American Oceans

Types of Barracuda

The world’s oceans are home to endless, fascinatingly fearsome creatures.

a close up of a baracuda's mouth and teeth

Among them are the barracuda; predatory fish are known for their sharp teeth, sleek appearance, and lightning-fast speed. 

In this article, we’ll free-dive into the deep blue and encounter ten of the fiercest types of barracudas lurking in the warm, tropical waters around the world.

What Are Barracudas?

do barracuda eat clownfish

Barracudas, from the genus Sphyraena, are a ferocious species of fish that embody sleekness, agility, and raw power.

Thanks to their elongated shape and razor-sharp teeth, they are perfectly adapted for life in the ocean.

They are feared for their formidable speed and ability to strike prey with unbelievable precision. 

The fish range in size from the gargantuan great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) to the more comparably diminutive Lucas barracuda (Sphyraena lucasana).

Regardless of size, all barracuda share similar physical traits– such as a spinous anterior dorsal fin, rayed posterior dorsal fin, and elongated body– making them efficient hunters. 

The origin of their name is thought to come from the Spanish word “barraco,” meaning “shack.”

Great Barracuda

The Great Barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena barracuda
Other Names: Giant barracuda, commerson’s sea pike
Size: Up to 6 feet, 100 pounds
Distribution: Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, throughout the Indo-Pacific

Known for its striking appearance and fearsome reputation, the great barracuda has a dark green or grayish coloration on its back and sides, with a lighter-colored underbelly. They sport a pointed snout and a tall dorsal fin that runs along their back. 

This ferocious fish is a carnivorous predator that hunts fish, squid, and crustaceans at 36 miles per hour. 

Great barracudas are also popular game fish highly sought by anglers and an important commercial species in some parts of the world, where they are harvested for their meat and fins.

Pacific Barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena argentea
Other Names: California barracuda, silver barracuda
Size: Up to 4 feet, 20 pounds
Distribution: Eastern Pacific Ocean from California to Panama

The sleek and striking Pacific barracuda have an elongated body and distinctive coloration: a dark blue or greenish-gray back with a silver or white belly and a series of dark bars or spots along its sides.

Interestingly, Pacific barracudas have a unique behavioral habit of swimming in large schools, which can number thousands. These schools are thought to protect the fish from sharks and dolphins while making it easier for the group to hunt for fish and squid. 

Despite their relatively smaller size than great barracuda, they are still a prized game and commercial fishing target.

Yellowstripe Barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena chrysotaenia
Other Names: Dingo fish, short-finned sea pike
Size: Up to 24 inches, top weight unknown
Distribution: Indo-Pacific from East London to Fiji

The yellowstripe barracuda boasts a sleek body adorned with glistening golden stripes. With their razor-sharp teeth and lightning-fast reflexes, these predators possess an uncanny ability to blend in with their surroundings as they stalk their prey, mainly consisting of smaller fish and cephalopods. 

Interestingly, they cooperate with other fish species to corner prey, showcasing their intelligence and adaptability. 

As they are not a primary target for commercial fishing, these striking barracudas have escaped the perils of overfishing that plague many other marine species.

European Barracuda

a shoal of european barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena sphyraena
Other Names: Mediterranean barracuda, “zebra of the sea”
Size: 12-24 inches, up to 26 pounds
Distribution: Eastern and Western Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea

The European barracuda is an iridescent silver predator in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic Oceans. Nicknamed the “Zebra of the Sea” for its dark, diagonal bars, this elusive fish reaches a meter in length. 

It primarily feeds on smaller fish like anchovies and sardines, forming large schools as a survival strategy. Despite its keen hunting prowess, it is still a target for sharks and sea lions

Although not commercially valuable due to low population density and its potential to carry the ciguatoxin, the barracuda is a prized catch for recreational anglers and spearfishers.

Yellowmouth Barracuda

a close up of a yellowmouth barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena viridensis
Other Names: Yellow barracuda
Size: Up to 40 inches, 18 pounds
Distribution: Indo-Pacific from Madagascar to China and Australia

A particularly striking barracuda fish, the yellowmouth barracuda grows up to 40 inches. Bold, jet-black stripes further accentuate its iridescent, yellow-green hue.

With a diet mainly consisting of smaller fish and crustaceans living in coral reefs across tropical and subtropical oceans, the Sphyraena viridensis uses its remarkable agility and speed, reaching up to 25 miles per hour, to swiftly ambush its prey.

In recent years, the yellowmouth barracuda has gained popularity within the commercial fishing industry due to its firm, flavorful flesh, which is highly sought-after in the culinary world.

Australian Barracuda

a shoal of australian barracuda swimming underwater

Scientific Name: Sphyraena novaehollandiae
Other Names: Dingo fish, short barracuda, striped sea pike, New Holland barracuda
Size: Up to 21 inches, 11 pounds
Distribution: Southwestern Pacific

Inhabiting rocky reefs and seagrass meadows, the Australian barracuda fish has a silvery-blue body with silvery patches. It preys on small fish and cephalopods, evading predators like sharks and orcas

The so-called New Holland Barracuda exhibits a unique schooling behavior, banding together with others to create a synchronized force, increasing their hunting efficiency and providing safety in numbers.

Though not a primary commercial target, its delicate flavor is gaining popularity, prompting research into its habits, distribution, and vulnerability to overfishing.

Yellowtail Barracuda

a shoal of yellowtail barrcuda swimming in the water

Scientific Name: Sphyraena flavicauda
Other Names: golden-tailed barracuda
Size: Up to 24 inches, maximum weight unknown
Distribution: Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to the Great Barrier Reef

The yellowtail barracuda has an aerodynamic, torpedo-shaped body adorned with shimmering silver scales, highlighted by a striking golden-yellow caudal fin.

The Sphyraena flavicauda is a fearsome predator,  primarily feeding on smaller fish, such as anchovies and sardines, but has been known to target larger prey, like squid and cuttlefish, when the opportunity arises. Sharks, orcas, and other big fish often target this fish for their own meals. 

As for their relationship with humans, the golden-tailed barracuda fish is not typically targeted for commercial fishing but may occasionally end up as a bycatch. 

Pickhandle Barracuda

divers watching a large pickhandle barracuda underwater

Scientific Name: Sphyraena jello
Other Names: Pick, banded barracuda, 
Size: Up to 59 inches, 24 pounds  
Distribution: Pacific Ocean near coral reefs

Measuring up to 1.5 meters, the pickhandle barracuda fish has a slender body that features dark vertical bands on a silvery-blue backdrop.

This species relies primarily on a diet of smaller fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. To counteract the danger of sharks and groupers, they use their iridescent bodies to create mesmerizing light displays and disorienting would-be predators.

Due to its beauty, the pickhandle barracuda has become a highly sought-after species for the aquarium trade, leading to overharvesting in some regions.

Guachanche Barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena guachancho
Other Names: Guaguanche, southern barracuda
Size: Up to 20 inches, 4 pounds
Distribution: Western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil, eastern Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to the Canary Islands, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean

The guachanche barracuda fish is a 6-foot-long stalker with a mesmerizing blend of blue, green, and silver hues and a distinctive dorsal fin. 

Hunting smaller fish in coral reefs and seagrass beds, this barracuda fish still faces challenges from more giant sharks. While sport fishers admire its strength, commercial fishing is limited due to ciguatera poisoning risks. 

Revered by sport anglers for their strength and stamina, the guachanche barracuda offers an exciting challenge to those who dare to reel in this formidable foe.

Sawtooth Barracuda

a shoal of sawtooth barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena putnamae
Other Names: Chevron barracuda, military barracuda, Putnam’s barracuda
Size: Over 6 feet long, 100 pounds
Distribution: Indo-Pacific off the southeastern coast of Africa, northern Australian coast, and eastern through southeastern Asia

Sawtooth barracuda are 5-foot-long, iridescent hunters featuring a torpedo-shaped body with dark vertical bars and a noticeable anal fin.

It preys on smaller fish and squid using bursts of speed but faces threats from larger marine predators despite its impressive agility. 

Though not commonly targeted by commercial fisheries, the sawtooth barracuda fish occasionally finds itself entangled in fishing nets or caught on a lucky angler’s line.

Frequently Asked Questions

We cover some of the commonly asked questions about this fearsome fish below:

Are barracudas dangerous to humans?

Generally, barracudas are not dangerous to humans unless they feel threatened or are provoked.

What is the average speed of a barracuda?

Each member of the genus Sphyraena has different average speeds, with the fastest being the great barracuda. It can cut through the water at a hair-raising 36 miles per hour.

Why are barracudas popular for sport fishing?

Barracudas are popular for sport fishing because of their large size, lightning-fast speed, agility, and willingness to put up a fight.

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