The intensity and speed of a barracuda attack is amazing to watch and it clearly demonstrates why this apex flats predator has an established reputation for being a voracious killer. Once a fisherman hooks up a powerful barracuda, they will get to observe a spectacular aerial show as the barracuda demonstrates its ability to jump and “greyhound” across the surface. This high-flying, aquatic circus act is immediately followed by sustained long runs that are capable of quickly emptying a fisherman’s reel, making barracudas one of the premier shallow-water gamefish.

I have always been fascinated by the barracuda’s many evolutionary adaptationsm which allow them to assume the role of marauder of the flats. Their long, slender, torpedo-shaped body ensures they can quickly accelerate (up to 36 mph) and easily overtake unsuspecting prey. The barracuda’s impressive speed and mouthful of incredibly sharp teeth creates a predator who can easily decimate an unsuspecting and unfortunate victim. The barracuda’s destructive dominance is the result of two rows of teeth, an inner set of prominent large dagger-like teeth designed for piercing (which are so long they must fit into recessed holes on the opposing jaw so the fish can completely close their mouth). The second outer row of smaller, razor-sharp teeth are designed to tear and shred the flesh of their victims.

Fortunately, barracudas rarely intentionally attack humans. The majority of people who are injured by these apex predators are spear-fishermen who are in the water with a struggling/bleeding fish, or swimmers who are wearing shiny/sparkling jewelry.

Not too long ago barracuda filets started bringing in a hefty price in fish markets in South Florida and, as a result, the numbers and size of barracudas in the Keys started to decline due to overfishing. Fortunately local fishermen/guides associations were successful in lobbying for harvest limits and, as a result, the barracuda have started making a comeback on the flats. As a rule I never eat barracuda as they often carry Ciguatera toxins, which can cause severe illness resulting in Olympic levels of gastrointestinal (and beyond) issues, as well as some very strange neurological manifestations. Barracuda filets = buyer beware!

Barracuda have perfected the art of ambush predation. They will often lie completely motionless until the instant they attack their unsuspecting quarry with a lethal combination of speed and slashing teeth. Their inquisitive nature often encourages barracudas to follow and strike a well-placed lure, thus allowing a fisherman the opportunity to observe these powerful fish as they actually attack and inhale a lure. As a result, barracudas remain one of the top sight-fishing attractions in the Florida Keys.

My admiration for barracudas actually served as the inspiration for my dog’s name — Cuda. It seemed like the perfect title, as he is an exceptionally fast swimmer and also has a mouthful of very sharp teeth! To this day I carry the scars from fishing encounters with barracudas, as well as from rough housing with Cuda. I can readily confirm that sharp teeth are very effective and devastating weapons.

Capt. Pete Peterson welcomes comments and suggestions sent to petersonventures@aol.com.