Great Barracuda

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda

The Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, whose common Spanish name is barracuda and is also known locally as barracuda, 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 Great Barracudas are characterized by their overall barracuda-like appearance, predominant silver coloration, and the presence of about 20 faint, dark bands on their upper sides. Their body is elongated and cylindrical and covered with scattered irregular black blotches. Their anal, caudal, and dorsal fins are dark with white tips. They have a long head with a long pointed snout and a large protractile distinctly protruding lower jaw that reaches under the eyes. They have many long sharp teeth of varying sizes. Their small anal fin is located under the second dorsal fin and has two spines and 8 rays. Their caudal fin is forked with central lobes. They have two widely spaced dorsal fins with 5 plus one spines and 8 to 10 rays. Their small pectoral fins reach beyond the pelvic fin base and are located under the origin of the dorsal fin. Their small pelvic fins originate before the dorsal fin. They have one or two short gill rakers with spines and a well-developed lateral line. They are covered with small scales.

The Great Barracudas are found near the shore in and around coral reefs, sea grasses, and mangroves at depths up to 325 feet. They can also be found in the open ocean near the surface; juveniles can be found in brackish waters. They are either solitary or found in small schools. They can reach a maximum length of 2.0 meters (6 feet 6 inches) with the current IGFA world record being 38.6 kg (85 pounds). They prey upon small fish including anchovies, groupers, grunts, herrings, jacks, mullets, snappers, and tuna. They are in turn preyed upon by the Goliath Grouper, as well as various sharks and tuna. They are built for speed and can reach 36 mph in short bursts. Reproduction is via the release of pelagic eggs which are fertilized externally. They have a lifespan of at least fourteen years.

In Mexican waters the Great Barracuda are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Great Barracuda can be confused with the Guaguanche, Sphyraena guachancho (no dark bars; pelvic fins inserted before dorsal fin origin; maximum length 20 inches) and the Sennet, Sphyraena borealis (mouth ends before eyes; maximum length 20 inches).

The Great Barracudas are targeted as a sports fish by recreational anglers. They are not valued as a food fish and are known to contain Cigua Toxin. Attacks on humans are rare, however, there have been two deaths and several attacks documented on humans.

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, FL, December 2016. Length: 62 cm (24 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda. Fish caught from coastal waters off Isla Mujueres, Quintana Roo, June 2014. Length: 1.24 meters (4 feet 1 inch). Catch and photo courtesy of Ronnie Arnett, Birmingham, AL.