Barracuda on a Fly



There are two camps when it comes to fly fishing for barracuda—and they have pretty polarizing opinions. 

There are the anglers who scorn the thought and those who have a second dedicated pole rigged and ready in case they get the opportunity.

What are your feelings?

More and more fly anglers are appreciating the fight these mean, toothy predators put up. After all, they’re undeniably explosive, jump like crazy, and give sizzling runs. Which is why Barracuda on a fly might be worth a second look.

Overlooked by many fly anglers, the barracuda should be flats fishing royalty thanks to its blistering speed, snarly attitude, and aggressive takes of a fly.

—Lynn Burkhead

All About Barracuda


There are 26 species of barracuda. When talking about fly fishing, it’s the great barracuda that is being referenced (Sphyraena barracuda). Sphyraena, meaning spear or pike-like, is a fitting name for these torpedo-shaped fish.

Most of the other members in the family are small—less than 18 inches—and don’t carry the same ferocious reputation.


Barracuda body coloring ranges from a shiny blueish gray to greenish brown on the top and upper sides, becoming more silver and white on the belly. 18–23 darker bars run down the fish’s upper sides, with some black spots on the lower sides that are unique to the great barracuda, distinguishing it from other species. But by far, the most characteristic feature of the great barracuda is its mouth full of teeth.

A long lower jaw protrudes past the upper jaw to provide its unique silhouette. For those brave enough to look closely, you’ll see two sets of teeth. The outer row is made of small, triangle-shaped teeth that are razor-sharp. This set is designed for tearing flesh (and fingers, if presented).

The second row is made of long, spear-shaped teeth for piercing and holding its catch. The design allows little hope of escape. Further, the long teeth fit, puzzle-like, into holes in the opposing jaw, allowing the great barracuda to completely close their mouths. This lets them attack larger prey and bite their fish dinner clean in half.

Hunting Style

The great barracuda is rightfully defined as an aggressive apex predator. Sure, the odd shark or goliath grouper may have taken a swipe, but other than that, they are king.

Barracuda are fiercely opportunistic and feed on various fish, including tunas, grunts, groupers, and snappers. Their usual MO is to ambush their prey during daylight hours, as they are sight-driven hunters. Waiting stealthily near wrecks, coral heads, logs, or drop-offs, they can burst into chase at strikingly fast speeds.

As snorkelers and divers can attest, these giants can become quite territorial over a proven fishing ground. Unnervingly shadowing and bullying divers to further sites with their total disregard for personal space and desire to demonstrate dominance. Their open, toothy mouth, which slowly opens and closes as they look you down, is intimidating. But attacks on humans are rare and likely much less frequent than one would guess.

Though they are true reef bullies, they also have a genuine, innocent curiosity about anything sparkly, glinty, or shiny. The few attacks on humans don’t appear to be the result of aggression. Instead, a misjudgment, such as a quick strike at something attractive, almost always leads to rejecting the bite immediately. And while these rare attacks are certainly traumatic and destructive, they are rarely fatal.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is believed that barracuda live for about 14 years. They migrate to deeper water, sometimes several times a year, to mate. The larger female can lay tens of thousands of eggs at one time.

Baby barracuda, fry, find their way into shallow creeks and estuaries, where they spend their first year. By the second year, they graduate to deeper water. These young juveniles have a black stripe that will eventually break into the characteristic stripes that an adult displays.

Where to Find Barracuda

The great barracuda is found worldwide in most temperate and tropical waters, excluding the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

These curious, toothy predators can be found in the open ocean, usually near the surface but occasionally as deep as 325 feet. However, they are most commonly spotted cruising the reefs, wrecks, or shallow seagrass flats. They can also be caught in mangrove creeks, where ambushing younger prey is easy.

Normally, these guys are considered solitary predators. But, still, it’s not unusual to find a large “aggregation” of individual fish all hanging out on the same reef if the feeding is good enough.

Fly fishermen find them on the flats, where they favor turtle or sea grass mounds, sunken logs, and deeper channels that cut through the flat as they provide richer feeding grounds. Here the barracuda lay in wait, ready to explode with power and speed.

Packing the Tacklebox



​​​​​​​​​​​​​​While opinions may be shifting, the reality is that barracuda are still usually a “backup plan” kind of fish. They can be more reliable targets when the tarpon, snook, or permit aren’t cooperative.

The same rod you use for these fish can be used for barracudas—an 8-10 weight will work.

The same can be said for the line and even the flies. Though, if specifically targeting barracuda, they love a long, green fly that resembles their favorite needlefish snack. Poppers are reliable, too. The action and gurgling are too enticing to ignore, apparently.

The difference between barracuda and the other setups comes down to the leader. With that mouthful of razors, barracuda require a wire leader. Even then, there is no guarantee. But you don’t want to use a wire leader for other species, as it is too likely to cause damage to the mouths of other fish like tarpon.

That’s why a second on-the-ready rod dedicated to barracuda while fishing for your other favorites can be the best option.

Tips for Catching Barracuda on the Fly

Barracudas aren’t difficult to spot, at least not as difficult as the gray ghosts of the flats, bonefish.

You’ll want to get close enough to make an accurate cast, but be aware that barracuda are also very aware of their surroundings and quite clever, too. Bringing your boat in too close can spook them off.

Once located and positioned, aim to be about 10–15 feet away from your target. On bright, sunny days when there is clear water and excellent visibility, go the farther distance. On cloudy days, shorter.

Drop. Then, after allowing the fly to sink slightly, raise and sweep the rod, causing your fly to create that irresistible streaking motion that barracuda can’t seem to ignore. Back cast and repeat.

Once tempted, their curiosity will overtake them, and they will rush your fly. However, their insatiable inquisitiveness means they may trail your fly for a while. They don’t always go straight for the kill-grab. Working with them and luring them along is part of the fun of these fish. Just try to get them before you work them too close to your boat, or they’ll bail on you.

Always, always, always keep your fly in motion. These excitable predators will immediately lose interest in eating something that is not looking like healthy baitfish. There is no such thing as “too fast” with barracuda.

Once hooked, one of two things will happen. They will bite clean through your best efforts to use a fool-proof wire leader or give you a sensational fast fight that will likely include more than one aerial jump.

As speedy and powerful as these fish are, you don’t have to commit to a long battle like you might with a triggerfish or permit. They tire relatively quickly. Then the challenge moves to safely retrieving your fly—have some long-handled pliers at the ready.

Newsworthy Notes About Barracuda

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Barracuda, though eaten worldwide, is most often considered a catch-and-release fish due to its especially high association with Ciguatera poisoning. This marine toxin disease is not easily identified, as it does not cause symptoms in the host fish. Nor is the toxin eliminated by cooking.

Symptoms can be wide-ranging, from the nervous system to the gastrointestinal system. Serious cases can last weeks or months and even cause death. If choosing to consume barracuda,  get reliable local knowledge about the occurrence of ciguatera in the area.

While IUCN classification designates the Great Barracuda as “Least Concern,” population numbers have dramatically dropped. This has triggered several authorities to impose new regulations. For example, in Florida, FWC has put a daily bag limit of two fish per person and six per vessel. So, check the most current local regulations when heading out to catch barracuda on the fly.

Fishing with Scout Boats

Scout boats have been supplying serious fishermen with luxurious boats designed and built for reliability and performance for nearly thirty years, whether heading to the flats to catch barracuda on a fly or way offshore for sailfish.

Scout’s superior manufacturing techniques and incorporation of innovative designs provide Scout owners with the best-looking, longest-lasting, and best-performing fishing boat on the water.

Take a closer look at our bay boats for yourself, perfect for more shallow water. Or build your own Scout Boat online today. Not sure where to start? The 231XSB is a popular choice, with two optional aft baitwells, ample rod holders and storage, and three leaning post options.

Or, start by checking out what other Scout Boat owners have to say about their Scout boats. We’re proud to be the repeat choice for so many anglers and serious boaters.