Warm waters have brought exotic fish to the Californian coast, and one angler surprised his entire party when he reeled in a 50.1-pound wahoo over the weekend. Normally, a wahoo of this size would not draw many second glances, but the location where it was caught might. Eric Kim landed the fish just 12 miles from California’s Dana Point while fishing on Captain George Garrett’s 35-foot Cabo Joker. The fishing trip was to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of the ship’s co-owner’s sons, and Kim was invited along. Garret told OutdoorHub that the party had a successful morning when Kim’s Rapala lure caught something other than tuna.

“We had a real good tuna morning and then around 11:30 we were trolling tuna spots when we got a strike,” Garrett said. “We thought it was a mahi-mahi at first but it didn’t jump like a mahi-mahi would. I looked over at Eric and he said it might be a marlin.”

At the time, none of the crew expected that it was a lost wahoo way out of its traditional range.

Eric Kim stands next to his one-of-a-kind wahoo.
Eric Kim stands next to his one-of-a-kind wahoo.

“Ten minutes later Eric was reeling the fish in, and it was about 150 feet away when I looked down and said ‘It’s a wahoo!’ Everybody just looked at me and said ‘What?’” Garrett recalled. “A wahoo is really special because I’ve been fishing this coast since I was a kid and I knew a wahoo has never been caught in California waters.”

Wahoo, one of the world’s fastest fish, are generally found in tropical or subtropical waters. On the West Coast they can be found as far north as southern Baja California, but almost never in California waters. As a result, there have been no documented catches of a wild wahoo by anglers on the West Coast—until now.

“From that point it took about five minutes for Eric to get the wahoo into the boat,” Garrett continued. “I positioned the boat as I would a marlin, where the boat goes forward and the angler pulls the fish in with very little problem. We later took a picture of it and we asked ourselves, ‘Is this real?’”

Amy Elliot of the Blaboa Angling Club, who took the pictures of the fish at the weigh-in, certainly believes so. She told OutdoorHub over the phone that nobody in the club has ever heard of a wahoo being landed in California. Garrett says that Kim later got a call from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego asking for a muscle sample from the fish.

“And there’s no state record for wahoo in California,” he added.

That may soon change. As Kim’s catch is believed to be the first and only wahoo catch in the state, Garrett made sure to follow proper protocol in case the fish was eligible for a state record. That meant weighing the fish on a certified scale, having at least two witnesses at the time of the catch, and filling out the form standardized by the International Game Fish Association for record and unusual fish.

“It’s really a catch that Eric fully appreciates because he does a ton of fishing and he’s been on long-range trips where he had a chance to catch wahoo in Mexican waters, but he never got one,” Garrett said.

Images courtesy Amy Elliot/Balboa Angling club

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