Cortez Barracuda

Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana

The Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana, whose common Spanish name is barracuda de Cortés, is a species in the Barracuda or Sphyraenidae Family, known collectively as barracudas in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-six species in the genus Sphyraena, eight of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Cortez Barracudas are characterized by their overall barracuda-like appearance and predominant silver coloration with black markings, which include a modest lateral line and chevron markings along the sides. They have long heads with a long pointed snout and a large protruding lower jaw. They have many long sharp-edged teeth of unequal size. Their anal fins are small and are similar in size and located under the second dorsal fin. Their two dorsal fins are widely separated. Their caudal fins are deeply forked and gray in color with dark edges. A key identification characteristic includes their very small pectoral fins with 16 rays and small pelvic fins that are inserted behind the pectoral fins and under the first dorsal fin.

The Cortez Barracudas reach a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches). They are a coastal pelagic species found at depths up to 75 feet. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Cortez Barracudas have a limited distribution being found between from Guerrero Negro southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja and in the lower three-fourths of the Sea of Cortez.

The Cortez Barracuda can be confused with the Blackfin Barracuda, Sphyraena qenie (dark anal, caudal and dorsal fins, 13 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted under the pectoral fins and before the first dorsal fin), the Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis (gray caudal fin, 13 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted under the tips of the pectoral fins and before the first dorsal fin), the Pacific Barracuda, Sphyraena argentea (yellow caudal fin, 16 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted behind the pectoral fins and before the first dorsal fin), and the Pelican Barracuda, Sphyraena idiastes (gray caudal fin with dark edges, 13 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted behind the pectoral fins and under the first dorsal fin).

The Cortez Barracudas are very rare and viewed by locals to be of poor food value.

Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana, juvenile. Fish caught in a cast net in coastal waters off Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, June 2017. Length: 15.5 cm (6.1 inches).

Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana. Fish caught in a cast net in coastal waters off Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, June 2017. Length: 30 cm (12 inches).

Cortez Barracuda

Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the Greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, March 2010. Length: 44 cm (17 inches).