WAHOO #1 - THE 143.3 POUND SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS WAHOO!
     The monster wahoo! George Poveromo's 143-pound, three ounce fish!The two-hour lull in the action instantly turned to mayhem when something huge hit the two-pound Bluewater Eagle lure we had been trolling from the center ‘rigger.  I scrambled from my comfortable perch atop the bait freezer, picked up the buzzing outfit, jammed the rod butt in my fighting belt and braced my knees against the transom, ready to tackle whatever was on the other end of the line.  But instead of taking the fight to the fish, all I could do was hold on and watch 80-pound class line race off the two-speed International.

     This wasn’t the moderately fast and steady run commonly associated with sharks and swordfish.  Rather, it felt as if I had snagged a speeding truck on the interstate!  In these Bahamian waters, at this time of year, it could only mean one thing – huge wahoo!

      With line disappearing at a scary pace, I had a bad feeling this fish wasn’t going to be stopped.  Fortunately, with a little more than a quarter spool of line remaining, the fish finally slowed.

     Displaying experience gained from his many years of fishing the Bahamas, Captain George Gardner kept the Foxy Lady II, a 58-foot Striker, moving forward at a few knots in an effort to pull the fish away from the peak of a seamount that rose to within 180-feet of the surface.  We needed to get it into open water to avoid the sharks, a real problem in the waters off San Salvador.

      When the fish was safely sulking in over 4,000 feet of water, Gardner stopped the boat, which enabled me to start gaining line.  After 30 minutes of strenuous pumping and winding, I had the huge ‘hoo within 50 yards of the boat.  And just when I was convinced it might be ready for the gaff, it took off on its second run.  Ten more minutes passed until I could lead the fish alongside the transom, where it was gaffed and slid through the cockpit door.  It was enormous!  We all gawked at its size, then the celebration started.

      Back at the marina, the fish registered a whopping 143.3 pounds, with a length of six feet, six inches and a 36-inch girth.  That’s one hefty ‘hoo!

    HOME OF THE ‘HOO  -  When the target is big wahoo, the remote island of San Salvador in the Bahamas is the place to be between December and April.  This is when scores of wahoo migrate through the local waters, with most running 50 to 60 pounds.  If those numbers don’t excite you, there are enough triple-digit fish around to provide a decent chance at tangling with one.  In fact, San Salvador gave up five of the current IGFA line-class records, including the Woman’s 130-Pound Class (113 pounds), Woman’s 80-Pound Class (132 pounds), Woman’s 50-Pound Class (153 pounds, eight ounces), Woman’s 16-Pound Class (74 pounds), and the Men’s 80-Pound Class (155 pounds, eight ounces).  And on the same day we took our big fish, local captain Floyd Dorsett decked a fish weighing 130 pounds.

     Located approximately 400 nautical miles from South Florida, San Salvador is allegedly the first island Christopher Columbus set foot on during his 1492 voyage.  More recently, however, it’s the wahoo fishing that has been making history here.  Although the 12-by-six-mile island doesn’t attract a lot of fishermen because of its remoteness, more and more big boats are showing up each season to try their hand at some of the world’s best wahoo fishing.

    It was the anticipation of hooking an 80- to 100-pound-class wahoo, plus fast action with 50- to 60-pounders, that inspired me to make the trip to San Salvador with friend Ray McConnell, who owns Ray’s Offshore Tackle in Boca Raton, Florida.  Our host was Don Strom, owner of the Foxy Lady II, a Boca Raton-based sportfisherman captained by George Gardner.  Riding along to assist the team was Strom’s friend, Howard Donhauser.  Strom and Gardner are regulars on the San Salvador wahoo grounds.  Before joining Strom, Gardner worked as divemaster at the Riding Rock Marina, where we stayed during our visit.  Needless to say, both men know where and when the fish tend to stack up.

    Poveromo and crew of the Foxy Lady II with the monster wahoo!WAHOO HAUNTS – Although wahoo can be caught all around the island, most of the fishing effort takes place over a hump situated off its northern end.  From the Riding Rock Marina, located on the island’s western side, it took us roughly 30 minutes to cover the ten miles to the hump, which rises to 180 feet from a surrounding depth of approximately 4,000 feet.  Like most seamounts in the Bahamas, this hump attracts schools of tuna, which constitute a major part of a big wahoo’s diet.  Not surprisingly, we caught our mega ‘hoo around a school of small yellowfins, and discovered chunks of tuna in its stomach when we cleaned it.

    While the tuna schools and seamounts are prime trolling targets, hot zones also exist around sharp indentations or breaks within the natural outer reefs, deep-drops, and pronounced bottom contours in 200 to 400 feet of water.  This fishery is also affected by tidal movement to some degree, with some of the best action occurring on the last hour of the outgoing tide and first hour of the incoming.  Most pros are aware of this tidal influence and make it a point to fish around the tunas or in a known wahoo haunt during the prime time. When the bite turns on, double-, triple- and even quadruple headers are possible.

    As most bluewater fishermen know, wahoo like a fast meal.  Although they will take natural baits trolled at between five and eight knots, they show a marked preference for lures that rip along at ten to 15 knots.  In addition to drawing more strikes from wahoo, faster trolling speeds help deter strikes from barracuda in the shallower zones.

    Hoisting the monster wahoo up inside the cockpit of the Foxy Lady IIDEADLY SPREAD – Wahoo also seem to prefer subsurface offerings, whether the lure or bait is racing a foot beneath the surface or ten feet down on a wire-line outfit.  On our trip we fished a spread of Bluewater Lures, which Ray McConnell makes and sells at his Boca Raton tackle center.  Designed for high-speed trolling for wahoo and tuna, the Bluewaters feature heavy, streamlined, chrome heads and plastic skirts.  We trolled a spread of five lures: A one-pound lure called the TB2 was fished from a tag line off each outrigger, while two more TB2s were fished off the transom on short tag lines.  A two-pound Bluewater Eagle lure was fished off a tag line from the center ‘rigger, some 50 yards behind the spread.  All lures were rigged with ten feet of 480-pound-test cable and a pair of 9/0 (on the TB2s) and 11/0 (on the Bluewater Eagle) hooks.

    Trolling at a consistent 11 knots, Gardner steered a shallow-to-deep course along the edge of the hump.  With the wahoo patrolling the perimeter of the hump, the goal was to make the lures appear like small fish racing to and from the shallow pinnacle.  Whenever tuna were spotted on the surface or the fishfinder, Gardner trolled around the schools.  Since the tuna were running eight to 15 pounds, they showed no interest in our large lures.  When the action slowed at the hump, Gardner ventured over to some major breaks along the deep reefs where he had taken wahoo in the past.

    Since wahoo travel in small pods, it’s important to save the GPS coordinates following a hook-up, so you can return to the same spot and pick off another fish or two.  Gardner dutifully recorded each strike, and immediately returned to the exact spot after we had landed each fish.  He also revisited our many “strike spots” throughout the day.  The strategy worked, and we took fish of 45, 55, 57 and 66 pounds before hooking the monster ‘hoo.

    SHARK STRATEGY -  Sharks can be a major nuisance when wahoo fishing.  To decrease the time spent fighting a wahoo, and therefore the odds of a shark attacking it, we fished five Penn International 70s spooled with 80-pound test line.  Should a hookup occur on top of a hump, a good trick is to steer the boat toward deep water to pull the fish away from the shark-infested structure.

    Shortly after Ray and I flew back to Florida, Don Strom rejoined his crew and hooked another monster wahoo, only to lose most of it to a huge shark.  Based on the size of the head, the fish was estimated to have weighed around 130 pounds.

    Even on heavy tackle, San Salvador harbors some wahoo that can be a challenge to stop.  Gardner and Strom tell me they have hooked two wahoo that completely stripped 80-pound class reels on the initial runs.  They now fish 130-pound class tackle with their sites set on stopping the next all-tackle world-record wahoo.  While that may sound a bit presumptuous, the odds of it happening in the waters off San Salvador are really pretty good.
 

 WAHOO #2 - THE 113.2 POUND SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS WAHOO!

     Lightning does strike twice!  Poveromo scored this 113-pound, two-ounce wahoo, during his second visit to San Salvador, Bahamas.I wish the remote Bahamas Island of San Salvador had a lotto. If it did, I know I'd be their first winner. That may read like a bold statement, but consider the incredible luck I've had during the only two times I've been here.
  
     Five years ago, on my first trip, I caught a giant wahoo weighing 143-pounds, three-ounces. And on my second trip there in May, 2008, while fishing for tuna and dolphin, I scored another monster wahoo! More on that 113-pound, two-ounce, trophy later!   

     Located approximately 400 nautical miles from South Florida, San Salvador is allegedly the first island Christopher Columbus set foot on during his 1492 voyage. However, if you're more into fishing than history, it's the incredible winter run of big wahoo that one is likely to associate with the island. Simply stated, San Salvador has the world's best wahoo fishing.

 

     DOUBLE OR NOTHING - My  second and last trip here was with Trey Rhyne, aboard his sportfishing boat — Low Profile. At the helm was captain Joe Trainor, and working the cockpit with Trey and me was Thomas Neligon. Trey Rhyne heads up Over Under Charters, the largest big game charter operations in the U.S. Over Under specializes in fishing trips to the remote Islands of the Bahamas, as well as several major U.S. big game destinations. I've fished with Trey before and we always seem to have incredible luck.


     Little did I know just how impressively we'd keep that streak alive when I boarded his vessel.


     Having already caught a monster wahoo before off San Salvador, while shooting an episode for my television series, we decided to skip over the peak winter wahoo season and instead target the dolphin and yellowfin tuna that push through here in impressive numbers during the spring.
    

     Our base was once again the Riding Rock Resort and Marina. And while the wind was on the breezy side when we set forth, it was certainly fishable.

 

     Most of the fishing effort takes place over a hump situated off San Salvador's northern end. From the Riding Rock Marina, located on the island's western side, it's roughly a 30-minute run to cover the ten miles to the hump, which rises to 180 feet from a surrounding depth of approximately 4,000 feet. Like most seamounts in the Bahamas, this hump attracts schools of tuna, wahoo and big, big sharks! Just off the hump, in deeper water, you'll find dolphin. And, of course, billfish are a distinct possibility anywhere here! The peak fishing season for wahoo is November through March, while dolphin, tuna and marlin show in numbers from April through June.
  

     Poveromo and the Over-Under crew are all smiles after landing this 113-pound, two-ounce, wahoo!FEED ‘EM RIGHT - Our bait spread consisted of a mix of small to medium artificial lures — such as jet-heads, cedar plugs and blunt head designs, lures tipped with ballyhoo, and plain ballyhoo. We trolled mostly with Penn 30 and 50 International reels, paired with matching Penn Tuna Stick stand-up rods. The 30s were spooled with 50-pound test Sufix Performance Braid and topped off with 150 feet of 50-pound test Sufix Superior monofilament, whereas the 50s were spooled with 80-pound test braid and topped off with 150 feet of 80-pound test monofilament. We also had a pair of 70 Internationals, reserved for big baits and lures that we'd put out for blue marlin.


      The ocean was alive with birds, both terns and frigates. Flying fish frequently took to the air, to escape predation by dolphin and tuna, only to become vulnerable to the birds. Of course, when we saw pushes of flying fish and especially diving frigates, Captain Joe Trainor steered in that direction. Our trolling speed varied between 5 and 10 mph. On the hump, we trolled our lures and baits over its peak, and then off and out into deep water. The tuna were active on top of the hump, and we hoped to hook them when the baits were coming off the structure, rather than up onto it; our goal was to quickly drag them into deeper water and away from the sharks, which hang tight to the hump. Even then, the sharks were on the tuna like Bonnie and Clyde on a bank.

 

     On the scale!PICKY, PICKY - What was ironic is that the tuna would show a marked preference for a faster trolling speed and pure artificials one day, and then a slower trolling speed and natural baits the next. The dolphin seemed less interested in trolling speed and ate just about whatever we had out, although they did lean more toward the pure natural baits and the lures tipped with natural bait. To keep the bites coming, it was imperative to frequently switch out baits and lures and play with our trolling speed. When we found what was working at the moment, we'd replace a couple baits in the spread with the "hot" ones, until they chilled out — and then it was back to experimenting.


      Trey and I enjoyed awesome blitzes of tuna and dolphin. The tuna averaged around 40 pounds, but there were some really big ones in the mix. As for the dolphin, most were between 20 and 40 pounds. As soon as we hooked a tuna, we had to put as much pressure on it as our tackle would allow, to muscle it to the boat and away from the sharks. We lost several tuna to sharks. So much so, that Joe immediately went into hard reverse and often forward to quarter any tuna we hooked, to help capture them quickly. Sometimes we were victorious, others times the sharks ate our lunch.


     The fishing off San Salvador was on fire. It was fast action, with little time to rest, or even scarf down a sandwich — exactly the way a person hopes to find the fishing on such a trip. We even caught a small sailfish, which was promptly released at the transom.


      With a successful show in the can, and plenty of tired arms, legs and backs from battling tuna and dolphin, we decided to put out a spread of marlin lures and troll back to the marina. We nearly made it! About three miles away, Trey hooked into a big dolphin. We cleared the lines and I eventually gaffed a beautiful 30-plus pound bull dolphin. After depositing the dolphin into the fish box, Joe Trainor brought us back up to trolling speed and we were all dropping lures back into the spread. I paid out one lure and went to the opposite transom to help dispatch another one. Thomas had put a blue and white Rick's Fancy lure back into position off the port outrigger. He was running the release clip up the outrigger, when something huge hit. Thomas passed the rod to me, and all I could do initially was hold on!

 

     NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED? - Considering its long run and weight of the fish, I guessed it to be a small blue marlin, maybe around 100 pounds. The fish occasionally angled to the surface, where I was expecting it to jump. It never did. It eventually dove deep. Given the vertical give and take fight we settled into, Trey called it as a yellowfin tuna. I still banked on a marlin, since the fight was different than a tuna.


     Toward the end of the fight, the fish was nearly straight beneath the boat and deep enough where we couldn't see it. A shark suddenly appeared off the transom, so, in a semi-panicked state, I really put the pressure on the fish. There was no way a shark was going to steal this fish. As the leader came into view, Joe bumped the boat forward in an attempt to lead the fish in alongside the starboard side. It was then when I heard Trey yell — "It's a wahoo! It's a huge wahoo! Get a gaff"


     Of course, hearing that, and keeping one eye on the shark off our transom, I kept cranking on line. I caught a glimpse of the fish, while it was out of gaffing range, and nearly freaked out. From that moment on, everything seemed to go into slow motion. In what really took only 30-seconds or so to sink a gaff into the fish and lift it over the transom, seemed more like a half hour. Once the huge fish hit the deck, only then did it sink in that we boated a monster wahoo — and just minutes away from Riding Rock Marina!
Talk about an incredible ending to a trip! Here we were, during the spring and past the peak wahoo migration, and I score another big wahoo. On the marina scale, this fish weighed 113 pounds, 2 ounces.


     Talk about luck! I've been to San Salvador just twice and each time I've scored a wahoo over 100 pounds! Yes, indeed. I wish San Salvador would establish a lotto. I'm quite sure I'd win it. For some reason, this island smiles upon me!