What's hot: Barracuda on the reefs and wrecks provide sport and entertainment. It's common to be surprised by the vicious sudden strike of a barracuda while reeling in a prized catch of king or Spanish mackerel. Often barracuda are bycatch, a portion of a catch collected while targeting other species. But given the action they provide, I'm surprised more anglers don't target this hard-charging sportfish.
Not picky: Summer water temperatures are a challenge for most fish. The gulf is extremely warm, and the fish are either deep offshore or reluctant to bite in shallow water. But barracuda will bite under just about any condition or temperature. Barracuda will jump at the first feel of the hook or resistance. Often an angler doesn't know a strike has occurred until the barracuda goes skyward, crashing and splashing.
Bait tactics: To challenge a barracuda, all you need is a large, fast-moving lure or a large rigged bait. A surgical tube lure is a bait barracuda can't ignore. The twisting and wiggling make barracuda rip the lure into shreds when it is presented properly. A rigged mullet or other baitfish trolled at a fairly fast speed will also work well.
Keep or release?: Barracuda are not bad eating if properly iced after catching and cleaned soon after landing on shore. Large barracuda should be passed up; they may have ciguatera poisoning, an accumulative toxin that reef fish can get, especially predator fish such as barracuda. If in doubt, it's best to release a barracuda.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Marlins Dockside at John's Pass Marina on Treasure Island. www.CaptainLarryBlue.com, (727) 871-1058 and (727) 397-3773.