This column originally appeared in the Keys Citizen on Feb. 24.
Does lightning really strike twice? I think so, and I’ll tell you why. My buddy Dan Connell and I have a passion for wahoo. It is very apparent that we share this addiction to wahoo every time he and I are together, and the conversation quickly turns to, “Remember that wahoo we caught in 235 feet?” or, “Remember the day we landed that big wahoo on 30-pound monofilament line?”
Wahoo on 30-pound monofilament? It’s like a lightning strike! I’ve seen wahoo come up behind the boat and cut through a heavy-duty 100-pound mono leader with straight-razor sharp teeth so quickly and so cleanly, that it didn’t even pop the outrigger clip. I’ve seen a wahoo approach a spread of trolled baits from the side moving so fast that his dorsal fin actually threw a rooster tail. What a sight!
“They” say that wahoo will approach the intended target at speeds up to 60 mph with their mouths open so the rows of tiny, yet merciless, sharp teeth will slice the bait in half like it was cut with scissors. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen wahoo get all fired up when another wahoo has swallowed a bait, race over to the action, see the swivel attached to the line connected to the captured wahoo and eat the swivel. Of course, this means he cut the line and the formerly doomed fish swam away. I hate that.
Wahoo fisherpersons are very aware of the wily wahoo’s wicked ways and use black-painted swivels in the hopes of not attracting a lit-up wahoo’s attention. Another thing I have learned through the years of wahoo fishing is to place a crimp in the leader, just ahead of the lure, to keep the lure from riding up the line and being attacked by wahoo attempting to steal food from their hapless schoolmate.
Most people never catch a wahoo. Most people never see a wahoo. Most people don’t even know what a wahoo is. I remember fishing with a friend from Michigan. He asked, “Hey C.J. do you think we can catch one of those Wally-hoos?” Three hours later when we boated a 50-pounder, he stared at that fish on the deck of the cockpit and could not speak. You know your friends have had a good day fishing when they are totally overwhelmed by the Florida Keys fishing experience. This happens a lot, and I am truly grateful — and amazed — that I live here.
A while ago, Dan and I hooked four or five wahoo and boated three of them in a period of less than three hours. Woo hoo! Wahoo! This was an incredible day and a lifetime memory that will surely be recounted hundreds of times. The highlight of the whole day, however, was the capture of the biggest fish of the day.
We were trolling in 235 feet of water just off Marathon. We had boated one wahoo already. The downrigger line popped, and the drag screamed for just one second. All of a sudden, we saw water splash far behind the boat. One of the mahi mahi baits had been hit and line began evaporating off the TLD-25 reel spooled with 30-pound clear monofilament line.
“Big fish on!” we both screamed. I hit the autopilot button and began reeling in the three remaining lines. Dan grabbed the screeching rod and watched as line flew back and forth on the reel and was pulled into the dark-blue waters of an exceptionally close to shore Gulfstream. We both knew we had another wahoo on the line. Then, it dawned on us, that fish had hit one bait, spit it, and greedily hit a second — a small tuna feather tied directly to the 30-pound-test mono spooled on the reel.
The fish kept running. “He’s going to cut this line any minute,” Dan said.
“You concentrate on the fish, I’ll concentrate on the boat,” I told him. The chances of landing this fish without him cutting the line were a hundred-to-one. We knew if we put too much pressure on this fish, he would sever the line. It takes patience, finesse, and relentless concentration to work a big fish to the boat. Especially with fishing line this light. Dan adjusted his position in the cockpit, the speed he reeled the line in, the strain he put on the line, and even murmured several prayers. Prayer helps you know, just ask any wahoo angler.
The fish came to the boat, and we could see the small hook protruding from the monster’s mouth. He was caught perfectly in the corner of his mouth. Only the short shank of the hook and fishing line, thin enough to be difficult to see with the naked eye, were keeping this bad boy attached to Dan’s rod and reel. Finally, we boated him. This was an accomplishment we’ll not soon forget.
The next week, the same exact thing happened. Dan had a fish hit the downrigger bait, spit the hook, and inhaled the exact same tuna feather on 30-pound monofilament and we were able, once again, to boat a toothy wahoo against all odds. Who says, “Lightning doesn’t strike twice,” Each time is just as big an event as the previous time. If you’re hoping for a memorable fishing experience, try catching a wahoo on 30-pound mono leader and a small hook.
On a sad and serious note, a very good friend and fishing buddy, Ken Medernach of Atlanta, died unexpectedly, last Friday. Ken and a friend were featured in this column not too long ago. He was the guy who said, “Next time I fish with you, I’ll bring my rolled-up coins so we can charter a great big boat with air conditioning.” Ken was incredibly instrumental in arranging FEMA payments, after Hurricane Wilma, for debris removal and emergency assistance to all the people of Marathon and the entire Florida Keys. He was a great guy, an amusing writer, an unsung hero, and I will miss him.
After his last visit, Ken emailed me and said, “You’re right C.J., life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.”
C.J. Geotis is a life-long fisherman who followed his dream more than 20 years ago to live in the Florida Keys. His books, “Florida Keys Fish Stories,” and “Double-Edged Sword” are available at Amazon.com. He lives in Marathon with his wife Loretta and her Coca-Cola collection. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.