DescriptionThe body is elongated and covered with small, scarcely visible scales; the back is an iridescent blue, while the sides are silvery, with a pattern of irregular vertical blue bars and have razor sharp teeth.These colors fade rapidly at death. The mouth is large, and both the upper and lower jaws have a somewhat sharper appearance than those of king or Spanish mackerel. Specimens have been recorded at up to 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) in length, and weighing up to 83 kilograms (180 lb). Growth can be rapid. One specimen tagged at 5 kilograms (11 lb) grew to 15 kg (33 lb) in one year. Wahoo can swim up to 60 mph (97 km/h). They are some of the fastest fish in the sea.
The wahoo may be distinguished from the related Atlantic king mackerel and from the Indo-Pacific Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel by a fold of skin which covers the mandible when its mouth is closed. In contrast, the mandible of the king mackerel is always visible as is also the case for the smaller Spanish mackerel and Cero mackerel. The teeth of the wahoo are similar to those of king mackerel, but shorter and more closely set together.
The barracuda is sometimes confused with mackerel and wahoo, but is easy to distinguish from the latter two species. Barracuda have prominent scales, larger, dagger-like teeth, and lack the caudal keels and blade-like tail characteristic of the scombrid (mackerel)
BiologyWahoo tend to be solitary or occur in loose-knit groups of two or three fish, but where conditions are suitable can be found in schools as large as 100 or more. Their diet is made up of other fish and squid.
Most wahoo taken have a trematode parasite living in their stomach, the giant stomach worm (Hirudinella ventricosa), which does not appear to harm the fish.
Commercial and sports fisheriesThe flesh of the wahoo is white to grey, delicate to dense, and highly regarded by many gourmets; indeed the Hawai'ian name for the fish, Ono, is also the Hawai'ian word for "tasty" or "delicious". The taste is similar to mackeral, though arguably less pronounced. This has created some demand for the wahoo as a premium priced commercial food fish. In many areas of its range, such as Hawaii, Bermuda and many parts of the Caribbean, local demand for wahoo is met by artisanal commercial fishermen, who take them primarily by trawling, as well as by recreational sports fishermen who sell their catch.
Although local wahoo populations can be affected by heavy commercial and sports fishing pressure, wahoo as a species are less susceptible to industrial commercial fishing than more tightly schooling and abundant species such as tuna. Wahoo are regularly taken as a by-catch in various commercial fisheries, including longline fisheries for tuna, billfish and dolphinfish (a.k.a. mahi-mahi or dorado) and in tuna purse seine fisheries, especially in sets made around floating objects, which act as a focal point for a great deal of other marine life besides tuna. In 2003, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council issued a Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic. However, the species as a whole is not considered overfished.
In most parts of its range, the wahoo is a highly prized sport fishing catch. It reaches a good size, is often available not too far from land, and is a very good fighter on light to medium tackle. It is known in sports fishing circles for the speed and strength of its first run. The aggressive habits and razor-sharp teeth of the wahoo can be of considerable annoyance when targeting larger gamefish, however, such as tuna or marlin.