Other than sharks, probably the most fearsome predatory fish that swims in the Atlantic Ocean is the Great Barracuda. These fish can grow over seven feet long and have razor sharp teeth capable of ripping human flesh to the bone.
Fortunately, these ferocious fish prefer to feed on smaller fish like mullet, ballyhoo, or grunts. Most barracuda attacks on people are cases of mistaken identity. The cuda mistook that silver Rolex watch on the swimmer’s wrist as a fleeing fish. Smart people don’t wear flashy objects or jewelry into the water.
Great Barracuda are found in the depths of the Gulf Stream, over shallow reefs, around shipwrecks, and throughout the back country creeks and bays. They are a good sport fish for kayak fishermen to target because they can be found in so many different environments. Though they may be found in schools in the ocean, Great Barracuda are predominately lone predators.
Both live and artificial baits can be used to catch barracuda. Large swimming plugs, surgical tube eels, and large plastic enhanced jigs will all catch these toothy denizens but I prefer live baiting them. In the deep, a short wire leader with a Goggle-Eyed Scad or Blue Runner swimming on a 3/0 – 5/0 hook is a good Barracuda bait. In shallow reef and back country waters, I use an empty twelve ounce Coca Cola plastic bottle for a homemade bobber to keep the bait (a pinfish or small grunt) out of the bottom.
Recently, the catch limits on Atlantic Barracuda in South Florida were wisely reduced to two fish per person per day or six cudas per boat. This is a most sensible way to protect the resource and the sport fishery that targets barracuda. Smaller barracudas (2 feet long or less) are good to eat seasoned and grilled but larger ones may carry Ciguatera poisoning due to toxins accumulating in their flesh from their own consumption of algae eating parrotfish.
The large cuda in the photo was caught on a kayak combo trip that included free mothership transport to the Gulf Stream. That day, we also caught a small shark, jacks, porgies, legal tilefish, and dozens of good eating grunts. Definitely, the four foot barracuda provided the fight and thrill of the day. After a battle on light line, the fish was too winded to be released. That predator provided dinner for the heron and pelicans at my dock, the head will become Stone Crab bait, and the fillets are fine shark bait for another adventure. Nothing goes to waste.
And, the picture will live on to encourage more people to experience the joy of fishing.
Fish and be happy…