No matter whether you call them ‘slimers’, ‘snakes’ or by their most considerate nickname, ‘California wahoo’, the barracuda remains one of the most maligned gamefish that swims in our waters.
Pacific barracuda are a pelagic species that is usually found in Ensenada Bay during the summer months. Although they prefer live bait, they can also be taken on chrome spoons, top-water poppers and surface iron in a blue and chrome combination. This barracuda has a slim body design, and rarely exceeds a weight of 10 pounds. They can offer an excellent fight on light to medium tackle, and grow to a maximum length of about 4 feet.
Not to be confused with the Great barracuda that lives in tropical waters, the Pacific barracuda can be distinguished from those found in the Sea of Cortez by its silvery sides and a lack of broad bars or spots.
Most Pacific barracuda are taken with live bait fished at or near the surface; however, they will take an assortment of trolled artificial lures. If you see a very large barracuda, in the 10 pound range, chances are it’s a female. Positive identification can be made because the female has a charcoal black edge on the pelvic and anal fins, whereas the male fins are edged in yellow or olive. Three pound barracuda are common, but generally they are large enough to put up a good fight. Caution should be taken when you land a barracuda to avoid their needle sharp teeth.
The good news, which is often overlooked, is that Pacific barracuda can be excellent table fare when properly prepared, and cooked fresh. Although it is not usually feasible to execute while on a commercial sportfisher, it is very important to remove the gills, entrails, and to bleed out this fish as soon as possible after it has been caught, and then place it immediately under ice. Prior to cooking, thoroughly scale the whole barracuda and slice it crosswise into steaks. Place the steaks into a large bowl and marinate them in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours in your favorite oil & vinegar based Italian salad dressing. Place them on the grill over smoldering mesquite, turn once until fully cooked, and then get ready for a surprisingly tasty meal.
Remember, if you can’t eat that barracuda on the day that it was caught, they are also extremely good when smoked and served with crackers and whipped cream cheese!