In the Atlantic, wahoo are attracted to Sargassum, a floating brown algae that serves as both a hiding place and source of food. Managers have created a management plan for Sargassum to protect the algae as an essential fish habitat. Regulations prohibit all harvest and possession of Sargassum in certain areas and restrict commercial harvest in general.
- Gray triggerfish
- Greater amberjack
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Kinkfish, Peto, Guarapucu, Ono, Thazard Batard
U.S. wild-caught from Massachusetts to Texas
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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Measuring the length of a wahoo.LAUNCH GALLERY
A cousin of mackerel, wahoo are found in warm oceans around the world. In the Atlantic, they’re harvested commercially in hook-and-line fisheries along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico. Only about 10 percent of the U.S. harvest of wahoo comes from the Atlantic and Gulf, where the recreational fishery for this species is more dominant than the commercial fishery. Most wahoo in the U.S. market are harvested in the Pacific and landed in Hawaii, where the fish is called “ono,” meaning “delicious.”
While wahoo are believed to be abundant and can support a high rate of harvest, managers have adopted a precautionary approach to managing these fisheries. Recognizing the significant importance of wahoo to the recreational fishing community in the Atlantic and Gulf, managers seek to maintain the current harvest levels of wahoo and ensure that no new fisheries develop to preserve the historical and current allocation of the resource between recreational and commercial fishermen.
LOCATION & HABITAT
Wahoo are found near the surface in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Wahoo live in tropical waters year-round but are also found in higher latitudes during the summer. They’re frequently found alone or in small, loosely connected groups rather than compact schools. They’re also often found near banks, pinnacles, and natural drifting matter in the ocean, especially Sargassum, floating brown algae found in the Atlantic. Scientists do not know much about wahoo migrations, but a wahoo tagged during one study was recaptured 6 ½ months later more than 1,700 miles away, indicating this species can travel long distances.
Wahoo grow fast, up to 8 feet and 158 pounds, and have a short life span, up to 5 or 6 years in the Atlantic and 9 years in the Pacific. Males are able to reproduce when they reach 2.8 feet in length; females sexually mature when they reach 3.3 feet. They’re usually about 1 year old when they reach this size. Wahoo spawn year-round in tropical waters and during the summer in higher latitudes. Individual wahoo spawn multiple times throughout the spawning season. They’re very productive, releasing a half million to 45 million eggs per year to compensate for eggs that might not survive to adulthood.
Wahoo mainly feed on squid and fish, including frigate mackerel, butterfish, porcupine fish, and round herring. They generally compete with tuna for the same kind of food, but can feed on larger prey by using their extremely sharp teeth to render prey into bite-size pieces. A number of predators sharing their habitat feed on young wahoo.
Wahoo are steel blue on their top side and pale blue on their underside. They’re covered with small scales and have a series of 25 to 30 irregular blackish-blue vertical bars on their sides that fade rapidly after death. Wahoo have large mouths with strong, triangular, compressed, and finely serrated teeth. Their snouts are about as long as the rest of their heads. Although they can reach 8 feet in length, most wahoo are between 3.3 and 5.4 feet long when caught.
Scientists have not yet conducted a comprehensive assessment of wahoo in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In lieu of a formal assessment, managers base management measures on historical harvests from fisheries in this area. More information is needed on this species' population structure and abundance.
Scientists assume wahoo populations are stable because the species is highly productive and widely distributed throughout tropical/subtropical oceans.
In the Atlantic, commercial fishermen harvest wahoo with hook-and-line gear, including handlines and longlines. Longline fishermen targeting other fish that live near the surface, such as tunas, incidentally catch and harvest wahoo.
Hook-and-line gear has minimal impact on bottom habitat because it doesn’t contact the ocean floor, but longlines can incidentally catch sea turtles, marine mammals, and other species. Longline fishermen follow numerous measures to prevent sea turtle bycatch and protect other species. For example, longline fishermen must use specific hooks and bait and follow safe handling and release guidelines to reduce impacts on sea turtles and are prohibited from fishing in certain areas to protect species such as billfish. See the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species sea turtle bycatch mitigation measures for more details .
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils). Separate state regulations also apply, particularly in Florida, although most wahoo are caught in federal waters. The Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils are responsible for U.S. fisheries for wahoo in the Pacific.
- Fishermen and dealers must have the appropriate permits to harvest and sell wahoo.
- Commercial fishermen may only harvest 500 pounds of wahoo per fishing trip.
Gulf of Mexico: No management measures apply to wahoo in the Gulf of Mexico.
About 90 percent of the U.S. harvest of wahoo comes from the Pacific, mainly Hawaii. In the Atlantic and Gulf, the first recorded commercial harvest of wahoo was caught off Florida in 1974 and totaled 1,000 pounds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, harvests ranged between 160,000 and 370,000 pounds. Commercial harvests have since decreased and were 63,637 pounds in 2012. The majority of this came from Florida and North Carolina.
While Hawaii supplies the majority of wahoo in the U.S. market, commercial harvests in the Atlantic and Gulf were worth $328,523 in 2012.
Recreational fishermen love to fish for wahoo. In fact, the fishery for wahoo in the Atlantic and Gulf has historically been recreational. Recreational landings have ranged between 300,000 and 2 million pounds since 1981. In 2012, recreational landings in the Atlantic and Gulf totaled 1.36 million pounds. Recreational fishermen can keep up to two wahoo per day in the Atlantic. Regulations prohibit the sale of recreational catch without commercial permits.
Wahoo are a lean, mild-tasting fish. Their meat is firm with a large, circular flake. A close relative of king mackerel, wahoo’s meat is lighter in color and has less of the red muscle meat than mackerel. Wahoo’s pale pink meat turns white when cooked.
Wahoo is an excellent source of low-fat protein.
|Serving Weight||100 g (raw)|
|Fat, total||9.36 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||2.444 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Atlantic Wahoo Table of Nutrition