GREAT BARRACUDA (Sphyraena barracuda) OTHER NAMES: Cuda, Sea Pike, Picuda
RANGE: Florida coasts, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
HABITAT: The Barracuda is at home almost anywhere in South Florida and the tropical islandsÐfrom shorelines and bays out to blue water. Although most fish in the shallows are small, it still is possible to connect with a 15- or 20-pounderÐ perhaps even a larger oneÐon the flats, or from shore. In Central and North FloridaÐboth Atlantic and GulfÐthe Great Barracuda is seldom seen inshore, but is common offshore on wrecks and artificial reefs.
DESCRIPTION: Greenish or grayish above, with silvery sides marked by numerous dark blotches. Tall widely forked with pointed lobes. Two other members of the cuda family might be encountered. The fairly uncommon Southern Sennet, Sphyraena picudilla, grows to about 18 inches, but looks very similar to the bigger Cuda and is usually found in schools. The Guaguanche, Sphyraena guachancho, is much like the Sennet in size, shape and rarity. It can be distinguished by a yellow or gold mid-body stripe.
SIZE: The Great Barracuda ranges from foot-long juveniles on shallow flats to 50 pounds or more offshore. Usual maximum is around 30 pounds, with the average being 5-15 pounds. World record 85 pounds; Florida record 67 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent up to 5 pounds or so. Larger fish sometimes carry Ciguatera (see Introduction).
GAME QUALITIES: On appropriate tackle, the Great Barracuda is one of our most spectacular and able fighters, frequently mixing fast and fairly long runs with greyhounding jumps. In deeper water, such as over the reefs, it can also fight with strength and stamina.
TACKLE AND BAITS: For inshore fishing on the flats and along shorelines, spinning and baitcasting tackle are ideal, and fly tackle will also take plenty of Cuda. The best artificial bait for Barracuda is a tube lure, made from a foot or 18 inches of plastic tubing with wire through the middle and a hook on the end. Fly casters can make or buy similar lures of braided textile materials. Over reefs and wrecks, casting tackle is still a good choice, with light saltwater gear also capable of providing good sport. Live fish make the very best natural baits. The Barracuda also attacks rigged natural baits, such as Ballyhoo, with great pleasure.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing; Trolling.