Species Spotlight: Wahoo

Most wahoo have black-blue vertical bars the length of their bodies.

Fast, hard-fishing, tasty, potentially huge. What else could an angler anywhere want?

Wahoo are among the fastest fish in the ocean, are hard-fighting, and are also one of the tastiest species in the sea. For those reasons and more, they are highly sought-after by anglers throughout the world.

These fish are long and cylindrical, with toothy mouths. They have steel blue coloration along the upper portion of their bodies and are pale blue to silver below their lateral lines. Twenty-five to 30 blackish-blue vertical bars mark the length of the fish in an irregular fashion. The bars are more prominent in smaller wahoo, but they become very noticeable in even the largest wahoo when the fish is excited. Their scales are very small, and barely visible.

Wahoo have a movable upper jaw that is lined with many sharp teeth. The fish is sometimes misidentified as king mackerel or barracuda by inexperienced anglers. They are members of the Scombridae family, making them cousins to mackerels, tunas and bonitos. They rarely travel in large schools, but younger fish often swim in loose groups of between two to 20 fish. On rare occasions, anglers have reported seeing wahoo in schools up to 100 fish.

Trolling at speeds

These fish exist in the bluewater oceans throughout the world and are often caught by recreational anglers fishing in offshore and nearshore waters. Trolling is one of the top tactics for catching them. Most experienced anglers switch between trolling at high and low speeds, depending on conditions and how the fish react on any given day.

Areas with deep, blue waters that feature sunken rocks, wrecks or livebottom are good areas to troll. No matter how deep the water is, spots with any submerged structure are good spots to look, especially in water that ranges from 70 to 74 degrees. Floating weedlines are also good areas to target. Artificial lures and fresh ballyhoo are good baits.

Grow, then die 

Wahoo grow at a rapid rate,and have a short life span. Some studies with tagged, released and re-caught wahoo have shown growth rates of as much as 22 pounds per year. Most die before 10 years of age. These fish can reach speeds of 60 mph and can chase down a variety of intended prey, which includes numerous fish and squid. Biologists believe wahoo sometimes kill fish larger than themselves, shredding them into bite-sized chunks with their razor sharp teeth.

Anglers often find a giant stomach worm (Hirudinella ventricosa) in the bellies of wahoo. However, the worms do not seem to have any negative impact on the fish and also do not taint any part of the fish eaten by humans.

Wahoo spawn every month of the year, and most reach sexual maturity by the end of their first years. The length of the spawning session varies widely between different regions of the globe, but most extend for long periods of time. Females release millions of eggs into the ocean each year, and males fertilize them as they float freely in the pelagic zone.

Real monsters

Wahoo are commonly referred to as ’Hoos by anglers across the southeastern United States. In other parts of the world, the fish are sometimes called ono, oahu and peto. 

Sara Hayward caught the world-record wahoo, which weighed 184 pounds, in 2005 while fishing out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. A 202-pound wahoo was caught off the coast of Florida in 2016, but the fish was ineligible as a world record because three different anglers took turns reeling it in. 

The Louisiana state record wahoo weighed 139.25 pounds. Angler Myron Fischer caught the big fish in the West Delta Block 153 in April 1976.

About Brian Cope 221 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.