Charter boats from the Outer Banks point to May, when the temperature of the water reaches the mid-70s, as the month when wahoo begin congregating in the region, but most consider late summer and fall, when water temps hover around 80 degrees, as the peak of the wahoo run.
Anglers from Oregon Inlet focus their search on well-known spots like the Tuna Hole, the Point and Whale Hole. Boats out of Hatteras patrol favorites like the Rockpile, the Beach, Big Rock, 200 Rocks, and various deep wrecks where fish suspend around the bottom structure.
Farther south, off Beaufort Inlet, crews key on color changes and dropoffs, or rises on the bottom along the edge of the continental shelf, paying particular attention to where the current pushes over structure creating upwellings that aggregate small bonito and other prey.
Purple-and-black, red-and-black, pink-and-blue, or yellow-and-green Joe Shute or Iland lures over large ballyhoo rigged with 9/0 or 10/0 hook tandems are a mainstay in trolling spreads. In North Carolina, so is a Drone spoon behind a planer. An identical setup is often fished off the opposite side, farther back, and some crews opt for a downrigger instead to troll another Iland lureballyhoo combo deeper than a planer allows. A six-line spread is effective and manageable, even aboard small centerconsoles with a reduced crew.
READY FOR DUTY: For wahoo, Iland lures with rigged ballyhoo are a good bet.
1. Iland lure-ballyhoo combinations off both riggers, 300 and 350 feet back, respectively. 2. Two similar lure-bait combos — with 16- to 36-ounce cigar sinkers 30 feet ahead — set 200 and 250 feet back, off port and starboard flat lines. 3. No. 4 Drone spoon 100 feet back, off a bent-butt rod on a transom corner with a No. 12, 16 or 24 planer 60 feet up the leader, bridled with clips for easy removal when reeling in a fish. 4. Iland lure-ballyhoo combo 150 feet back and 50 feet down, off a downrigger.
FYI: Recommended speed is 6 to 9 knots. To troll at the higher end of the speed range, substitute the Drone spoon behind the planer for an Ilander-bait combo. Rig trolling sinkers with 4 feet of No. 9 wire to prevent cutoffs from wahoo attacks.