|Barracuda, any of 18 species of long, slender, predaceous
marine fish with small scales, a large mouth with a sharp set of fangs, and a protruding
lower jaw. The tail fin is forked, and the two dorsal fins are widely separated. Barracuda
are found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans
(In Hawaii, the barracuda is also called kaku). The barracuda's reputation for being a
voracious and fierce hunter is well founded. Plankton-feeding fish, such as groupers,
grunts snapper, bream and even young barracudas arc among its victims. The barracuda
generally attacks swiftly, charging at its prey at great speed and taking a large snapping
bite with its powerful jaws. The barracuda uses its acute eyesight to hunt, and will
usually move quickly towards any bright light or sudden movement that might indicate the
presence of prey. In murky water, it tends to attack an object even before identifying it.
When several barracudas hunt in a group they will often herd their prey together into a
dense shoal, forcing the fish towards shallow water. They can then successfully feed on a
greater number of fish. The flesh of some of We coral reef fish that the great barracuda
eats is poisonous and so the barracuda's flesh becomes poisonous too. This may explain why
barracudas in some areas are poisonous, while those from elsewhere are perfectly safe to
eat. Smaller species swim in schools, but larger species are solitary. Although barracuda
attacks on humans are rare, they are feared by swimmers in some places. Evidence shows
that the barracuda can be dangerous to humans when provoked, being attracted to erratic
movement (swimmers have been fatally bitten by them) and bright colors. Overall, however,
the low number of alleged attacks does not completely support its dangerous reputation.
Look into water, see the barracuda
Patient as the devil
Like a shadow in the water
dagger of the devil
waiting to kill
Little girl beware, of killer barracuda
He rules these waters like a king
He'll cut your heart out slicker than a dagger
Not 'cause he's hungry 'cause he's mean
You can see the shark now
glidin' through the water
Ugly as death.
But the pretty barracuda, don't touch no leavins
Takin' what he wants to
'cause he's king
And you can't scare him or entice him
He won't move for the devil, 'til his own time
Then quicker than heartbeat
he'll turn you away girl just to
see you fall, and leave you dyin'
Little girl beware of the killer barracuda
He rules these waters like a king
He'll cut your heart out slicker than a dagger
Not 'cause he's hungry
'cause he's mean
- The world record weight is 85 lbs. captured at Christmas
Island, Republic of Kiribati, 1992.
- Barracudas can be found in huge schools of several
- The nature, timing, and location of spawning in the Great
Barracudas has never been documented.
- Great Barracudas do not care for their young.
- Barracudas mature around two years of age.
- Humans have not derived a way to tell a male Barracuda
from a female.
- Noone knows for sure how old Barracudas can live to be,
but research shows that they can live to be fourteen years of age.
- Barracudas have two completely separate dorsal fins.
- Barracudas are generally hunted for gaming purposes. They
do not make good eating fish.
- Barracudas have sharp, canine-like teeth that can slice
its victims to pieces.
Barracudas are the ultimate marine predator. They are stealthy
and lighting quick. It is important as a game fish and puts up a hard fight when hooked,
making extremely fast runs and often leaping from the water, but has little stamina and
soon tires. Small individuals may be taken on light tackle fished from a boat, but the
larger fish usually stay in deeper water and are fished for by trolling with medium heavy
tackle. Despite fair quality white flaky meat, the barracuda is not held in high esteem as
a foodfish. They can be caught with cut bait, although the most productive method is a
cast lure with a fast retrieve. A wire leader is a must, because of the toothy torpedo's
ability to cut through monofilament line. A fair eating fish with firm flesh, best served
broiled or sauteed. They move onto the shallow reefs during the summer. Generally
considered a trash fish, the great barracuda is one of Florida's most frequently caught,
yet underrated offshore game fish. Barracuda are extremely curious, and will follow a boat
or diver for hundreds of yards. Barracuda possess a healthy set of teeth, so anglers
should use a wire leadger when fishing for the species. Live bait works best, but any lure
that puts out a lot of flash, such as a silver spoon, will attract a strike. Tube lures
are another good choice. Barracuda leap when hooked using live bait, and take off on
thumb-blistering runs. Barracuda are good table fare, but the larger of the species are
know to harbor cigatarra poisoning from eating reef fish, so most barracuda kept for the
table are under 30 inches in length.
Barracuda are predaceous fish of the family Sphyraenidae(All
species share the generic name Sphyraena), order Perciformes:
- S. barracuda
2m/6.5' (165 cm); 48kg/106lbs; warm waters nearly
worldwide; generally considered solitary and diurnal, but frequently occur in groups. The
largest barracuda, this species may well exceed the maximum length listed here and each
lengths of 244 cm (8 feet) or more, as at least one report from an eminently qualified
observer suggests. It is often feared more than the shark, but it rarely attacks humans.
Its reputation may be due to the fact that it has terrified divers by trailing them for
long distances. The great barracuda, unlike some of its close relatives, is not generally
considered to be a nocturnal species. There seem, however, to be interesting exceptions to
this rule as one might expect from an opportunistic predator. Solitary and grouped great
barracuda have been seen moving purposefully through the water on nights when the moon is
at or near Full Moon, possibly taking advantage of the light conditions to extend their
hunting beyond sunset. Dr James Porter, of the University of Georgia, once saw a small
school of large barracuda moving across the water above him during a lightning storm one
night near Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys, which is an extremely unusual case.
Generally great barracuda seem to rest during the night -- divers' lights can awaken them
and they usually avoid the light if it is trained on them. One should be considerate,
bearing in mind one's own probable reactions to being woken up by a blinding light being
directed into one's eyes, for the barracuda may charge the light. Dr Walter Starck, who
conducted a lengthy study of the activity of fishes at night at Alligator Reef in the
Florida Keys, recounts one instance where a great barracuda was so startled by divers'
lights that it accelerated right into a portion of the reef and was killed.
- S. jello
(125 cm) 22 lbs; Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Bay of
Bengal...also found in other parts of the Indo-Pacific; generally considered solitary and
diurnal, but most seen in Papua New Guinea were in groups. These barracuda are also
distinguished by yellow tails, a fact that made field identification problematic, at
first, because very few references mention that the species comes in a yellow-tailed
flavor in addition to the more commonly-cited gray-tailed version.
- S. afra (Guinean barracuda)
(= piscatorum) (172 cm)
- S. qenie
(115 cm) Indian Ocean, Northern Australia, Red Sea, Arabian
Sea, western Pacific; generally considered solitary and nocturnal.
- S. lucasana (47 cm)
- S. idiastes (baracuda; southern barracuda;
(53 cm) Indian Ocean, Galapagos
- S. argentea (California barracuda)
(91 cm); schooling diurnal. The California barracuda, which
is valued as a food fish, winters off Mexico. But when spawning season begins in April,
the fish moves north into more temperate waters, where the larvae feed on plankton.
- S. picudilla
46 cm/18" (40 cm); Bermuda, FL, Bahamas to Uruguay;
- S. borealis (northern sennet)
46 cm/18" (45 cm); Ranges from Bermuda to the Gulf of
Mexico; schooling diurnal
- S. viridensis
- S. sphyraena (European barracuda)
- S. guachancho (guaguanche)
60 cm/2' (60 cm); Mass & N. Gulf to Brazil, E. Atlantic
- S. ensis
(47 cm) Eastern Pacific
- S. putnamiae
(=bleekeri) (87 cm) Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific
(Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, northern Australia); schooling
- S. chrysotaenia
(= obtusata (striped barracuda; striped seapike))
(23 cm) Indian Ocean, Philippines, Red Sea, Indo-Pacific; schooling diurnal. This species
is often confused with S. flavicauda and I've been told that it may be the same
species, collected in different parts of the Indo-Pacific. S.
flavicauda (yellowtail barracuda) (320 mm) Indian Ocean, Batavia, NSW, Red Sea; schooling diurnal and nocturnal.
- S. pinguis
(=brachygnathus or langsar) (350 mm). Another
one that's similar to the two above. Field identification of these smaller barracuda
species would be a nightmare where they co-occur.
- S. forsteri
(blackspot or bigeye barracuda)
(=toxeuma)(64 cm) Indian Ocean, Marshall Islands,
Marquesas; solitary nocturnal.
- S. acutipinnis
(= africana, japonica, helleri)
(44 cm) Indian Ocean; solitary nocturnal.
- S. helleri
- S. novaehollandiae (snook; short-finned
seapike; arrow barracuda)
(50 cm) Indian Ocean, Victoria; solitary nocturnal.