In Latin the barracuda goes by the name of Sphyraena. To me though, the barracuda is...

A pretty impressive fish, although compared to other fish species such as the shark, not too much is known about this predator of the deep. We’re gonna focus on the great barracuda that is normally found in the reefs off the Florida Keys. Let’s start with…

General Description

The barracuda has a pretty slender, streamlined body. It has a large mouth and the top of its head is nearly flat. They have large razor sharp teeth and a projecting lower jaw

They range in color from a sorta brownish to bluish gray on top and a greenish to silver color on their sides. Their belly is white. When young, they can alter these color patterns in order to camouflage themselves from either other predators or potential prey. They seem to lose this ability as they age.

As fish go, the barracuda is considered quite large. The largest one ever hooked was about 5 ½ feet in length and weighed in at 103 pounds. Its thought that they can reach upwards of 6 feet and weigh about 120 pounds

Your “average” barracuda has a lifespan of about 14 years. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of two and females at the ripe old age of four.

Where Do They Spawn?

Since the barracuda makes its home in large open waters, little is known about their spawning habits. It is believed that they go to deeper waters and away from the reefs in order to reproduce. This might reduce the likelihood of smaller fish that live around the reef of eating their larvae.

When Do They Spawn?

There are many theories. Some indicate that barracuda spawn only at certain times throughout the year while others seem to think that their spawning habits are dictated by the phases of the moon. Others seem to think that the barracuda spawn year round with the exception of the colder winter months.

Do They Make Good Parents?

In a traditional sense, no. Once the eggs are fertilized and deposited, they are subject to drifting around on the ocean currents. Barracuda do not stick around to care for their young.

What Do They Eat?

Barracudas are not what you would call “picky eaters.” A young barracuda’s diet might consist of small fish such as herrings, sardines, small mullets, anchovies and jacks. As they grow older they graduate to such prey as snapper, grouper, tuna, mackerel and just about any other fish that frequent the reef.

How Do They Catch Their Prey?

Usually by a combination of sight and stealth. Barracuda will come up on their prey from behind at speeds clocked at nearly 40 miles per hour and depending on the size of the prey, either swallow it whole or sever it into manageable chunks with their razor sharp teeth.

Who Eats Them?

Well, in their infancy, they are subject to any number of predators. As they reach adulthood, only dolphins, giant tuna, and the occasional lucky shark have the equipment to take on the barracuda. As for us humans, the barracuda is considered more of a “sporting” fish than that of a meal and therefore barracuda fishing has not been commercialized.

Schooling

Generally thought of as the solitary type, schools numbering in the hundreds and upwards of a thousand younger barracuda have been observed. This tendency towards schooling seems to wane as the barracuda age.

Are They Dangerous?

If I were another fish, the answer would be yes. Being a human and as along with almost everything else, we pose more of threat to the barracuda since pollution has taken its toll and the chance of barracuda getting caught up in commercial fishing nets always exists

Barracuda attacks on humans are rare although they have been known to trail after divers and snorklers. Most attacks by barracudas occur against folks who enjoy the sport of spearfishing. Either the barracuda might try and steal a fish that has been recently speared and/or mistake the shiny equipment such as knives for that of a fish and launch an attack.

Somebody really ought to node the car that went by the same name, it was a classic...If you do, please msg me..thx

Swimming with Barracuda

A Fish Story

I had a "fish adventure" in Rincon, Puerto Rico last week while I was snorkeling.....a classic kook job on my part. The surf went flat for a few days, really flat. No wind, no waves, incoming tide just bubbling up on the sandy beach. I needed entertainment and a little exercise, so I hit Tres Palmas for a nice leisurely dive. I lumped around in the shallows for half an hour playing tag with a cute little sea turtle. He tried to swim fast enough to just keep ahead of me, but with a little burst of kick I could catch up and stroke his back. He wasn't the slightest bit afraid and I got the impression that I wasn't his first pesty diver.

On the way back, I swam out to the edge of the reef where the water drops off to 20 meters or so. That's the zone to see anything big that happens to be cruising the coastline. I've seen big dorado out there, and even a tarpon or two. That day however I was befriended by a five foot long barracuda (Sphyraena)1 . We met about 20 feet down as I was ascending from a deep dive and he was ambling along the wall of the reef. We were suddenly and unexpectedly face to face, the Northgoing Zax meets the Southgoing Zax coming to a dead stop and rising slowly towards the surface together.

Now, as everyone knows, barracuda have a bad reputation among divers for being a little testy at times. They sometimes form groups called batteries and are known to attack fish as large as themselves in unpredictable lunging strikes. They can swim almost 90 klicks per hour and they have teeth that you don't want to see pointed at you.

But a single barracuda in clear water staring down a grouchy old man like me is likely to just give it a pass in favor of a less stressful lunch. So I wasn't afraid, mostly just curious and a little jazzed at the opportunity to snap a cool pic with my sweet little waterproof digital camera. When I got to the surface, he was still a few meters up current from me, just hanging out and hovering. I powered up the camera and started breathing for a long deep dive. I reckoned I'd chase that rascal if I had to, just get that pic!

The other thing that everyone knows about barracuda, is that they are really attracted to shiny metal objects. Fishermen often use a silver metal spoon lure when they fish for barracuda, and divers are warned against shiny stainless steel diving watches or large diamond rings when they are around. I'm a prudent diver and I made a point of looking down to check my crappy old Timex Expedition wrist watch. No problem there, just olive drab plastic and a nylon band. My wedding band is gold and old, just like me. Check, check. As I sucked in an enormous breath and headed down to party with my new pal, I felt  a vague twinge of apprehension prickle my neck.

That barracuda was just sitting there about four meters below me, watching and waiting, plotting his next move. I kicked right up to him and hoisted my camera right in his face. My shiny....little....silver....camera, positioned a foot or so away from his pointy snout. Bad idea. Serious error in judgment. Total kook job. I clicked off a pic before I even realized what was going down and luckily it was a total beauty. The head of the barracuda filled the whole frame of the camera, and just as I snapped, he opened his long narrow jaw exposing the most wicked set of pointy snaggly fangs I've ever seen up close. Like some computer generated dinosaur fishy in Avatar. It was a good thing that the first pic was such a perfect set up because I wasn't going to get a chance for a second one.

About the time I wrapped my dim wits around the fact that I was dangling a shiny metal lure in front of a hungry and irritable-looking barracuda, he closed his mouth again and I got an almost telepathic premonition that I was being hunted. I thought about dropping the camera, but it was tied to my wrist so I held it out to my side and slowly moved it around my back as I started rising to the surface. The fish didn't take his eye off me for a second and he was positioned below me to strike and any spot from my belly to my head, especially with one arm locked behind me.

I think it's the adrenalin that can cause time to slow down when you are in a particularly intense situation. I've felt it while surfing, and I was certainly feeling it at that moment. The brief seconds that it took for me to bob to the surface and slowly begin to put some distance between myself and those teeth passed very slowly. I was able to swim away toward the shallows of the reef, while still watching him beneath me. He kept facing me, opening and closing his jaw, considering his options. Finally, in an astonishing burst of speed he was gone, to the bottom of the ledge and then off into the deep blue. Poof.

I don't think I was really in any danger, and it woulda been worth it anyway as a great fish story. The whole experience happened so quickly and intensely that I needed a few minutes just to get a bead on it. I forgot to even review the pictures until I was already back in the car, ready to head home. Whew, close call. So it goes.

Oh yeah, you're prolly wondering about that picture aren't you? Thinking of those Icthyosaurus dino choppers poised to lunge and rip the proverbial pound of your soft juicy flesh? Well, I hate to disappoint you but the damned shot was out of focus and the lighting was bad and I didn't think to set the camera's underwater presets... So it goes. I've included it though just so you won't think I'm pulling your leg.

Saludos y pesetas, y tiempo para gustarlo,

-Grouchy

 

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1 More on the fearsome Cuda:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barracuda

Bar`ra*cu"da (&?;), Bar`ra*cou"ta (&?;), n.

1. (Zoöl.)

A voracious, pikelike, marine fish, of the genus Sphyræna, sometimes used as food.

⇒ That of Europe and our Atlantic coast is Sphyræna spet (or S. vulgaris); a southern species is S. picuda; the Californian is S. argentea.

2. (Zoöl.)

A large edible fresh-water fish of Australia and New Zealand (Thyrsites atun).

 

© Webster 1913


Bar`ra*cu"da (?), n. [Native name.]

Any of several voracious pikelike marine fishes allied to the gray mullets, constituting the genus Sphyræna and family Sphyrænidæ. The great barracuda (S. barracuda) of the West Indies, Florida, etc., is often six feet or more long, and as dangerous as a shark. In Cuba its flesh is reputed to be poisonous. S. Argentea of the Pacific coast and S. sphyræna of Europe are smaller species, and are used as food.

 

© Webster 1913

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