Targeting Wahoo In The Panhandle Region With Capt. Pat Dineen




If you’re going to find wahoo on a regular basis during the summer months, you’re going to have to cover a lot of water. That’s how you find the floating objects that are holding fish when there’s not a lot of defined rips or current edges to work.

Every now and then a wahoo is caught on the reefs and wrecks, but anyone who is catching more than one fish is finding them of something floating like a weedline that has a lot of bait on it, a floating pallet or board. Even better is a large tree or log that is waterlogged and floating deep into the water column. Wherever you find weedlines, you’re going to find these floating objects, and it’s a good idea to bring along some binoculars to help you scan the horizon for them.

Whenever we’re wahoo fishing, we know the run is going to be 30-plus miles. That’s how far from land you need to be to find the water that will hold wahoo, and everything depends on location. A few guys get them while bottom fishing along the edge where it goes from 180 to 220 feet of water where there’s a natural bottom break, and some people catch them when running from one spot to the other and chugging along at eight or nine knots while pulling jet heads, but the majority of wahoo caught in my area come off something floating.

We’ll typically target wahoo by putting a flatline out behind a cigar lead with either a Trembler or a Bonito lure—the larger fish-shaped baits designed for high speed trolling. If we’re pulling rigged baits, it’s usually a double-hooked ballyhoo on #8 wire, and we’ll back that up with a large swimming plug. The key is to get the lure or bait below the surface.

Most of the wahoo are in that 30 to 40 pound range, so we fish them with 30- to 50-pound outfits with #8 wire to keep the fish from biting through the leader. You can use a wire line which will get the bait down deep, or a downrigger or planer, but most anglers use a 15 to 30 ounce trolling lead, and will put that about 15 feet in front of the lure or bait. Just getting the bait three or four feet below the surface makes a big difference.

If you find a large floating object, you want to make several passes around it to present the lures or baits at different angles and speeds. If you get a bite, keep the boat in gear. A lot of times wahoo on floating objects are schooled up, so continuing to pull the spread can result in multiple hook-ups. If you catch a single fish off anything floating, you want to make multiple passes on that same object before moving on. It’s pretty common to pick up more than one and up to ten fish on a single object.

When hooked, wahoo make a long run, and then charge right back at the boat hoping to get some slack in the line and have the hook fall out. They also tend to shake their heads in an attempt to dislodge the hook. Keep a tight line on the fish and you’ll be fine. Lead them to the side of the boat and have the gaff ready so you can take your shot the first time you get one.

Wahoo see well, and when gaffed will try to bite you. Control the fish before pulling it into the boat by grabbing its tail. With one hand holding the gaff and the other the tail, you can point the toothy end of the wahoo away from any people and directly into the fish box.

Captain Tips