The next 10 days are the best time of the year for offshore anglers to catch a wahoo in South Florida.
The full moon is Thursday, Aug. 15, and the days leading up to and following August’s full moon are a prime time for wahoo. No one really knows why that is, and anglers really don’t care. They love being able to catch the speedy, often elusive, extremely tasty fish.
Capt. Skip Dana of Deerfield Beach, who runs charters on his center console Pop-A-Top out of Pompano Beach, prefers to fish “three to four days before a full moon and then a few days after. The day of the full moon is usually slower, with the best bite at mid-day.”
Capt. Tony DiGiulian of Fort Lauderdale said that when the moon rises and sets during those days, as well as when the moon is directly overhead, can be the absolute best times to hook a wahoo. There are websites that provide that information. For example, according to www.timeanddate.com, the moon sets at 8:35 a.m. Aug. 17, so it’s a good idea to be on the water that morning.
“The main thing is you want to look for when the moon is actually coming up,” said
DiGiulian, the president of Saltwater Professional Consulting (www.saltwaterproconsulting.com) and a co-founder of the IGFA School of Sportfishing. “I like when the moon first breaks the horizon in the morning. Or when the sun is coming up and the moon is going down.”
There are numerous tactics for catching wahoo, ranging from trolling high-speed lures to slow trolling with live bait to kite-fishing with live bait, which is Dana’s preference.
“You get more bites live-bait fishing than any time of year. I’d rather catch one on live bait than 10 trolling a lure on a planer,” said Dana, who starts fishing in the morning by putting up two fishing kites, each with three lines. The kites get the baits away from the boat and suspend them at or just below the surface. He also puts out two flat lines with live baits that are allowed to swim wherever they want, along with two lines with sinkers to get those baits down deeper.
“Once the sun is up, I’ll start slow-trolling for them. I’ll go out to 200, 300, 400 feet and put out goggle-eyes, blue runners, speedos, little bullet bonitos. All you’re doing is bumping the motors in and out of gear to keep the lines tight as you move.”
DiGiulian, who runs charters on Wish List out of Hillsboro Inlet, said trolling bonito strips and ballyhoo behind removable planers, which are clipped to the line to get a bait 30 to 50 feet below the surface, is effective for wahoo. But he added that more and more local anglers have been high-speed trolling for wahoo, which is commonly done in the Bahamas.
“Here, we gear everything down,” he said. “In a center-console, we’ll fish three lines, and instead of 130- or 80-pound outfits, you could go down to a 50- or 30-pound-class outfit with 50-pound braided line. The lower-profile you can be with everything — leaders, hook size, swivels — the more bites you get.
“Instead of using big 42-ounce high-speed trolling leads, gear down to 16- and 24-ounce leads. Instead of heavy 400-pound leaders, go down to 100-, 130- or 150-pound leaders at the heaviest. And instead of the bigger lures that you use in the Bahamas, use smaller pointy-headed lures or little bullet-headed lures that produce a lot of smoke with 6/0 or 7/0 hooks instead of 9/0 or 10/0 hooks.”
DiGiulian recommended trolling those lures at 11 to 12 knots instead of 15 to 17 knots. He puts one line down the middle, 250 to 300 feet behind the boat. The other two lines, which can be fished out of rod-holders on each gunwale or out of the outriggers, are 140 and 180 feet behind the boat. Those distances can be adjusted based on how the wahoo react.
He trolls single- or double-hooked bonito strips and ballyhoo at 9 to 11 knots behind No. 6 and No. 4 planers with monofilament shock cords of at least 100 feet.
“It’s hard to beat a strip bait on a planer,” said DiGiulian, who added that boaters should maintain their trolling speed and let wahoo take off after they hit a lure or bait, which makes them easier to land and prevents them from swimming at the boat and cutting the leader. “Don’t slow down. Let the fish take a whole lot of line off. Wahoo pull so hard, the fish fills up with water and eventually planes right up to the top.”
The daily bag limit is two wahoo per angler. DiGiulian said wahoo is “arguably my favorite fish to eat,” and the firm, white flesh is versatile.
DiGiulian fillets wahoo instead of steaking the fish because it gives him multiple options: He can eat thin slices sashimi-style with soy sauce and wasabi; sear a loin on all sides in a pan with olive oil, butter and soy sauce; or prepare bigger pieces on the grill, all of which is reason enough to go fishing this week for wahoo.