Last week the Middle Keys experienced a wahoo bite like I haven’t seen in quite some time. Just about every captain I talked to had a story about one or two big hoos that they hooked into, including reports of fish over 70 pounds!
If you’re heading out this week it’s definitely a good idea to spend at least some time targeting wahoos. Whether live baiting, or trolling, you have a great shot at catching one of these hard-fighting, delicious tasting fish.
On the Best Bet, we had our best success targeting wahoo between 150 and 250 feet of water live baiting with pilchards. This time of year we like to put out a spread of three or four baits on the surface, with one or two baits down deep fished at different depths.
For the deep rods, we almost always use a stretch of wire leader to target wahoo and kingfish. For the surface rods, we will often fish a combination of wire and fluorocarbon leaders, fishing two rods with each. This allows us to attract additional pelagic species including sailfish, blackfin tuna, and dolphin (mahi mahi). You run the risk of getting cut off, but you also increase your chances of catching a trophy fish that may not take baits fished with wire.
Another thing to remember is to always be prepared to pitch to a big wahoo or kingfish if one swims up behind the boat. Even if you’re fishing for sailfish, have a spinning rod rigged with a wire leader in the rod holder for quick access. Last week we had a pack of wahoos pop up while we were dropping for mutton snappers on a wreck. Fortunately, we were prepared and were able to land a nice fish over 30 pounds.
As far as the sailfishing goes, we still haven’t seen a big push of fish yet due to the mild winter we’ve experienced in the Florida Keys. We are catching fish, but not in large numbers quite yet. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t target sails on your trip, but I wouldn’t dedicate an entire day to chasing sails only. You’re better off spending time fishing the reef, and then live baiting offshore for sails and other pelagics.
Speaking of the reef, the mangrove snapper bite continues to be excellent from 20 to 40 feet fishing live pilchards on jig heads. In addition, the grouper bite has been red hot since the moment the ball dropped. Last week we caught and released eight “keeper” grouper on three trips! I swear these fish have developed an underwater calendar that allows them to monitor when grouper season is open or closed. The big fish always seem to bite best after January 1 and go back into hiding on the 1st of May.
Over in the Gulf, the cobia action continues to be fantastic with the best action being on the wrecks from 12 to 20 miles out. In addition, while we haven’t seen too many big kingfish out in the Atlantic yet, we are seeing them over in the Gulf. Several captains throughout the Keys reported catching big smoker kings over forty pounds this past week!
Your Best Bet for the Week Ahead: Wahoo!
The Florida Keys wahoo fishing has been as good as it gets. Fish depths of 100 to 300 feet of water either live baiting or trolling lures.