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It’s ono season in Hawaii

By Staff | Jun 16, 2016

The Reel Luckey in March 2014 brought in a new Lahaina Harbor record ono, weighing in at 90.2 pounds by George Austin. He was fishing with Capt. Tad Luckey, deckman Brian Edmisson and fishing partner Tom Benedetti. PHOTO BY DONNELL TATE.

Wahoo, better known in Hawaiian waters as ono, are the biggest, fastest and meanest mackerel in America. It can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour in short bursts, allowing quick capture of prey species.

What exactly is a wahoo? It is a unique member of the tuna family called Scombridae; a “tribe” line of the tunas and mackerels called seerfish. That tribe contains the 18 species of Scomberomorus (king and Spanish mackerels) around the world, with the unique wahoo in its only species, Acanthocybium solandri.

Even the names, both common and scientific, are interesting. In 1769, the crew on James Cook’s Endeavour, north of Tahiti, caught the first of these speedsters to be recorded in the Western world. It was scientifically named (Solandri) to honor the great Swedish scientist on board the Endeavour, Dr. D.C. Solander.

The name “wahoo” logically dates from the early whalers and missionary settlers seeing and utilizing the fine edible species in the Hawaiian Islands. Then and now, Oahu, which they pronounced and sometimes spelled Wahoo, was an important base. The Hawaiians had long recognized the quality of wahoo with their name “ono,”meaning delicious.

Ono grow fast, attaining a length of three-and-a-half feet the first year. Two- and three-year-olds are five feet long. The maximum reported size for the ono is 98 inches (over eight feet) total length, with a maximum weight of 184 pounds. This is the current IGFA all-tackle record held by a junior class woman at 184 pounds, on 80-pound test, from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

The Hawaii state record is 133 pounds, 3 ounces off Pohoiki, Hawaii. The Lahaina Harbor record is a 90.2-pound ono that was 69 inches long.

Typically, individuals attain a size of 39 to 66 inches. After reaching a length of 38 to 41 inches, individuals grow at a rate of 1.2 to 1.5 inches per month. Latitude appears to influence size, with average weight increasing with distance from the equator, apparently correlated to cooler temperatures.

Wahoo are sexually mature at one to two years of age; they usually live to about six years of age, but they can live longer. Wahoo start breeding at one year old. Female wahoo are very fertile, averaging approximately 40,000 mature eggs per two pounds of body weight. Females can produce up to 60 million eggs during spawning. The larvae are pelagic and prefer shallower water less than 300 feet or so. Babies are two-thirds fish and one-third alligator.

Wahoo spawn year-round in tropical waters and during the summer in higher latitudes, including Hawaii, when sea surface temperatures are over 75 degrees. Individual wahoo spawn multiple times throughout the spawning season.

The condition and abundance of wahoo appear to be related to a simple annual reproductive cycle. The condition of wahoo is highest in May before the spawning season and declines through the spawning season, reaching a minimum in July-August. Catch peaks in summer, during the spawning season, suggesting that ono may gather near the islands to spawn.