The fall wahoo fishing off North Carolina compares to anywhere in the world. Citation size for wahoo begins at 40 pounds, and many citation wahoo are caught here — a few approaching or exceeding 100 pounds. It’s a longer run to productive waters from Cape Fear, but fishermen willing to make the run catch plenty of wahoo.
The movement of eddies and loops off the Gulf Stream always affects the fishing, but in the fall, the wahoo action seems to be centered over structure along the break at the edge of the Gulf Stream. Some of the better locations off Cape Fear are approximately 60 miles from several inlets, but full fish boxes make the run well worth it, and fall usually has an abundance of days with good sea conditions.
The Steeples are the best-known structures off Cape Fear. It is a unique area with scores of rocky columns rising from the bottom. On a good sonar unit, these columns look much like church steeples, hence the name. The Steeples are on the upper edge of the break, approximately 20 miles southeast of Frying Pan Tower. Maps Unique (www.mapsunique.com) gives 33.14.99N/ 077.16.00W and 33.13.57N/077.16.07W as points on the inshore and offshore sides, respectively.
This is the edge of the Continental Shelf, and the drop is quick. The depth increases from approximately 45 fathoms on the nearshore edge to roughly 60 fathoms on the offshore side. This much change in the ocean floor creates a deflection for the Gulf Stream and often pushes baitfish to the surface. Wahoo, plus some blackfin tuna and occasional late dolphin and sailfish, know this and come to the area to feed. Sometimes, the disrupted currents carry bait to the surface immediately overhead, and sometimes it moves north or south as the Gulf Stream interacts and deflects off other currents and lower relief structure.
The Same Ole is a popular location a few miles north of the Steeples, while the 100/400 and Blackjack Hole are popular locations to the south. All hold good numbers of wahoo at times. Fishermen should look for any sign of something that looks fishy or simply different. Bait is always a good sign, and weed or grass lines, rips, temperature breaks and color changes will all hold fish.
Joe Seegers, a long-time offshore captain, no longer charters, but he enjoys the wahoo bite off Cape Fear each fall with friends. He said wahoo like darker colors: red, purple, black and combinations of them. However, he always has at least one lure in the spread that is either blue/white or blue/crystal. Wire leaders are a must, as wahoo have razor-sharp teeth, and fluoro or mono leaders are prone to being bitten in two.