Island Genn’s Smoked Wahoo Salad

I have been making tuna salad for years, and I love it, but after making this wahoo salad, I may never eat tuna salad again! The wahoo salad is so flavorful.  Freshly smoked fish will beat the taste of canned fish anytime! 

For those of you worried about smoking fish, don’t be! The first time I smoked fish at home I was not very confident. But, while it sounds intimidating, it is as easy as grilling. The hardest part is just keeping the charcoal grill temperature stable. 

What is wahoo?

Wahoo, also known as Ono on the West coast, are found in tropical waters around the world. They are steel blue in color and have blackish-blue vertical stripes on their sides. They also have big mouths filled with razor sharp, serrated teeth. Theses fish can grow up to eight feet long!

Wahoo is a great source of food. Their flesh is firm and has a mild flavor to it. Best of all, these fish are very prolific. At about one year old, these fish can reproduce. They spawn several times per year, releasing up to 45 million eggs! 



2 – 4 wahoo fillets, skin on
4 cups water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 T of your favorite seafood seasoning such as Old Bay
1/2 T dried dill
1/2 – 1 C good Mayonnaise like Hellman’s or Duke’s 
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 C sweet pickle relish


  1. Combine water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add fish. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but I recommend overnight for the best flavor. 
  2. Take fish out of brine and place skin side down on a baking tray lined with paper towel. Place back in refrigerator for about an hour so that they can air dry slightly. Discard brine.
  3. Heat charcoal grill to 200 – 250 degrees, piling coals on 1 side to set up direct and indirect heat zones.
  4. Add apple wood chips to grill if desired. This is not necessary, but it will add a deeper flavor to the fish. Some people recommend soaking the wood chips in water for an hour first, but I have found that it makes no difference in the outcome if I soak them or not.
  5. Once the temperature is stable and smoke develops, place fish on the indirect heat zone of the grill. 
  6. Depending on the size of the fillets, smoke time can range anywhere from 15-60 minutes. When the fish starts to separate slightly, the fish should be cooked through and you can remove from the grill and cool. If you smoke too long it will get dried out. But do not worry, as it will still taste good in the salad. 
  7. Once the fish is cooled, remove the skin and discard. Place fish in a bowl and break it up into tiny pieces with a fork or your hands. At this point, I usually put the fish in an airtight container and make the dip the next day. But, as long as it is cooled, you can go ahead make the dip.
  8. Add remaining ingredients to the fish and stir thoroughly.
  9. Enjoy with crackers! Hint – it tastes even better the next day, so you can refrigerate it in an airtight container. But, you will probably like it so much, it won’t make it till the next day!

Booking A Charter for Wahoo

Many people come to Key West specifically to fish our offshore waters. Wahoo can potentially be caught year round here in the waters off of Key West. However, the days immediately surrounding the new and full moons are best for wahoo. Anglers can fish for Wahoo along with other species on a  Deep Sea Fishing Charter

Catch and release of the fish is always encouraged if the fish are not wanted. Some people want to bring the fish home with them, and there is an option to do that. But, most people end up keeping just a few fish to enjoy while on the island. Those staying in vacation rentals can prepare the fish for themselves should they wish to. But, for those that don’t want to cook on vacation (I don’t blame you there), or for those staying at a hotel without kitchen facilities, the fish can be taken to one of the many local restaurants here that will cook your catch for you. 

More About Key West

See what is happening on the island during your visit by checking out our Key West Events Calendar. And, for other things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

But, before making your reservations for dinner while in Key West check out our restaurant reviews! I am sure that Fish Tacos won’t be on your list for every night of the week! Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

About the author: Island Genn

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