Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) are a large predatory pelagic species encountered in tropical and sub-tropical waters worldwide. Wahoo are targeted by spearfishers for their impressive fighting speed and strength and their excellent eating qualities. The minimum size limit for Wahoo in Western Australian waters is 90cm with a bag limit of 3 fish per diver, per day. However this species is part of the "Large Pelagic Finfish " group so remember you may only take a combination of 3 fish from the entire Large Pelagic Finfish list per day and this applies statewide.
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Characteristics and habitat
Wahoo are a long, slender, streamlined fish with a pointed snout and powerful crescent tail. They are usually white/silver/grey in colour, however when excited or in hunting mode, Wahoo have an iridescent purple back and bright blue vertical bars along its flanks. Colour fades quickly after death so get those photos as soon as possible after capture!
Wahoo colours fade quickly so take photos soon after capture (compare left to right)
Wahoo have a sharply pointed snout that holds rows of small but razor sharp teeth. Wahoo are one of the fastest swimming fish in the ocean and are capable of speeds up to 80km/hr. Although capable of growing to over 80kg, in Western Australian waters Wahoo are more commonly seen in the 15-30kg range. The current spearfishing world record is 56.75kg, speared in 2002 at La Paz, Mexico. The current WA state spearfishing record is held by Barry Paxman, with a weight of 33.1kg.
Wahoo are encountered in the Indian Ocean off the Western coast of WA with Rottnest Island being the southern extremity of distribution. Wahoo prefer warm, deep oceanic waters however may be encountered in shallower waters when oceanic currents move toward the coast. They are often solitary or in small groups of 2-4 fish, however at times can be encountered in large schools.
Differences between Spanish (left) and Wahoo (right)
Within Western Australia Wahoo are usually captured while hunting other popular species such as Spanish Mackerel and Yellowfin Tuna. Location is often the key to encountering these fish with deeper oceanic waters being a good starting point. Wahoo are more often encountered in Northern WA waters with sightings at Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef quite common. Wahoo are attracted to floating debris and Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). If floating debris is spotted during transit over deeper water, it is often worth a look to see if there are Wahoo hanging around. Each year during the summer months FADs are deployed in the waters West of Rottnest Island off Perth. These are floating buoys moored to the sea floor in deep water (100m+) and often attract schools of Dolphin Fish and Tuna. These FADs are a prime location for hunting Wahoo.
Wahoo are an extremely inquisitive fish species and will often approach a diver. At times they can come quite close enabling a shot. If the fish stays out of range, a good technique is to dive quietly in the direction the fish is swimming and avoid eye contact. This will often increase the Wahoo’s curiosity and bring the fish closer, enabling a shot.
Once shot, Wahoo fight extremely hard. They will often take off across the surface pulling continuously with powerful force. This combined with the Wahoo’s soft flesh and thin skin, make the Wahoo very difficult to land. It is best to place as little pressure on the rig line as possible to increase the chance of successfully landing the fish. Once landed, it is good practice to bleed the fish immediately to preserve the soft white flesh for eating.
Wahoo may be hunted successfully with various guns and rig set-ups. As most Wahoo in WA are taken while hunting other species, most are taken by railguns from 1.2 - 1.5m in length. Float lines will increase the odds of landing the Wahoo once shot, as less pressure can be placed on the rig line during the fish’s powerful runs. Slip tips and multi-rubber bluewater spearguns will also increase the chances of successfully landing this large powerful fish.