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Wahoo Fishing  … with Kevin Ballantine

Wahoo Fishing … with Kevin Ballantine

April onwards is the most likely time to find big wahoo off the south-east Queensland coast.

The water temperature has dropped, and there are still good quantities of bait. The current is still moving with enough velocity to create tidal upwellings over shallow reef areas, such as the Nine-Mile and Fidos at the southern end of the Gold Coast. Extensive exposed bombora and shallow reef areas just north of Point Lookout are proven grounds that produce not only wahoo but several tuna and mackerel species and small black marlin.

Wahoo can turn up in depths anywhere from 20 to 2000 metres, but are active and obvious in proximity to the large bait schools of slimy mackerel that frequent the 50 to 90-metre lines in Autumn straight out from the Seaway.

With a shape resembling a ballistic missile and a dental hardware setup designed to shear through prey with guillotine-like precision, hapless baitfish have little chance of evading death once the wahoo has zeroed in on them and started its high-speed attack. When excited, they sport impressive white tiger stripes down their flanks that further increases their intimidating presence.

Wahoo sizes vary through the summer with lots of smaller 6-12 kilo specimens. The larger models become more dominant with the cooler water temperatures with 12-20 kilos being most commonly captured. But there is always a sprinkling of jumbos, and some of these beasts will be 30 kgs plus.

Techniques for wahoo cover most styles from casting stickbaits and heavy metal slugs, trolling bibbed and bibless hardbodies, high-speed trolling with metal-headed skirts, or slow trolling dead or live baits. They are frequently captured as bycatch by anglers trolling resin-headed lures for marlin on the light and heavy tackle grounds.

Tackle-wise, a fifteen-kilo overhead trolling spooled with 30lb nylon will handle just about all your wahoo aspirations covering skirts, hard bodies, and bait fishing. A smooth drag is essential to weathering the blistering first run, so make sure this is a priority when purchasing a new reel. For the adrenaline junkies, it is hard to beat a surface stick bait strike from an airborne fish. Its accuracy in hitting a fast moving target is amazing as is the first couple of runs. Good quality seven-foot plus spin rods paired up with a 10 or 14000 sz Saragosa reel and 60lb braided line will get your knees knocking. Don’t be scared to set the hooks, and really drive it in. There isn’t much soft tissue inside their mouths, and they have a real talent for dumping the hooks next to the boat. Bite-offs from wahoo are common, but the culprits are normally other jealous family members.

Once your fish is boat-side, try to gaff it in the head or gill cover. Don’t gaff just anywhere and spoil the flesh, dispatch and bleed the fish immediately before submerging into an ice slurry. Wahoo are a fantastic eating species that can be cooked in a variety of different ways. I think the clear translucent flesh makes the best sashimi, and they are always welcome on our boat.