For most of the year, South Carolina’s offshore fishing grounds are open for a variety of pelagic predators, from tuna and king mackerel to dolphin. Yet many of these fish must be intercepted along on their migratory routes — with one exception.
Wahoo are one of the regulars patrolling these offshore waters, and the winter, when the waters cool off, marks the season for the colossal wahoo to show up in a set. It’s not just a good time to catch wahoo; it’s prime time for the giants that will push the 100-pound mark.
Tom Cushman of Calmwater Fishing Charters always looks forward to the winter when the big dogs show up offshore and take his tackle to its breaking point.
“January and February is typically when you catch the big ones off the Grand Strand,” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “It’s the weather that stops us from going most of the time. We have some rough weather during the winter around here, but when we can get out, it’s an awesome fishery.”
Just last year was one of Cushman’s best winter seasons for oversized ‘hoos.
“We had a good year last winter with three over 90 and one just over 100 pounds,” he said.
Cushman hunts for water temperatures in the 70s and if he finds a temperature break offshore in water from 160 feet and deeper, he will usually get some action. Last year, Cushman found a 4-degree break in 500 feet that held several heavy hitters, but he caught some of his biggest fish in 69- to 70-degree water arround structure in 160- to 180-foot depths.
“The temperature breaks hold baitfish, and in the ocean, any place that holds baitfish will attract predators,” he said.
Cushman often starts at familiar places along the continental shelf off Little River Inlet: the Black Jack, 100/400, Steeples, and other places along the continental shelf with good bottom relief.
Wahoo will follow something of a pattern that has the potential to change on a daily basis, he said. When he picks up a fish at a certain depth, he will hone-in on that contour to dredge up another bite.
“I always try to keep fishing an area where you catch one, and you will usually catch more. Circle back and work the area,” he said.
While Cushman will toss out a few high speed rigs on occasion when going to different numbers, his standard wahoo and tuna spread consists of a collection of six surface and two downed lines with rigged ballyhoo, naked ballyhoo, and large artificial lures.