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barracuda

Great Barracuda

Sphyraena barracuda

Description: Gray, with a greenish cast above, whitish below; many irregular, small black blotches on lower side; 18 to 22 diagonal dark bars on upper side (not always evident); caudal fin dark with white tips; 75 to 87 lateral line scales; no fleshy tip on jaw.

Young: Dark stripe on side; stripe breaks into dark squarish blotches as fish grows.

Size: To 2 meters (6 feet) and 48 kilograms (106 pounds); reports of larger fish unverified.

Where Found: Young live in inshore seagrass beds; adults range from inshore channels to open ocean.

Remarks: Most attacks on people have occurred when they were wading or swimming in turbid water while wearing bright objects, attempting to spear a barracuda, or carrying speared fish; flesh of smaller fish apparently not poisonous, but larger fish sometimes very toxic due to ciguatera; no safe, reliable way of recognizing toxic fish.

Illustration: © Diane Rome Peebles

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