Winter wahoo

(Photo by Will Drost)

Larry Doiron can’t wait to start the year off right chasing wahoo, getting multiple hookups and bringing home some tasty fish for the table.

Winter time is the right time for catching wahoo consistently — one at a time, two at a time, three at a time and, even, four at a time — in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, Larry Doiron Jr. knows from experience. 

The Morgan City outdoorsman realizes first-hand how exceptional wahoo fishing can be each winter on The Reel Deal, his 37-foot Freeman or frankly for any fishermen that’s willing to target these fiesty fish this time of year. He and three other family members each had a hookup all at once last winter, the drag on four fishing reels screaming and quasi-(albeit blissful)chaos ensuing.

“We went four-for-four one day last year, my 14-year-old daughter, my wife, my son and me,” Doiron said about his youngest, Molly Doiron, his wife, Angela Fuller Doiron, and his son, Joseph Doiron. “Yeah, that was good. That was funny. One line went off after the other one (and so on). We were crossing (each other) to get four of them in the boat at the same time. You’ve got to be doing something right to get four at once.”

Larry Doiron Jr. of Morgan City has his hands on a wahoo nearly as big as him on an offshore fishing trip last winter in the Gulf of Mexico out of Morgan City. Doiron says December, January and February are great months to go out and bring back wahoo, weather and water conditions permitting, in his 37-foot Freeman.

A fish with a bad attitude

A friend, J.J. Tabor of Baton Rouge, formerly of Thibodaux, was at the wheel of The Reel Deal. Tabor, a widely known charter boat captain who owns Double J Sportfishing, handled Doiron’s boat expertly to get a valuable assist on landing the four wahoo, among the fastest fish in the sea (up to 50 mph), known for long runs after hookup, doubling back after the run, overall strength and a very bad attitude. Those traits and others, such as being delicious to eat, are reasons they are a highly sought-after species related to the king mackerel.

“They’re crushing the wahoo right now. (But) we haven’t been yet this year,” Doiron said recently, citing business obligations as owner of Doiron’s Landing and convenience store in Stephensville. Not to mention he has been tied up building a new house.

As of mid-November 2021, Doiron had yet to steer his 37-foot Freeman out of port toward his favorite wahoo waters in the Gulf. He did take his family on a red snapper trip soon after the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reopened the season and raised the creel limit to 4 per person starting Sept. 24, 2021.

Doiron is looking forward to take The Reel Deal and family out to catch wahoo around the Christmas holidays and into January and February.

“Hey, I’ll end up going,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I l-o-v-e to go. It takes my mind off everything. At Ship Shoal Reef, like I said, they’re running right now. They’re crushing them.”

The Reel Deal motored offshore three times last winter to target wahoo specifically. Their first of three highly successful outings was the day after Christmas 2020.

“When they’re running (in the winter), I try to go three, four times,” Doiron said. “It just depends with the weather. It’s hard for me to go during the week.”

Ah, big, freshly caught wahoo in the boat’s large ice chest, soon to be cleaned, cut just right and put in a poke bowl. It doesn’t get any better than that on a winter time offshore fishing trip in the northwestern region of the Gulf of Mexico, according to The Reel Deal’s skipper and owner, Larry Doiron Jr. of Morgan City.

It’s time to target the big ones

 Perhaps one of the best times to target wahoo is around Mardi Gras, he said. Average weight of the wahoo he puts in the ice chest on winter trips is 30 to 50 pounds. 

“Every now and then we get a bigger one,” he said.

Doiron has fished wahoo many years but not as often each winter, he said, until he bought the Freeman in 2019. True to the name, it’s The Reel Deal for fishing offshore in the northwestern Gulf.

“I used to go but not as much. Since I got the Freeman, it makes it a little easier to get out there. It changes the way you fish, just makes it easier to get out there. The cruising range out of Morgan City makes it easier. It’s fuel efficient. We can pick our days,” he said, pointing out it’s all about finding weather windows to fit.

Doiron enjoyed having a “professional” on board last winter whenever he took his friend, Tabor, and Andre LeBlanc, who runs charter boats for Double J Sportfishing. 

From left, Joseph Doiron, Angela Doiron, Molly Doiron and Tanner Theriot, a friend of the family, each hold wahoo caught during a winter 2020-21 offshore fishing trip aboard The Reel Deal, a 37-foot Freeman.

“You always learn different techniques from different people,” he said.

While the sun shines just as brightly November through February as July, the rays are far from a real warm embrace on a winter offshore fishing trip compared to summer. The boat rides can be downright bone-chilling.

“Yeah,” Doiron said. “It’s kind of cool on the boat ride downriver (the Atchafalaya River from Berwick Boat Landing to Atchafalaya Bay). You’ve got to dress warm.”

His wife and daughter, he said, each bring their sleeping bag, put their fishing rod in place and often sleep on the back deck during the 90-mile ride from the coast to the Ship Shoal Reefs.

“We wake them up when we get out there,” he said. “It’s nice (weather-wise, typically) when you get out there.”

Doiron has proven artificial lures for wahoo right at his fingertips, so to speak, and he puts them to work when he gets to the Ship Shoal Reef. Ballyhoo and Nomad DTX Minnows 200, particularly the red-hot hot pink model wahoos love to eat, are top choices. The squid, pogeys and Spanish sardines that red snapper and other offshore species dine on have been added along with deep drop weights to the fishing tackle and bait lineup inside his store at Doiron’s Boat Landing.

Make no mistake about it, he said, the hot pink Nomad DTX Minnow 200 is the number one choice as a premium trolling lure for wahoo in this part Gulf. He doesn’t leave without them on board.

Larry Doiron’s wife, Angela Doiron, fights a wahoo last winter while fishing on the family’s 37-foot Freeman in the Gulf of Mexico. The Doiron family and friends make three or four trips each winter when the wahoo are running.

Trolling gets rewarded

Why? Doiron prefers to troll at 35- to 39-foot depths, which the Nomad DTX Minnow 200 does with precision while staying on a straight track. Pulled at 10 knots (11.4 mph), it triggers some vicious, rewarding strikes at that depth across the Ship Shoal Reef, he said.

“Most of the time that’s the spot I usually troll at with a 200. You can use a 220 Nomad. It goes deeper. It’s got a bigger bill,” he said, adding the Nomad DTX Minnow 220 dives to 50 feet and can be trolled effectively from 4 knots to 14 knots. 

No matter what wahoo bite on, it’s always good to take a bite of freshly caught wahoo, arguably the best-tasting fish in the mackerel family. In Hawaii, it is called ono, which means “good to eat.”. Low in fat and low in sodium, it’s an excellent source for niacin, B6, B12, phosphorus and selenium.

The Doirons serve theirs raw much of the time in a “poke bowl,” sashimi-style, he said, which is similar to sushi. It can also be grilled, broiled, blackened, sautéed and poached.

They prefer wahoo in the poke bowl.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty (compared to sushi in a roll) in a bowl,” Doiron said. “We like them better than tuna,”

For sure, they will have plenty of wahoo to dine on after their 2021-22 winter trips.

About Don Shoopman 560 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.