Mexican Barracuda

Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis

The Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis, whose common Spanish name is barracuda mexicana, 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 Mexican Barracudas are characterized by their overall barracuda-like appearance and predominant silver coloration with black markings, which include a strong lateral line and chevrons along the sides. Their caudal fins are gray and deeply forked. Their pelvic fins provide a key identification characteristic, as they originate under the pectoral tips and well before the first dorsal fin. They have mid-sized pectoral fins with 13 rays and deeply forked gray caudal fin.

In Mexican waters the Mexican Barracudas have a limited distribution being found along the entire west coast of Baja, from La Paz southward along the southeast coast of Baja, and along the coast of the mainland from Guaymas to Guatemala.

The Mexican Barracudas are found in and around reefs at depths up to 50 feet. They reach a maximum length of 1.32 meters (4 feet 4 inches) and 13 kg (28 pounds 6 ounces); this corresponds to the I.F.G.A. world record, with the fish being caught in Panamanian waters in 2010. They 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 Cortez Barracuda, Sphyraena lucasana (pale caudal fin, 16 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted behind the pectoral fins and under 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 Mexican Barracudas are fairly common at certain times of year and are viewed by locals to be of poor food value.

Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis. Fish caught within the coastal waters of Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur by Jimmy Camacho, Jimmy’s Sportfishing, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, (Jimmyhcamacho@gmail.com, 613-114-0761; 612-204-1960), May 2017. Length: 37 cm (15 inches).

Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis. Fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, August 2007. Length: 38 cm (15 inches).