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Barracuda Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Noah on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. Posted in Fish Info

Sphyraena, or Barracuda, is the only genus in the family of Sphyraenidae; and there are many Barracuda species found in tropical and subtropical oceans world-wide. These ray-finned fish are incredibly thrilling to catch because of their strength, size and fearsome appearance. In Florida, these fish are targeted by huge numbers of anglers and they are notoriously ill-tempered – which makes them more sought-after. This saltwater fish has the reputation of stealing bite sized chunks of flesh and even fingers.

Barracudas are mostly dark blue, gray or dark green along their upper bodies. Their bellies are chalky-white and their sides are silver. Some species have irregular black spots or a row of darker cross bars along their sides, so coloration varies between them. It is possible for their fins to be dusky or mildly yellow. Large swim bladders can be found in these massive fish. Some varieties grow into lengths of seven feet and measure an easy 12in in width; such as the Great Barracuda and the European Barracuda.

Small, smooth scales entirely cover extremely elongated bodies that are fairly compressed. Pike-like in appearance, Barracuda have very prominent fang-like teeth that are razor sharp. These teeth are ragged, are of different sizes and they are set into sockets within their massive jaws. Many species have a noticeable under-bite and they all have large, pointed heads. Their gills are covered with small scales and not with spines. Two widely separated dorsal fins consist of an anterior fin with five spines, and a posterior fin that has one spine and nine soft rays (which is similar in size to the anal fin and is situated above it). Extending directly from the head to the base of the tail, the lateral line is very prominent. The dorsal fin is usually retracted in a groove and can be found above the pelvic fins. The caudal fin is slightly forked and the pectoral fins sit low on each side.

Primarily inhabiting oceans, there are some species - such as the Great Barracuda - that live in brackish water. We see them throughout the State of Florida, but Miami, Islamorada and Key West are all popular places to find them. All of them are aggressive opportunistic predators. They rely on short bursts of speeds nearing 43mph to give them the element of surprise over their prey and overtake them. Barracudas are known to tear chunks of flesh from fish as big as themselves, devouring them piece by piece. Their common diet consists of fish of varying sizes and adults are usually solitary. Juveniles and youngsters prefer safety in numbers and can be found in congregations.

Some species of Barracuda are considered dangerous to humans. This is because they are scavengers and are not afraid to attack large predators or follow them for scraps. They sometimes mistake snorkelers and swimmers for this, possibly due to poor visibility. Another problem is that large Barracuda are occasionally surprised in muddy shallows, reacting aggressively as is their nature. Objects that glint or shine entice these fish to go into prey drive. This causes conflict because people love wearing jewellery. It is advised that you cover or remove such items for safety, particularly when swimming near mangrove coastlines. It is definitely not recommended to touch or hand feed these predators. They will bite the hand that feeds them without remorse. Spearfishing should also be avoided around them. Blood attracts them and they may either mistake you for prey or tear chunks off the fish thrashing on the spear.

As mentioned above, some species grow into enormous giants. The Great Barracuda is among them and can be found off the coast of Florida, ranging from North Carolina to Brazil and Bermuda. The smaller ones inhabit near-shore areas and shallow bays, but as they grow they move into offshore wrecks and reefs. These fabulous fish often look like logs in the water when they are lying near the surface. Here are some tips that will help you catch a Barracuda in Florida:

Tackle for Barracuda

A wire leader is supremely important because Barracuda have extremely sharp teeth that often bite through line cleanly. Other than that you do not need specialized gear to catch them. 20lbs to 30lbs test with a medium weight conventional saltwater outfit will work well, as will saltwater spinning gear. A longer rod around 7lbs can be used when fishing with lures. If using bait then a slightly shorter rod is effective. These fish are vicious, so ensure that whatever gear you use is of good quality.

Bait for Barracuda

A variety of plugs, jerkbaits and skirts are ideal if using artificial lures. Live bait always works best however; such as silver fish like mackerel, bonito, pompano, sardines and similar others. Barracuda are attracted by shiny objects that shimmer erratically, so try to emulate that with your baits.

Techniques for Barracuda

Barracuda are curious, territorial fish. This is great news for anglers because they will explore anything new in their area and they usually do so aggressively. If they do not bite your lure the first time though, they are unlikely to try again and you need to either try something different or move to another place. The large ones are solitary fish so it is doubtful there will be another one nearby. Here are some techniques to use when fishing for Barracuda in Florida:

  • Artificial lures are readily bitten, especially if they are moving fast and erratically. Trolling plugs or rubber skirts and casting and retrieving jerkbaits are all effective. Lures must be extremely durable though because they must be able to survive a battering by the fish’s teeth. A 5in to 7in Crystal Minnow or Rapala are shiny, which always attracts Barracuda. Cast, twitch and retrieve along the edges of reefs and wrecks for the best results. You can troll lures, but remember to twitch them regularly instead of straight trolling. Barracuda are known to bite the tail ends of bait, so try to use a lure that has hooks in the rear.
  • Live bait can be used in two ways. They can be trolled behind the boat or cast into potential spots. Barracuda attack prey by repeatedly biting pieces off and coming back for more. If they bite off the tail, do not pull the bait away because they are likely to return. You can rig the bait with a hook through the nose and treble hook in the tail to prevent your bait being decimated. Keep your hooks small though because these fish have fantastic eyesight.

Call today to book your Barracuda Fishing Charter in Florida and meet these fearsome creatures.


About the Author

Capt. Noah

Capt. Noah

Noah is a United States Coast Guard licensed captain and PADI divemaster. He grew up in South Florida and has a passion for all things involving water. He is one of the rare bread of boaters who loves sailing and power boating. Noah sails competitvely and enjoys travelling, photography, and cooking. 


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