly tactic.

Anglers who like to fish metal jigging spoons like the 7- to 14-ounce Williamson Speed Jigs over artificial reefs often hook into wahoo, which is a good reason to always use a small trace of wire when fishing these lures.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Captain Rick Murphy