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Fishing with Mike O’Brien… In Praise Of Barracuda, Great

Barracuda, great, Sphyraena barracuda, occur in all tropical seas, except the East Pacific, and are known by the common names of cuda, sea pike, and giant sea pike. They are quite common from Florida to Brazil. There are also Guinean, Mexican, and Pacific barracuda. Great barracuda are one of the largest of the barracudas and

Barracuda, great, Sphyraena barracuda, occur in all tropical seas, except the East Pacific, and are known by the common names of cuda, sea pike, and giant sea pike. They are quite common from Florida to Brazil. There are also Guinean, Mexican, and Pacific barracuda.

Great barracuda are one of the largest of the barracudas and are found inshore around reefs, piers, wrecks, sandy and grassy flats, and wherever smaller fish congregate. A barracuda’s preferred diet is basically what is available. They are also found offshore. Smaller barracuda are known to school, but large cuda are almost always loners.

The great barracuda is a long, slim-bodied fish with a pointed head. The body color is dull to bright silver with the sides marked with irregular dark blotches, especially on adults. It is the only barracuda species that has blotches. The belly is white. The barracuda’s jaws are studded with large, pointed teeth that give the fish a menacing look and make them an efficient predator. Great care must be exercised when landing and unhooking these fish. Handle with extreme care!

Barracuda are aggressive, carnivorous fish that seems to eat anything and everything that is available. They are known to attack flashy objects or anything surface-disturbing that appears as prey. They have incredible bursts of speed. It is often said that you may see a barracuda coming for a lure or fly, but you’ll never actually see the strike. It just happens too fast.

Fishing methods include using small live bait, trolling with spoons, plugs, and prepared baits, and casting and retrieving live or strip baits, plugs, and spoons. Flies can imitate prevailing baitfish or something flashy. Casts are made randomly, or one might choose to sight fish by searching for cuda along mangrove patches or in light colored holes in grass.

Although known for their aggressive nature, barracuda at times can be quite shy and difficult to hook. Curious cuda are known to follow a lure for a considerable distance only to leave the scene without striking. The speed of retrieve is of the utmost importance — lures or flies call for a rapid, erratic retrieve. You can’t retrieve too fast. If a cuda wants it, it will catch it! Wire bite tippets (leaders) are necessary to protect the line from the razor-sharp teeth.

They are spectacular gamefish. Once hooked, barracuda typically make incredible runs complete with aerial displays.

Great barracuda are suspected of causing ciguatera poisoning when eaten. It is not worth the risk of ingesting this toxin. Anglers most often practice catch-and-release.

Mike O'Brien
CONTRIBUTOR
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