(Walbaum, 1792); SPHYRAENIDAE FAMILY; also called cuda, sea pike, giant
Occurs in all tropical seas except the East Pacific. Found offshore and
inshore around reefs, piers, wrecks, sandy and grassy flats, and wherever
smaller fish congregate. Smaller barracudas sometimes school, but the large
ones are almost invariably loners.
The first dorsal fin has 5 spines; the second, 10 soft rays. The first
rays of the second dorsal and anal fins reach to or beyond the tips of
the last rays when the fins are depressed. There are 75 90 scales along
the lateral line. The preopercle is rounded. The maxilla extends back as
far as the eyes. The adult great barracuda has irregular black blotches
on the lower flanks, especially near the tail. It is the only species of
barracuda that has blotches.
The barracuda eats whatever is available. Its habit
along” with divers while opening and closing its mouth has given
more than one diver the faith to walk on water; nevertheless, barracudas
do not usually attack unless speared or provoked. The barracuda should
be regarded as dangerous because of its ability to inflict serious injury,
in or out of water.
Fishing methods include trolling with plugs, spoons, and prepared baits;
live bait fishing with small fishes; casting and retrieving live and strip
baits as well as plugs and spoons. The cast should not land too near the
barracuda, but should be retrieved past it at a fast, erratic speed.
The great barracuda leads a list of tropical marine fishes suspected of
causing ciguatera poisoning when eaten. The poison is caused by a microscopic
plant (a dinoflagellate organism) eaten by smaller fishes and passed on
in the food chain. The toxin can only be detected in laboratory tests