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November 08, 2007

The Cay Sal Connection

The legal way to hunt wahoo in the remote Bahamas... from a center console

Bimini Aside
Jordan, who has spent many days  fishing Bahamian waters as a private captain, suggested we run across the bank to the Gingerbreads, about 30 miles northwest of the northern tip of Bimini. This region features coral heads that apparently resemble confectionary creations - hence the name. The reef edge drops precipitously from about 120 to 600 feet.
We moved off the edge and started deep-dropping squid and chunks of houndfish in 350 feet of water, using   multiple-hook dropper rigs and Lindgren-Pitman electric reels. At the telltale bob of the rod tip, we'd hit the switch and haul up one or multiple black snapper - a popular Caribbean snapper that grows to about 25 inches and 7 pounds.
In truth, we were really biding time until the right tide to troll for wahoo. But we also hoped to keep a few fillets. Because we fished these waters in 2006, our catch fell under pre-2007 regulations. Beginning January 1, the Bahamas restricted anglers to only 20 pounds of snapper and/or grouper per boat at any time.
Had we fished this year, we could not ethically have chosen to leave the snapper grounds to troll the reef edge - in 50 to 60 feet of water - for grouper. Given the option at the time, though, we moved in shallow.
Jordan let out 700 feet of wire from the two electric reels. He had baited the lines with skirted, 12-ounce jap feathers tied to 100 feet of 400-pound mono and then to a 2-foot wire leader. The long mono allows him to better work with rocked fish. If a grouper finds a coral head, Jordan can back down on the fish, wrap the mono hand-over-hand and pull out the fish.
On the troll, Jordan says he has caught black grouper to 100 pounds, yellowfin grouper to 15 and a few tiger grouper. However, a few snags and one hungry 'cuda later, and that wahoo tide looked just about right.

Crank It Up
Jordan prefers fishing wahoo during the last hour of the incoming tide through the first half-hour of the outgoing tide - a fairly narrow window. The incoming tide pushes bait and cleaner water onto the reef. The bait balls up in pockets, and the wahoo find them.
Moving to a depth of 260 feet, Jordan set out a spread of Ilander lures on five rods - the same outfits and baits we'd prep for our Cay Sal leg.
 ? Shotgun rod fished 300 feet back; 80-pound mono on a 9/0 Duel and straight-butt Calstar rod.
 ? Wire-line rods port and starboard, 100 and 125 feet back. (Any farther back and it snags the mono.) Lindgren-Pitman electric reels, spooled with 130-pound wire, on Calstar bent-butt rods.
 ? Mono outfits port and starboard, 180 and 240 feet back. Tiagra 80s, with  80-pound mono, on Calstar bent-butt rods.
Wahoo bite best a few days before a cold front and again a few days after, Jordan says. With a high or rising barometer, wahoo become more finicky, choosing baits fished on the mono lines. When the bite heats up, they prefer the wire, even up short in the prop wash. During the last of the incoming, Jordan says, the first fish usually hits the shotgun rod and then moves up to the wires.