When you think of fishing for wahoo, South Carolina anglers envision the spring run when 80-pound catches are not uncommon and occasional 100-pound catches are proudly displayed.
The general description of wahoo in fishing journals notes not only its speed and strength, but also the fact that it's found worldwide in tropical and sub-tropical waters. While the weather outside might not seem tropical, or even sub-tropical, these days, November and December are prime months in South Carolina for landing these prized gamefish.
"It's not the same bite we have in the spring, but there's definitely some good fishing," said Capt. Marc Pincus, founder of the South Carolina Wahoo Series (scwahooseries.com) which is fished in the spring and has weigh stations in Hilton Head, Mount Pleasant and Georgetown.
Pincus, who captains Reelin' Charters (reelincharters.com) out of Hilton Head, spouted off several recent catches — a St. Helena boat with five fish in the mid-40s weight range and a Charleston boat that had several fish in the 50s and a couple in the 60s.
"When conditions are right, the weather is right, I think it's a great time to go fishing for wahoo," Pincus said. "This time of year you can find the fish in a little shallower. Instead of going all the way out to the ledge, they can be in 120 feet of water."
Wahoo can be caught this time of year high-speed trolling with lures or fishing at a more conventional six to eight knots with a mixture of artificials and naturals. The high-speed lures often are pulled with trolling leads as heavy as 96 ounces to keep them down in the water column. Popular lures include Palmetto Lures' wahoo series and the Cowbell.
"A lot of fishermen are high-speeding until they get on the bite and then slowing down and switching up when they get on the fish," he said.
"There also are blackfin tuna out there and I like to chase them down as well. Most guys are mixing it up a little. They will put a heavy weight short behind the boat, keeping it down. Then they will stagger it out as the weights get lighter and put out a long line with the Cowbell that doesn't have any weight at all."
Planers can be pulled at slower speeds and help get baits further down in the strike zone. Pincus said he was the Shootout several years ago using a bait pulled on a planer.
"Definitely, don't be afraid to fish a little shallower than normal," Pincus said. "You can find some defined temperature breaks this time of year and as it gets cooler they should be easier to find. That's what you need to concentrate on. Get a good temperature break over some of your favorite structure. That's going to be a recipe for success."
Pincus said there are some changes in store for the 2019 S.C. Wahoo Series, which begins with a captain's meeting on Jan. 26 at Skull Creek Dockside on Hilton Head Island. The competition dates have been pushed back in hopes of avoiding some of the weather issues anglers faced in 2018.
Another change for 2019 is the addition of a third fishing day. Captains choose which days they want to fish and weigh their single heaviest fish each day of the event. The winner is determined by the heaviest two-fish aggregate. Weigh stations are Hilton Head Harbour Marina, Toler's Cove Marina in Mount Pleasant and Georgetown Landing Marina.
The entry fee has increased by $50 to $600, and the first-place boat will earn $20,000, based on 111 total entries.
The 2018 series had 128 entries and was won by Renegade out of Mount Pleasant, owned by Dr. Quill Turk and captained by Stuart Lackey, with an aggregate of 156.9 pounds. Renegade earned just over $48,000 by winning the Series and the Hilton Head Wahoo Shootout, which in 2019 was an optional event for the Wahoo Series. Liqrbox, owned and captained by Charlie Aimar of Charleston, finished second in the Wahoo Series with 148.9 pounds. Reelist, captained by Trae Everett out of St. Helena, had the heaviest catch of the series at 105.5 pounds. South Carolina's state record wahoo is a 130-pound, 5-ounce catch made in 1998 out of Murrells Inlet.