Those Florida crews sure have the wahoo figured out. No wonder — short runs to the Gulf Stream and long runs into the Bahamas give Sunshine State anglers a wealth of wahoo opportunities.
So when one of the state’s most well-known offshore anglers — a fellow who’s broken the 100-pound mark twice with wahoo — offers up some tips, it’s best to scribble like crazy and start buying tackle.
George Poveromo, television series host and editor-at-large for Salt Water Sportsman, will come to Charleston Feb. 9 to host the Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series at Charleston Southern University’s Lightsey Auditorium.
The seminar series includes a mix of regional and local experts (see sidebar) sharing tips on everything from trout fishing in creeks to daytime swordfishing far offshore.
At the seminar, Poveromo will share tips for catching giant wahoo, which he says should work just as well off Charleston as they do off south Florida.
Wahoo can be caught year-round off Charleston, but they are an especially good target species during the winter months when dolphin and other fish become scarce.
Common tactics used by Lowcountry wahoo fishermen involve trolling a spread of ballyhoo rigged with dark-colored skirts and wire leaders. Most anglers concentrate their efforts in 140 to 180 feet, where the ocean floor begins to drop off dramatically.
Poveromo agrees that trolling around these ledges is a good bet for catching these structure-oriented fish, but he’s got some wahoo secrets that might surprise many Lowcountry anglers.
Poveromo took a break from seminar planning late last week to share a few.
First, Poveromo advises anglers to keep an eye out for opportunities as they run out to the ledge. Giant wahoo often lurk under bonito and other fish schooled up in water as shallow as 90 feet or less, he said.
“Most guys think of wahoo as a true offshore, blue-water fish, and they’re not,” Poveromo said. “With the right water and a lot of bait, those fish will come in shallow to feed.”
This observation certainly holds true off Charleston. It seems that almost every year some lucky crew live-baiting for kingfish lands a monster ’hoo.
Anglers also should investigate any floating debris, whether at the ledge or well inshore of it. Wahoo will linger near such flotsam, waiting to pounce on any dolphin or tuna attracted to the structure.
Poveromo also advises anglers to look for wahoo around any schools of medium-size fish, whether they be blackfin tuna and bonito in the winter or schoolie dolphin in the summer.
Giant wahoo, Poveromo said, are usually lurking beneath those schools.
Though many anglers would be content to catch such schooled up dolphin and blackfin, they’re missing a chance at a trophy wahoo, Poveromo said.
However, trolling for wahoo around these schools doesn’t always work: The dolphin or bonito often hit the baits before the wahoo can. In this scenario, Poveromo turns to jigging, but with a twist.
His wahoo jig of choice is a 3.5- to 5-ounce Williamson “Herring” jig, in a blue color scheme. To rig it for wahoo, Poveromo takes the hook ring and hook off the nose of the jig and re-attaches it at the tail with a short piece of 60-pound wire, to prevent cutoffs.
He ties 40-pound fluorocarbon leader directly to the nose of the jig.
When he’s positioned his boat close to a school of bonito, tuna or dolphin, Poveromo will drop the jig straight down until it’s well below the school. Then he reels the lure straight up, as fast and steady as possible.
These jigs have a slight S-curve along their length, he explained, and when they rocket straight up through the water column, that curve gives them a tight, fast wobbling action that wahoo can’t resist.
Poveromo also puts his own spin on trolling for wahoo, which he typically does from his MARC VI, a Mako 284 center console.
Poveromo prefers a four- or five-line spread of wire-rigged ballyhoo behind skirted lures. He trolls at 8 to 10 mph.
While many anglers swear by red, black or purple lures for wahoo, Poveromo sticks mostly to all-blue or blue-and-white.
“I’ve taken a lot of wahoo off those combinations,” he said.
Wire rigging is essential for razor-toothed wahoo, and Poveromo has a trick there, too. When using a haywire twist to attach the hook, he’ll add an extra 20 or 30 “twists” before finishing the connection with barrel loops and a pin for the ballyhoo’s beak.
This extended haywire twist means the hook will be positioned further back in the ballyhoo’s body. Since wahoo are notorious short-strikers, this slight modification leads to more hookups.
Poveromo also uses a variety of techniques — chin weights on ballyhoo rigs, planers and downriggers — to run lure at various depths in the water column.
But to hear more about that, you’ll have to hit the seminar!
Reach Matt Winter, Tideline magazine editor, at 843-937-5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.