Fun With Barracuda Using Spanish For Bait

A live Spanish mackerel trolled or drifted near a buoy or over artificial reef structure has the life expectancy of a hot dog at a family reunion.

Capt. Spud Woodward | August 1, 2000

Next to the shark, few denizens of the deep inspire as much fear and loathing as do barracuda. Like sharks, they have done little to deserve their reputation. Looking like a freshwater pike on steroids, the barracuda can make short work of other fishes, particularly those struggling on a hook. It’s this nasty habit of attacking hooked fish that has earned ’cudas the contempt of tournament anglers. Many a prize-winning kingfish has been turned into a mutilated remnant by a barracuda.

Despite their lack of popularity with competitors, the barracuda offers a great angling opportunity. You’ll be hard pressed to find a saltwater gamefish that puts on more of a show. I’ve seen cudas launch themselves higher than a t-top after skyrocketing a trolled bait. The greater barracuda migrates seasonally, spending the winter in the deeper waters near the Gulf Stream or down in south Florida. All of the nearshore and offshore artificial reefs along the Georgia coast are populated with barracudas during the summer months. They also congregate around buoys and other structures.

A variety of artificial and natural baits are used to draw the attention of barracuda. However, a live Spanish mackerel trolled or drifted near a buoy or over artificial reef structure has the life expectancy of a hot dog at a family reunion. Dead Spanish skipped along the surface will draw bone-crushing strikes from ’cudas that stubbornly refuse artificials. Trolled or cast ribbonfish are also deadly. The one common denominator is speed and action. Cudas like erractic, fast bait presentation. Heavy wire rigs with strong hooks are advisable when fishing live and dead baits for barracuda. I use No. 5 Magnum single-wire or 60-lb. test Sevenstrand when building these rigs. An Eagle Claw 4X strong L774 treble hook in a No. 2 size is a good choice for the business end of the terminal tackle. Medium to heavy spinning or casting tackle is necessary to absorb the punishment dealt out by barracudas, which frequently top the 30-lb. mark.

The flesh of barracuda is white, flaky, and mild in flavor. Sounds good so far. However, since you may cross paths with a barracuda that migrated up from tropical waters there is a chance you might get ciguatera poisoning. Predators can accumulate high levels of toxin after eating tropical fish that feed on certain types of algae. Most anglers who eat barracuda avoid the larger fish, instead opting for small fish in the hopes of minimizing exposure to ciguatera. This is not foolproof and, although cases of ciguatera in Georgia are rare, there is always a risk. A test kit called Cigua-Check is available on the retail market and can be used to confirm the presence of the organisms that cause ciguatera.

Big barracuda move onto the reefs and towers off the coast this time of year. Here’s Wayne Hall with the state record, a 54-lb., 8-oz. ’cuda caught in July of 1999 at the R2 Navy tower


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