Catching Wahoo In The Northeast Region With Capt. Tommy Derringer

offshoreWahooDeepTop WaterSchool

Capt. Tommy DerringerAugust is one of the best months of the year to target wahoo in the northeast region. It’s a time where there are a lot of juvenile bonito offshore, and the wahoo are targeting them as a food source. Then late in the month we get the first push of mullet from the fall mullet run, and some of those schools will move offshore, particularly if we get a swell on the beach, and the wahoo will key in on them.

There’s not a ton of anglers who specifically target wahoo in my area, particularly in the summer months when it gets hot, but the few that do all do it the same way—high speed trolling. When the ocean is flat calm like it typically is during August, the fish can be spread out over a large area, so the best thing to do is cover a lot of water, and high speed trolling is the way to do that.

Most of the guys targeting wahoo put their baits out in 120 feet of water and troll out towards the ledge, eventually working into 1,000 feet of water or more. The majority are pulling big lures like Ilanders, Mr. Bigs, Zukers and Junkanoo’s—something large that will draw the attention of a big, fast fish. You can also fish large swimming plugs, the kind with big lips on them to get them down. Wahoo like dark colored, so red and black, purple, bonito blue and dolphin colors all work well. 

There’s a huge advantage to getting your baits below the surface when targeting wahoo, so a lot of guys will either use wire lines or add a trolling weight ahead of their lures to help get them deeper into the water column. You can also slow troll live baits like big blue runners or mullet, or even catch some of those small bonitos and bridle them and pull them as well, the disadvantage being that you won’t cover as much water as you will hi-speed trolling. A planer or downrigger will help get the live baits deeper, and you can even control the exact depth the baits are working in. 

Wahoo can be a schooling fish, particularly when they’re under 20 pounds, so if you hook a fish, you want to mark the spot and then troll back through that area several times. If there’s a school around, you’ll hook a fish with just about every pass. 

They can also be structure oriented, both floating structure on top or reef or wreck structure below. Look for weedlines and large floating objects like garbage cans, trees, or anything substantial that’s floating, and if it’s floating low or deep in the water column, that’s even better. Make several passes by the object, and if you hook one, you’ll want to make another pass because there could be more around. I once caught eight wahoo off a single black garbage bag. 

When hooked, wahoo typically make a long, fast run away from the boat, then circle back around and charge the boat, so be prepared to reel fast to get the slack out of the line. They also shake their heads a lot, particularly when you get them close to the boat. You want to have someone ready with the gaff when they get close, because they’re known for throwing the lure right at the boat just out of reach of the gaff. 

Wahoo are the speedsters of the offshore reefs, and the best way to catch them is to specifically target them with large, dark colored, fast trolled baits that swim deep. Focus on catch wahoo, and anything else that comes into the spread is a bonus.

Captain’s Tip of the Week #21 Wahoo - 2015
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