Pacific Barracuda (Sphyraena argentea)

Pacific Barracuda (Sphyraena argentea)

The Pacific barracuda is the best known of the four types of barracuda found in Pacific waters and is one of California’s most prized resources.

Identification

The Pacific barracuda is slim-bodied, with a tapered head, a long thin snout, and large canine teeth in a lower jaw that projects beyond the upper jaw. It also has a forked tail, large eyes, and short, widely separated dorsal fins with five dorsal spines and 10 dorsal rays. The anal fins have two spines, followed usually by nine rays. Grayish-black on the back with a blue tinge, shading to silvery white on the sides and the belly, it has a yellowish tail that lacks the black blotches on the sides of the body that are characteristic of other barracuda. Large females have a charcoalblack edge on the pelvic and the anal fins, whereas the male fins are edged in yellow or olive.

Size/Age

The Pacific barracuda is shorter than the great barracuda. It reportedly can grow to 5 feet but has been recorded only to 4 feet; it rarely weighs more than 10 pounds, and although specimens of about 12 pounds have been captured, most of the fish caught by anglers are much smaller. They live for at least 11 years, and the females grow larger than the males.


Life history/Behavior

Spawning takes place off outer Baja California in the open ocean, peaking in June but extending from April through September. The eggs are pelagic, and once they hatch, the young come inshore and stay in the shallow, quiet bays and coastal waters while they grow. When small, they travel in schools, although adults are normally solitary. They are naturally curious and attracted to shiny objects.

Food and feeding habits

The Pacific barracuda feeds by sight, rather than by smell, and eats small anchovies, smelt, squid, and other small, schooling fish.

Other Names

California barracuda, barry, snake, scoots, scooter; French: bécune argentée.

Distribution

Pacific barracuda occur along the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to Magdalena Bay, Baja California, although their common range is between Point Conception, California, and Magdalena Bay. The Pacific barracuda is the only barracuda found along the Pacific coast of North America.

Habitat

Pacific barracuda prefer warmer water. Only caught off California during the spring and the summer, they are caught in Mexican waters throughout the year, reflecting a northerly spring migration and a southerly fall migration.
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