Fishermen and divers, landlubbers and old salts tell many legends and stories about barracuda. Some are true, but most are a little truth with lots of embellishment. Even some reputable writers have spread the terrors of the "toothy menace" in the last few years with headlines like "Barracuda Attacks Woman" or "Man Brutally Mauled by Deadly Barracuda". Needless to say, when the truth finally came out, the barracuda was innocent of unprovoked attack and was only chasing a fish for his dinner when the human got in the way. Certainly the great barracuda has a mouthful of menacing-looking teeth with large canines in the front and razor sharp slicing teeth further back in a very large mouth. The eyes are extremely large because they are primarily sight feeders, and when you are swimming or diving they will follow you through the water just to see what you are doing. They always remind me of a cat, so curious that they will sometimes horn in on what you are doing on the bottom to the point of occasionally being a nuisance. If you are feeding small fish, you might suddenly see a silver streak and all the fish you had around you disappear. Intentionally feeding barracuda is something best left to the "professionals" (spelled crazies) that do it for tourist shows. You really can't be sure that the aim of the barracuda won't be off just enough to take your fingertip along with the bait that you are holding for him. The barracuda is certainly one of the top predators on the reef when they reach adult size. They are commonly caught in our area of the Gulf from 30 to 60 pounds and that size fish has a mouthful of teeth that can pretty much take on anything living on the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fishing for cuda
During the summer we commonly see large schools of smaller fish from 2 to 3 feet long around the artificial reefs and they are great fun to catch on light tackle. Frequently they will spend almost as much time in the air as in the water when they are hooked. As for the tactics you use to catch barracuda, it changes slightly as the summer progresses. During late spring and early summer when the barracuda have just arrived in the area, they will bite almost anything shiny that you pull through the water very fast. You can use spoons, plugs, or even tube lures as long as you troll them over 7 knots. As the summer progresses, it seems the cuda wise up and are no longer interested in hardware. The best bait then is a Spanish mackerel rigged with several hooks. It seems the cuda just can not turn down a mackerel dinner. They have good taste in seafood. As to the subject of taste, barracuda are delicious. Most of the ones we get we catch and release since most people are scared of Ciguatera poisoning. I have never heard of a case of it in our area, and over the last 30 years I have eaten a lot of barracuda, but since they are so much fun to catch I'm happy to release them for my customers. While bottom fishing for grouper or snapper during the summer we frequently bring up only a head and generally if that is put back in the water we can tease the cuda around the boat for quite a show. As for the grouper and snapper fishing it can get tough to continue if several barracuda are attracted to your fish. They will generally take up a station right under your boat in the shade and wait for you to wind a juicy grouper or snapper right up to them. Once it gets to that point, you might as well pull the anchor and find another spot. You just can't reel fast enough to get your fish away from a hungry cuda.
Wolf of the sea
Barracuda mounts are some of the most impressive art that you can hang on the wall of your den or office. They always get oohs and aahs from visitors and you can relate your own cuda story about how hard you had to fish to get him. Of course the taxidermist can make your mount without having to kill the fish, but your guests don't need to know that and you can become one of the 'old salts' that help to perpetuate the legend of the "wolf of the sea".