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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


 
Wind also affects the wahoo bite. A west wind turns off the fish, but a southeast or northeast wind with purple-blue water can bring double-digit hookups.
 
Our wind that November day came from the north and rather mildly for winter. Carson powered up to 16 mph and followed a serpentine pattern, swinging in to 180 feet and out to 260. Too shallow and the barracudas and kingfish waylay the bait; too deep and you're trolling     no-man's land.
 
At 16 mph, the boat nearly planes. But it's that speed that seems to tantalize the swift 'hoos. South Florida wahoo experts such as Capt. Ron Schatman swear by it. Jordan cites Schatman as his mentor.
 
Midafternoon, a 10-pound wahoo hit a blue-and-white Ilander with a crystal skirt on the shotgun rod. "That's a wee-hoo," Carson cracked, planing it in on the port mono rod. 
 
Jordan set out darker colors - black-and-red, black-and-purple - and was rewarded with two 20-pound wahoo. "These fish are not really biting well. All the fish we've hooked today have been hooked on one hook rather than both," Jordan said. "Maybe tomorrow will be better because that front came through last night."

Finally, Cay Sal
A steady wind blew all night and swept us out of Bimini at first light. We ran about 20 minutes south and spent the first hour trolling "tuna alley," a wall in front of Cat Cay. Though this area generally produces a great tuna bite at the right time, we trolled to burn daylight. Our   ETA for the last of the incoming at Cay Sal was 2:15 p.m.
 
We picked up and ran another hour and 45 minutes to Orange Cay, where we dropped some ballyhoo-sweetened triple-hook jigs to a reef in 150 feet of water and caught sharks, red grouper and 'cudas. Cay Sal would lie another 2 1/2 hours away through 3- to 4-foot seas.
 
Midmorning, we pulled the lines and started the final leg, homing in on Dog Rocks at the northeast corner of the bank. We arrived a little early and jigged in about 250 feet of water, catching more sharks before finally pulling out the trolling gear. 
 
By 2:15 p.m. we were on the wahoo troll, although a following sea made it tough to maintain a steady 16 mph. Jordan pulled out an assortment of double-hooked Ilanders - all on identical leaders fastened below a lead weight weighing 1 to 3 pounds (1 pound for the shotgun rod; 2 to 3 pounds for the mono and 3 pounds for the wire-line outfits). 
 
Each leader included 22 feet of 400-pound mono to 3 1/2 feet of No. 15 piano wire to two 12/0 in-line hooks rigged on cable.
 
"I'm not a big fan of using a lot of lures," Jordan says. "I do use some tuna darts. But I can change out Ilander skirts quickly when I need to." Hard baits, he says, don't prove as durable as Ilanders.
 
Jordan sets his drags for 28 pounds at strike. After a fish hits, he comes off plane slowly for two reasons: If he throttles back fast, the lead weight drops, the fish can turn, shake and free the hooks. And, if he takes his time slowing, perhaps another fish will bite. On his best day, Jordan says he hooked 18 fish in an hour and a half. 
 
Our five wahoo came during a    blistering bite that turned off as quickly as it turned on. While we were boating fish, our buddy boat hooked up. While they were deploying baits, we hooked another doubleheader. 
 
First, the black-and-purple and black-and-orange combinations took hits, then the black-and-red and black-and-purple and then the blue-and-white. True to form, the fish - on the hot bite - mostly hit the wire-line baits.
 
We could have camped at Cay Sal that night and tried another troll the next day for a true behemoth. But the timing of our trip, during the week we could all make the run, meant a late afternoon bite. Staying another day would mean a later tide and an even later run back to Miami.
 
We proved a point, though. We proved that outboard-powered center consoles can fish Cay Sal legally and safely, and that the wahoo bite really can be that good.