Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri)

The wahoo is a popular gamefish and a close relative of the king mackerel. It is reputedly one of the fastest fish in the sea, attaining speeds of 50 miles per hour and more.

Other Names

barracuda, oahu fish, ocean barracuda, Pacific kingfish, pride of Bermuda, queenfish, tigerfish; Arabic: kanaad znjebari; Creole: bécune grosse race, kin fis, thazard raité; French: paere; Hawaiian: ono; Japanese: kamasusawara; Portuguese: cavala gigante, cavala-da-India, cavala empinge; Spanish: guacho, peto, sierra; Tuvaluan: tepala.

Identification

A long, slender, cigar-shaped mackerel with a sharply pointed head and a widely forked tail, the wahoo is a brilliant or dark blue color along its back. It has 25 to 30 bright or dusky blue vertical bands, or "tiger stripes", that extend down the bright silver to silvery gray sides and sometimes join into pairs below.

Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri)
Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri)

A distinguishing feature is the movable upper jaw, which has 45 to 64 teeth, of which 32 to 50 are on the lower jaw; these teeth are large, strong, and laterally compressed. The gill structure resembles that of the marlin, but it lacks the characteristic gill rakers of the latter fish.

The lateral line is well defined and drops significantly at the middle of the first dorsal fin and extends in a wavy line back to the tail. The first dorsal fin is long and low and has 21 to 27 spines. It is separated from the second dorsal fin, which has 13 to 15 rays; the anal fin has 12 to 14 very small rays. There are a series of 9 dorsal finlets, both above and below the caudal peduncle.

Size

The wahoo grows so rapidly that both sexes reach sexual maturity during the first year of life. They average 10 to 30 pounds, and 4- to 5-foot lengths are common. The maximum size is 7 feet and more than 180 pounds. The alltackle world record is a 158-pound, 8-ounce fish taken off Baja California, Mexico, in 1996.

Food

Wahoo feed on such pelagic species as porcupinefish, flyingfish, herring, pilchards, scad, lanternfish, and small mackerel and tuna, as well as on squid.

Distribution

In North America, wahoo occur in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Seasonal concentrations exist off the Pacific coasts of Panama, Costa Rica, and Baja California; off Grand Cayman Island; and near the western Bahamas and Bermuda.

Habitat

An oceanic species, wahoo are pelagic and seasonally migratory. They are frequently solitary or form small, loose groupings of two to seven fish. They associate around banks, pinnacles, and even flotsam and are occasionally found around wrecks and deeper reefs, where smaller fish are abundant.
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