The Ultimate Teasers, A story from South Africa - By Basie Ackermann

The boat threw a silver spray as we sped across the glassy ocean. The sun was about to rise on this beautiful Monday morning in May. A light offshore was blowing and we were on our way to the Aliwal Shoal, 5km off the Southern Kwazulu Natal coast. It lies in 30m of water and comes up to 4m on the Pinnacles.Basie Ackermann and friends

As this is our local reef, we knew the conditions looked promising for Wahoo. Even though we do get them all year round in the right conditions, May is definitely the best month for them. And for some potential record sizes, too. Over the years I’ve spotted fish in excess of 50kg’s, and landed a lot in the 25-35kg range. The day before friends of mine saw and chased all sizes in perfect conditions, but had to be satisfied with a couple of ‘cuda’ (Spanish Mackerel) in the end. The Wahoo played the teasing game.

We were optimistic when we arrived, as the visibility appeared to be 12-15m, although a bit green. Emil, another friend of mine, was already in the water as he had launched before us, and was already onto a 12kg specimen. We quickly allocated top man duties and bailed in. The water was a bit dark so early in the morning, and filled with particles, but looking good. I’d just unrolled my flashers and was busy loading my gun, when I saw a small one under the surface within range. I took aim hastily, and still being a bit unprepared, shot high and skimmed it’s back. Great start, I thought, but appeased myself with the fact that since I had already seen one in the first 2 minutes of the dive, they had to be full up. Then nothing for the next 15minutes, and I thought it strange. I’d seen no bait fish either. They always hung up current of the reef. I looked up at the landmarks, and realized to my disappointment that the current had swung since the day before and was light reverse, running south north instead of north south, the current most productive for these fish on this reef.

We got back on the boat, and Steve and Tim confirmed also seeing Wahoo as they jumped in, but nothing thereafter. I decided to try a drift south and outside of Cathedral, where the reef turns a bit inshore.  It is the only area that works in a reverse current, but it is second prize. There was a lot more bait fish activity, but not a sign of a game fish.

Muttering that this was just our luck, we headed away from the Aliwal to try 19 Fathoms, some 4km’s south and out to sea. There the current was strong north south, but a couple of drifts later Alistair and I were the only ones with a 4kg Dorado (Dolphin Fish) and a  6kg cuda respectively on board. By this time the north east was starting to puff lightly, so we decided to go back to Aliwal again, in case the current had swung back to north south.

Upon our arrival we saw another boat there, with Wayne and his dad Brent diving and he told us that Brent had just lost one of the biggest Wahoo he’d ever seen. So up rushed the adrenaline once again, and over we went. I noticed the current had swung slightly and was coming straight onshore, which in itself was an improvement. There was also a little bit more bait fish activity. We did a half hour drift, with only Tim seeing one Wahoo in the distance. On the next drift though you could already see the improvement. The fish life had doubled and the bait fish started appearing in clouds on the edge of the reef. Fusiliers, Mackerel and Garfish everywhere, with Old Woman, Batfish and Spadefish in between. The whole outside edge had transformed into an aquarium.

It wasn’t long before I spotted a nice Wahoo coming in on my flashers. I knew Alistair was to my left, but couldn’t see him or his flashers. I let it come closer before I sank down on it. I was about to pull the trigger when I saw Alistair shoot at the same fish. He had a good shot, in the last third of the body where there is a lot of muscle and sinew. That Wahoo nearly got shot simultaneously from two sides. That would have been one for the books!  

He landed the fish and we went back up current. Everyone else had also seen Wahoo, but not one trigger had been pulled. The Wahoo all stayed just out of range, teasing us and laughing at us I’m sure, if fish could laugh. The hunting started in earnest, and so did the teasing. We tried all the previously successful tricks in the book, but no such luck. If fish had hair, we were dealing with the brunettes. This pattern repeated itself for 5 hours of diving, with only Alistair managing to land another one. It came straight in on his flasher, so it must have been the only blond Wahoo there that day.  

Lots of excitement all round though, as Steve reported that he had just lost one of over 40kg’s. He saw a smaller one first, and as was the song for the day, couldn’t get close to it, when he looked down and saw this bus swimming underneath him, slowly moving out of range. Had he seen it first, he could’ve gotten a good holding shot, but as he saw it too late, his shot was long and so he subsequently lost it. 

Ten minutes before that he saw a big Sailfish, which was also not interested in offering him a decent target. He was rather miffed, as he has not yet managed to shoot a Sailfish, and he has been diving for over 20 years. They kept on eluding him. And it was about to happen again.

He had just swum over to me to tell me that he had seen a wall of Wahoo, but they parted like the sea around Moses. He told me he was top man next, and was going back to the boat, drifting about 50m away. It hadn’t been 2 minutes after he’d left me, that I saw movement to my left. There they were – two Sailfish of approximately 20 and 30kg’s, coming to look at my flashers. As I had been fortunate enough to have shot quite a few bigger ones in the past, I immediately shouted for Steve to get back here. This was his chance – they were slowly circling me. I shouted again, and looked up to see him climbing onto the boat, blissfully unaware! No chance of him getting his first Sailfish today. I slowly kept on swimming, and they stayed with me. I then saw Wayne’s flashers about 15m ahead of me, and swam towards them, trying to get his attention. I wasn’t sure if he had shot one before, and if not, this was a golden opportunity. About 10m away the two Sailfish saw his flashers and bolted over to him. He sank down and shot the bigger of the two. Sorry for you once again, Steve!!

In the meantime Alistair had landed another cuda, and as it was getting late and the Wahoo were definitely winning this session, we decided to head on home.

Not a bad day after all, but the usual story applies – if we could have landed everything we saw and shot at, it would have been a bumper day. But that is what makes hunting Wahoo so special, and why they are my favourite fish to hunt. They are wise and cunning, and it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, they always present a worthy challenge, and make for exciting diving. And the Aliwal Shoal in May is the perfect arena.