Category: Fishing Tips and Tricks

Wahoo Fishing Costa Rica

Costa Rica Fish Species – Wahoo

Species Spotlight: Wahoo

By Florida Sport Fishing Magazine

The food chain throughout their range, they are still susceptible to predation by a variety of larger species with indiscriminate diets. Near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, crews deploying large baits for colossal black marlin sometimes include rigged wahoo, while in other parts of their range various billfish and pelagic sharks are among the few predators capable of successfully keeping pace with these speedy game fish.

Photography: Doughertyphotos.com

Fishing Methods
Wahoo can be difficult to pattern across much of their global range, with many encounters occurring at random. However, along the Eastern Seaboard and in The Bahamas their migrations are somewhat predictable and there are several methods by which these fish can be captured with relative consistency. In any scenario, wahoo are rarely caught on monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material, so wire or cable leaders are recommended. High-speed trolling at 15+ knots is a popular tactic in Florida and The Bahamas because it allows anglers to cover more water, but where there is one wahoo there are often others nearby. Burning fuel can be fun, but after finding the pack it’s a good idea to pull back the throttles and circle back to the same general area dragging horse ballyhoo or handcrafted strip baits. Planers are also effective in getting offerings below the surface where wahoo bites are more likely. Sailfish anglers often lose entire kite spreads when wahoo key in on lively surface baits like goggle eye and threadfin herring, which can also be deployed on downriggers when targeting ‘hoo. When floating debris or sargassum mats are encountered miles offshore, anglers also entice wahoo by dropping jigs deep beneath the shadows.

Preferred Water Temperature
78ºF

Range
Wahoo are highly migratory and maintain a presence in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, roaming the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, including the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas. These impressive predators, like many pelagic game fish, spend much of their lives in search of ideal bands of water temperature with concentrations of forage. Unfortunately, tagging studies indicate that a wahoo’s migration pattern isn’t as simple as one would think.

Hot Spots
Wahoo can be caught virtually any day of the year around the state’s expansive coastline and throughout The Bahamas, though certain areas are more likely to produce these fish than others. Off Florida’s First Coast, anglers who fight the cold weather and rough seas common to the winter months find fast action 50 or more miles offshore near temperature breaks and changes in bottom contour. Along the state’s southeast coast and particularly in the Florida Keys, wahoo can be caught much closer to shore with a variety of tactics. Just outside the reef edge in roughly 100 to 300 feet of water, winter wahoo take advantage of the abundance of baitfish in the region. Wahoo are also present in the Gulf of Mexico, albeit much farther offshore. Here, distant oil rigs are known to have monster ‘hoo lurking nearby, while areas above abrupt changes in bottom contour also attract these delicious game fish. While the distant waters of the Bahamian Out Islands and Costa Rica produce quality catches every winter, the biggest wahoo in the world undeniably exist off Fiji and the French Polynesia.

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Photography: Doughertyphotos.com

Similar Species
Members of the Scombridae family, which includes the most prized species of mackerel and tuna, wahoo bear a customary fish silhouette featuring two dorsal fins, a slender caudal peduncle and deeply forked tail. While all scombrids have comparable biological features, in terms of behavior and where it hunts and lives, wahoo are more similar to billfish and tuna than coastal cruising king mackerel.

Minimum Length
None (state, federal and Bahamian waters).

Daily Bag Limit
2 per person, per day (state and federal waters). 18 per vessel per day, included in 18 migratory fish aggregate

Coloring
Wahoo are among the most recognizable pelagic offshore game fish around the world, sporting a unique appearance that features dark blue, purple or even greenish coloration on their backs with silvery lower sides and bellies. These fish also have 24-30 wavy, vertical bars on their sides.

Size
In Florida’s surrounding offshore waters, just about any wahoo caught that eclipses the 40-pound mark is considered a trophy. However, these tenacious game fish are capable of growing much larger and regularly push 100 pounds throughout their range. Florida’s state record wahoo, caught near Marathon, weighed 139 pounds, while the world record captured near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico weighed in at 184 pounds. Similar to several other pelagic game fish, wahoo demonstrate very fast growth rates and relatively short life spans.

Photography: Mike Haan

Food Value
Although wahoo yield incredible sporting quality with exhilarating strikes and screaming runs, perhaps the most desirable attribute is their food quality. With mild, firm white flesh, wahoo is delicious grilled, fried, blackened and baked, though many agree that nothing beats ceviche or sashimi. In Hawaii, wahoo are commonly referred to as ono, translating loosely to “good to eat.” (Get some tips for maximizing yield of fresh wahoo here)

Check out our recipe for grilled wahoo.

Conservation Status
The worldwide wahoo population is considered stable, though relatively unknown, and its conservation status is currently of little concern to fisheries managers. Though there are various protected areas throughout the wahoo’s range, there are limited species-specific conservation measures in place for these fish. In Florida, wahoo is one of many unregulated species, meaning there are no size limits and the bag limit is set at two fish per person, per day. Despite a lack of major threats, anglers should remain sensible when harvesting any fish.

Feeding
Armed with streamlined fusiform bodies, wahoo are perhaps the fastest game fish roaming the open ocean. Combined with considerable speed, razor-sharp teeth make these fish extremely proficient predators. Throughout much of their life cycles, wahoo feed on a variety of pelagic baitfish and squid, while mature specimens are capable of taking down small tuna, dolphin and more. Because wahoo possess rapid growth rates and are constantly on the move, these fish require a great deal of food and are almost always on the hunt.

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ballyhoo for billfish

How To Rig a Ballyhoo for Billfish

Fast Ballyhoo Rig for Sailfish and Marlin

Easy-to-rig, simple-to-replace trolling rig for billfish

Ballyhoo rig from the Dominican Republic

Bill Doster

This rig uses a small O-ring (1⁄8 to 3⁄16 inch) and 20-gauge copper wire to create a reusable rig. The advantages are rigging speed and ease of replacing the bait if it washes out or is damaged.


Dominican ballyhoo rig.

Bill Doster

Twist copper wire onto the O-ring, then insert the wire through the top of the ballyhoo’s head and out the bottom, and slide on an egg sinker.

Bill Doster

Snug the sinker under the throat. Wrap the wire under the gill plate, over the head and under the offside gill plate, then insert it through the eye sockets.

Dominican ballyhoo rig.

Bill Doster

Wrap through the eye sockets, twice behind the weight and once in front. Then wrap over the nose, once behind the O-ring and twice in front of it.

Dominican ballyhoo rig.

Bill Doster

Snip the ballyhoo’s snoot just ahead of the wraps and insert a circle hook (snelled to the leader) through the O-ring to ride atop the head.

http://fishcostarica.org/7-cool-facts-about-hammerhead-sharks/
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FECOP Tips – How to Handle Sailfish and Marlin

How to Responsibly Handle  Sailfish and Marlin in Costa Rica

(Based on sailfish and marlin scientific research)
  • Do not remove the sailfish or marlin from the water, even for a picture. (Removal from water reduces survival rates by 60‐80% and it is illegal in Costa Rica)
  • Use Use circle hooks (It’s the law in Costa Rica). The fish is usually hooked in the jaw or corner of the mouth, making it easier to remove the hook and less harmful tothe fish.
  • Revive the fish by keeping it in the water, place boat in gear and have oxygenated water pass over the gills.

For more information visit www.fishcostarica.org

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How to measure a billfish

How to Safely Estimate the Size of Your Billfish

How Do I Estimate the Size of my Billfish?

Estimating the weight of the fish or by measuring the fish when it is in, or alongside the boat or in the boat.

If the fish is up to 3 Ft. in length it may be carefully brought on board and measured using a standard measuring tape.

However, large fish should remain in the water. If you estimate the size of the fish, especially the weight, get a consensus from the entire crew immediately after release, and record immediately.

For measuring length of fish in the water, it is best to rig up a simple tape measure. It helps if it is flexible, and at least 10 Ft. long. A great method is to attach a tennis ball (or similar) to the zero end and when a fish is alongside, or being held at the back of the boat, float the tennis ball to the tail fork and get a measurement to the fish’s snout, or to the tip of the lower jaw for billfish. For billfish, it is important that the recorded measurement should state where the fish was measured from and to (i.e. lower jaw to tail fork length or total length – tip of bill to end of tail.

Giving both the length and the weight for every tag and release will allow the recording of the most complete information and result in the best comparison should the fish be recaptured or the data used in a scientific analysis.

How to Measure the Fish

An accurate measurement is very useful to both anglers and scientists.  When measuring a fish, there are 3 standard methods for non-billfish and 2 standard methods for billfish species.  Remember, don’t pull a tape measure over the fish; instead lay the fish down on top of a ruler or measuring tape. All measurements should start at the tip of the snout, and the end point depends on what type of measurement you are taking:

Costa Rica Sailfish Tagging

Measurement Types: (Non-Billfish Species)

Total Length (TL):  From the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail

Fork Length (FL): From the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.

Standard Length (SL):  From the tip of the snout to the end of the fleshy part of the tail (the caudal peduncle).

 

Measurement Types: (Billfish Species)

Total Length (TL):  From the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail

Lower Jaw Fork Length (LJFL): From the tip of the lower jaw snout to the fork of the tail.

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How to TAG a Fish

Science and Fishing – How to Tag a Fish

How to Properly Tag a Fish

Types of tags

Pelagic tag (A series) – Species over 60cm. Great for Tuna, Mackerel, Dolphinfish and Wahoo, Snapper and Groupers and over 70cm for Kingfish. (Nylon Dart head with bright green Polyolefin tubing.)

pelagic-Tag

Billfish tag (B series) – Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish and Spearfish only.
(Nylon Dart head with flexible strong double monofilament. Bright green polyolefin tubing.)


recommended-fishtag-placementHR

How to tag game fish using the billfish and shark tags

Always remember – Successful tagging is a team effort

Billfish and shark tags are designed to lock into muscle tissue on the dorsal area of the fish, well above the lateral line. It is important to insert the tag to the correct depth of ~2.5 inches for the billfish tag and about ~1.9 inches for the shark tag. Shallow or incorrectly placed tags may result in premature tag loss.

Once the angler brings the fish within range, the fish should be traced and led alongside the boat so that it presents a broad tagging target. It is usually best to keep the boat moving slowly forwards to enable better control of the fish.

  • As soon as the angler brings the fish within range, the fish should be traced and led alongside the boat so that it presents a broad tagging target and allowing the fish to calm down. It is usually best to keep the boat moving slowly forwards to enable better control of the fish.
  • Once the fish is in position to be tagged, the person handling the tag pole should take position behind the person tracing the fish to allow for a clear tag shot.
  • An attempt to apply the tag should only be made if the fish is calm or subdued. The tag should be placed towards the middle of the fish, well above the lateral line towards the dorsal fin (See recommended areas above).For billfish and most sportfish, the fish should be tagged with a firm, well-aimed stroke – simply place the tag against the fish’s flank and push. Do not stab. Sharks will require a firm jab in order to penetrate their tough skin.
  • Once the tag has been deployed, remove the hook if possible (a de-hooker can facilitate this) or cut the trace close to the fish’s mouth.
  • **IMPORTANT** Always make an effort to revive a fish that appear to be exhausted or is struggling to remain upright in the water.A common approach for billfish is to hold the fish firmly by its submerged bill whilst the boat moves forwards at 2 to 3 knots. This ensures a good flow of water over the fish’s gills. Try to continue this practice and release the fish once it shows strong signs of life.  Improved skin color is also a good indicator that the fish is getting stronger. This may take several minutes or more. Please use care and caution, especially in rough weather to prevent serious injury to yourself or your fishing partners.

Costa Rica Tuna Tagging FishingHow to tag game fish using the pelagic tag

When tagging with the smaller pelagic tag, the majority of fish should be removed from the water before tagging. This improves accuracy of tagging. This technique will also simplify hook removal and allow more accurate recording of the length and weight. For larger fish a short hand tagger can be used for tagging boat side. Try to prevent the fish damaging itself on hard, hot, or dry surfaces. A wet foam mat or similar is ideal for on-boat tagging.

We recommend Pelagic tags to be inserted by a smaller hand tagger or short pole, as they are designed to lock behind the bony structures of the dorsal fin or second dorsal fin in order to remain in position. Carefully insert the tag into the fish’s back, close to the base of the fin and angled in so that it passes through the bony structures that radiate off the fin. Try to insert the tag at an angle of at least 45° to reduce water friction and then twist the tag pole before removing it. In effect, you should be trying to hook the barb of the tag around one of these spines, which then locks the tag in place.

As with all tagging, try to immediately fill out the tag registration card as correctly and completed as possible, and return to Gray FishTag Research  as soon as possible for most relevant data.

Estimating the size of the fish

This may be done by estimating the weight of the fish or by measuring the fish when it is in, or alongside the boat. If the fish is up to 3 Ft. in length it may be carefully brought on board and measured using a standard measuring tape. However, large fish should remain in the water. If you estimate the size of the fish, especially the weight, get a consensus from the entire crew immediately after release, and record immediately.

For measuring length of fish in the water, it is best to rig up a simple tape measure. It helps if it is flexible, and at least 10 Ft. long. A great method is to attach a tennis ball (or similar) to the zero end and when a fish is alongside, or being held at the back of the boat, float the tennis ball to the tail fork and get a measurement to the fish’s snout, or to the tip of the lower jaw for billfish. For billfish, it is important that the recorded measurement should state where the fish was measured from and to (i.e. lower jaw to tail fork length or total length – tip of bill to end of tail.

Giving both the length and the weight for every tag and release will allow the recording of the most complete information and result in the best comparison should the fish be recaptured or the data used in a scientific analysis.

What to do if you catch a tagged fish

Whenever you catch a fish, get in a habit to examine the dorsal area of both sides of the fish to see if an existing tag is present. The tags may only be just showing or may be obscured by marine growth if they have been in the water for a long time.

If you catch a billfish, shark, tuna or other sport fish that is already tagged, we recommend to carefully record the tag number and other information shown on the tag.  Tags that look old may indicate that the fish have been at large for a long time and these long-term recaptures are particularly valuable for any research.  If you don’t have a new tag, you may release the fish again with the same tag.  Please ensure that you record the tag number, species, date, location and GPS co-ordinates, estimated size (or actual size if landed) and condition of fish on release.

If you decide to keep the fish,  still record the capture details and try to notify the corresponding organization listed on the tag.

You may also carefully cut off the old tag and re-tag the fish with a new tag.

One other point regarding reporting recaptures of tagged fish should be kept in mind. In these days of nearly 100% release of game fish, previously tagged fish are quite often caught and re-released without being able to retrieve the earlier tag. If you do hook and release a fish which has a tag in place, and you are not able to retrieve the tag, you should still record the details (even though the tag number is unknown) and report the release to Gray FishTag Research as a genuine recapture. In this way, better statistics on actual recapture rates of game fish will be able to be maintained.

Additional fishing and tagging tips

  • non-offset-circlehookUse non-offset circle hooks whenever possible when using live or dead baits. These hooks minimize deep hooking, foul hooking and bleeding and promote the survival of tagged fish.
  • Elect one crew member as the person in charge of the tagging equipment, to ensure that:
    • the number of the tag in position on the tag pole matches that on the tag card
    • details of the tagging are promptly recorded on the card
    • the card is kept for entry or mailed to Gray FishTag Research as soon as possible.
  • Keep your tag cards dry and in an orderly bundle and easy to access. This will help to ensure that tags do not become loose and fall out of their corresponding tag card.
  • Load your tagging pole with a tag before you hook a fish. Make sure it is readily available and whenever you wish to tag a fish, ensure that the tag is attached properly.
  • Make sure the billfish tag head fits neatly onto the applicator without being too tight as the tag may break before releasing into the fish. The shark tag head must protrude past the end of the applicator, this is vital as it is the tip of the tag head that penetrates the sharks tough skin. If the applicator is too long, then it can be filed down. Pelagic applicators may sometimes have rough edges inside the tube at either end. Try pulling a tag in and out to make sure the edges do not catch the tag, if they do, a small round file will take the rough edges off. If you do not do this then the applicator may cut the tag off as it goes into the fish.
  • Tags should be secured on tag poles with a rubber band, one wrap of the band is sufficient as too many may stop the tag releasing.
  • Do not attempt to tag very active fish, especially if the fish is jumping at the side of the boat. Poor tag placement can injure fish or result in the tag being shed. It is better to release the fish without tagging, if accurate tag placement is not possible

More information

Contact Gray FishTag directly at Tel: 844.824.8353 or via email at info@GrayFishTag.org

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