Bad Rap Barracuda

Within the realm of recreational sport fishing there are several species commonly referred to as trash fish. Bonito, triggerfish, houndfish, ladyfish, catfish, toadfish and lizardfish are all deserving of this discriminating distinction. The common denominator among these less than magnificent predators is their severe lack in food value. But what about bonefish? They have absolutely no food value and yet a 10-pound bone is considered a true trophy. Held on a high pedestal anglers go crazy in hopes of connecting with a double-digit flats ghost.


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Let me ask you this. You’re wading a shallow flat in hopes of tussling with inshore angling’s most legendary target. Off to your left you see a bonefish tailing, while in your periphery there’s a monster barracuda patiently waiting for the right opportunity to snatch unsuspecting prey. Which target are you going to cast to? If you answered bonefish, then you are in the majority of anglers who don’t consider big barracuda a reputable game fish.

Inshore, offshore, reefs, wrecks and flats, big barracuda can be found around the entire state, patiently waiting for vulnerable prey to swim by.

Capable of blistering runs, amazing aerial assaults and equipped with razor sharp dentures, barracuda are incredible predators. If they weren’t linked to ciguatera poisoning they’d probably be considered a delicacy. Their status would then quickly skyrocket and before long the FWC and NMFS would have to implement strict slot limits and seasonal closures. In all honesty, it’s no surprise the cursed ‘cuda is frowned upon. Any predator that leaps from the water to attack helpless victims enjoying an afternoon boat ride is deserving of bad press, right? Sure, there have been cases where ravenous barracuda skyrocket out of the water and accidently land in a boat, inflicting incidental damage to passengers. However, these incidents are indeed rare as these sharp-toothed predators aren’t out for blood. It’s simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Inshore, offshore, reefs, wrecks and flats, big barracuda can be found around the entire state, patiently waiting for vulnerable prey to swim by. You’ll find these gamesters anywhere you find a healthy supply of smaller fin-fish for them to feed on. Experienced anglers often overlook the opportunity to hook a barracuda—that is until they’re needed to save the day. When targeting barracuda your approach will be highly dependent on the depth of water you are plying, but in general any object that appears to be fleeing will attract the attention you deserve. Barracuda eat on the run and use their razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws to sever unfortunate prey. For this reason alone any lure you offer must be able to withstand a serious set of chompers. Anything less than suitable will get destroyed, so leave the soft plastics at home and stick to durable offerings.

There are numerous artificial lures that will initiate aggression in feisty barracuda. In this endeavor it’s not so much about matching the hatch, rather instigating an assault. Whether feasting or famished, big ‘cuda find it hard to resist an easy meal. There is however one thing you must understand. Trophy-sized barracuda don’t reach epic proportions by feeding foolishly. Mature ‘cuda have excellent eyesight and if your offering appears unnatural, you can guarantee they won’t be duped.

Without a doubt, the greatest barracuda lure of all time is the tube lure. While there are many proven variations, they all pretty much consist of surgical tubing rigged over a wire leader. They are designed to imitate fleeing needlefish and your key to success is a far cast and fast retrieve. Flashy spoons are next on the list of quality enticements, with Hopkins and Krokodiles just two of many quality offerings. Casting a topwater lure is another great way to entice a violent strike. The beauty of fishing topwater plugs is twofold. They provide explosive surface action and are extremely durable. Live bait is yet another option, with shimmering scaled sardines rarely lasting long in the presence of a stout ‘cuda. For dedicated fly fishermen you have a few options. Large profile, bright flies tied with a healthy amount of flashy fibers will surely seal the deal, as will surface poppers and needlefish imitations. A common denominator no matter what you choose to toss is a wire leader. A quick glance at a barracuda’s impressive jaws and you’ll understand why.

Just the thought of a big ‘cuda coming over the rail is enough to frighten most, but one thing is for sure—hooking a big ‘cuda on appropriate tackle is an ultimate thrill. On your quest for success don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.