Pacific Barracuda

Pacific Barracuda, Sphyraena argentea

The Pacific Barracuda, Sphyraena argentea, whose common Spanish name is barracuda plateada, 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 Pacific Barracudas are characterized by their overall barracuda-like appearance, blue-brown backs, series of faint oblique bands above their prominent dark lateral line, and silver underbody. Their fins have gray rays and yellowish membranes. Their pelvic fins provide a key identification characteristic, as they originate well behind the pectoral fins and under the first dorsal fin. They have short pectoral fins with 16 rays and a deeply forked yellow caudal fin.

The Pacific Barracudas are found around reefs at depths up to 50 feet. They can reach a maximum length of 122 cm (48 inches) and 8.2 kg (18 pounds) in weight.

The Pacific Barracudas 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 Mexican Barracuda, Sphyraena ensis (gray caudal fin, 13 pectoral fin rays, pelvic fins inserted under the tips of the pectoral fin 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).

In Mexican waters the Pacific Barracudas have a limited range being found from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Pacific Barracudas are fairly common at certain times of year and are viewed by locals to be of poor food value.

Pacific Barracuda (1)

Pacific Barracuda, Sphyraena argentea. Commercial fish purchased from Ranch 99 Market, San Diego, March 2013. Length: 80 cm (31 inches).

Pacific Barracuda (3) Pacific Barracuda, Sphyraena argentea. Fish caught off the Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, California, December 2015. Length: 46 cm (18 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.