Inshore Fish!ing
Tips from the Experts

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Cuda fishing bar

Boris Arnov's Fish Florida Saltwater,

Chapter 2, Barracuda, Pg. 7

How to Land a Barracuda.

Once you have seen close-up the armament a barracuda has in its mouth, you will forever handle it with great respect. If it is a large fish, use a long-handled gaff and sink the point just behind the head, then swing the fish into the box as quickly as possible. Smaller fish can be lifted by the wire leader. However, large ones should be released because of the danger of ciguatera poisoning from eating them. The only way to safely release a large fish is to cut the wire with pliers as near to the mouth as possible, remembering that barracuda frequently choose to jump when at the boat. Smaller fish can be handled by grasping them behind the head with a gloved hand while dislodging the hook with pliers with the other hand.

Fishing the Flats by Mark Sosin and Lefty Kreh

Chapter 10: Barracuda and Sharks, Pg. 114


There is no question that the surgical tube lure is the bane of barracuda. Although it functions as an illusion in the water, it triggers a 'cuda to strike faster than anything else. The tubing imitates a needleflsh and appears to be snaking its way through the water, though it is in fact spinning.

Not everyone has the same view on how to work tube lures in the water. Captain John Eckard of Key West, Florida. has been making tubes for years and has developed a veritable fish-catching formula-which we'll share with you in a moment. He has always insisted that if you work the lure just beneath the surface of the water, it will attract more barracuda. Captain Harry Spear of Marathon disagrees. Harry is adamant about dancing the lure on the surface and never letting it dip beneath.

On two successive days, we fished with John and then with Harry, working waters in the backcountry of the Lower Keys that were only a couple of miles apart. We are pleased to report that both methods produced barracuda with equal effectiveness.

Almost all of the commercially available surgical tubes range from 10 to 12 inches in length. It is easy to make your own and we Feel that John Eckard's design is as good as anything we have seen. He uses tubes that are 15 to 18 inches in length with chartreuse the number one color, followed by fluorescent red, natural, and black.

A tube should be rigged with a belly hook and a 3/0 to 5/0 tail hook. Whether you use trebles or single hooks is a personal choice. You will need an egg sinker or slip sinker weighing between one-quarter and one-half ounce and stainless steel wire in # 6, 7, or 8. The tubing should always be kept coiled so that it retains its natural curvature, both before you make the rigs and after they are completed.

According to John, the belly hook must be above the center of the tubing. If you have a sixteen-inch tube? the belly hook should be less than eight inches From the head. You'll miss fewer fish with that positioning. Wire each hook separately, cutting a hole in the tube for the belly hook and pushing both wires through the front end of the tube. Slip the sinker over both wires and secure it with a twisted loop. You may use a swivel or a split ring in front of the sinker as a connector.

Standard tubing has a three-eighths-inch O.D. If you prefer using lighter lines such as four- six- or eight-pound-test. you must use thinner and shorter tubes. The diameter should be one-eighth to three-sixteenths inches, and the overall length about twelve inches. Hook sizes should be correspondingly smaller.

Fishing Guide to the Upper Keys and Florida Bay; by Martin Smithson

Great Barracuda, Pg. 76

For the flyrod enthusiast, the barracuda may be one of the most overlooked gamefish. Cuda flies are tied with six to 10 inches of brightly colored synthetic material which can be braided, or just wrapped near the end, to look like a skinny needlefish. Similar flies use strands of fish-hair, another synthetic, where equal amounts of white, green and blue are overlaid and tied to a 1/0 or 2/0 hook.

A proven technique on fly is to cast in the vicinity of a cuda and immediately pick the fly back up off the water with a backcast. Repeat this cast and immediate backcast routine three or four times to thoroughly agitate the barracuda, then lay the fly down and strip quickly. A vicious strike will often follow. This technique is not restricted to sight casting only. There are many areas where blind casting on the flats or near channels will stir up some cuda action. Check the aerial photos where popular barracuda haunts are marked.

A word of caution regarding the handling of barracuda. They have very sharp teeth and love to leap, especially when near the boat. Be aware of their leaping ability and be prepared to fend off any accidental gashes. Use a towel or glove to hold the fish firmly while using pliers to remove the lure or fly. Revive the fish in the water like any other fish and release it when its strength is regained.

Sport Fish of Florida by Vic Dunaway

Chapter 4, Favorites Without Families, Pg. 36

Great Barracuda Barracuda

TACKLE AND BAITS: For inshore fishing on the flats and along shorelines, spinning and baitcasting tackle are ideal, and fly tackle will also take plenty of Cuda. The best artificial bait for Barracuda is a tube lure, made from a foot or 18 inches of plastic tubing with wire through the middle and a hook on the end. Fly casters can make or buy similar lures of braided textile materials. Over reefs and wrecks, casting rackle is still a good choice, with light saltwater gear also capable of providing good sport. Live fish make the very best natural baitsThe Barracuda also attacks rigged natural baits, such as Ballyhoo, with great pleasure.

The Complete Book of Light-Tackle Fishing; by Mark Sosin

Barracuda and Sharks pg.

Flats fishermen have a tendency to become so enamoured with tarpon, bonefish, and permit, that they overlook some of the fastest and most impressive action in the shallows. Both the barracuda and shark have been underrated and maligned for years, yet they are great gamefish and certainly worthy of your attention. I wouldn't dream of fishing the flats without having a couple of outfits rigged for these two toothy denizens.

Some of the largest barracuda move into the flats during the winter months when there are cold snaps. That's the same type of weather that forces bonefish into deeper water and the tarpon are long since gone. You can, however, find the cuda at any time of year in varying sizes.

They are a particularly curious fish and exceptionally wary. Once they see you or the boat, they can be difficult to fool in spite of their formidable dentures. The trick in catching them usually hinges on making long casts with a lure fashioned out of surgical tubing and then moving the offering as fast as you can. This brings out the killer instinct in the fish and strikes can be spectacular.

No one knows more about making tube lures or tube-lure fishing than Captain John Eckard of Key West, Florida. I have seen John tease cuda into sinking that the rest of us had long given up on as uncatchable.

Tubes are an illusion. They look like a creature undulating through the water, but they are actually spinning. At the same time, however, they do create sound and that's important. Most anglers work a tube lure by making a long cast well past the fish and then cranking as fast as possible with the rod tip held high to keep the lure on the surface. It's surprising how far a barracuda will come to catch that lure.

This primary technique works a good part of the time, but John Eckard has a better way. He believes that if you can keep the tube just under the surface without breaking the skin of the water, you'll get more strikes and fewer follows. To accomplish this, he slows the retrieve slightly and he weights his tube lures more. Instead of using a quarter-ounce slip or egg sinker in front of a tube, John will go to a half ounce.

The average tube lure for barracuda is about ten to twelve inches long, but John finds he has better success with tubes that are fifteen to eighteen inches long. Chartreuse is the number-one color, followed by fluorescent red. Tubing should always be kept coiled so that it retains some natural bends. When you rig it, use number 6, 7, or 8 stainless steel wire. You have the option of single hooks or trebles. One thing I learned from John is that the middle hook should be slightly forward of the center of the tubing. Said another way, if you are using sixteen inches of tubing, the center hook should be slightly less than eight inches from the head. Otherwise, you'll miss a greater percentage of fish.

Frequently, it becomes a race when you fish a tube. The fish is in hot pursuit and it becomes a question of whether it will grab the lure or see the boat and turn off. Some anglers slow the retrieve before they get too close to the boat and try to tease the fish. Whatever you do, keep the rod to the side so that if the fish hits and jumps simultaneously, it won't come right at you.

Fish Fights: A Hall of Fame Quest by Bob Rich


The wind was up that day, making it harder to see and catch bonefish. After another lunch on a pristine island, we bonefished until two o'clock, catching and releasing eight between us. Then I said, "Okay, Mervin, what time is it?"

"Mon, it's 'cuda time!" came the reply.

We'd been thinking the same thing! He made a beeline to a place I'm sure he'd been considering all day—a light, sandy bottomed cove, sheltered from the wind, and full of monster 'cuda. With this species, as opposed to the bonefish, the wind gave us a major advantage. They were so large we could see them from far away, but with the wind and resulting waves, they couldn't see us.

The first fish cast to was enormous. He was so large and lay so still that we had to squint to make sure he wasn't a log. Mervin got us upwind of the fish and said, "Throw it way past him and reel as fast as you can. Whatever happens, don't stop."

I did what Mervin said, and that 'cuda moved faster than any animal I've ever seen. He hit the lure and it looked like a hand grenade had gone off. Setting the hook was probably redundant, but I did so anyway, partly for Mervin's benefit and partly because it seemed to be the appropriate thing to do. That was all it took. The 'cuda—probably thirty pounds—lost his mind, and showed us a series of horizontal jumps that would have made the ESPN Saturday-moming fishing show highlight tape. He tired quickly, though, and came alongside the boat in ten minutes. He looked ominous, and Mindy and I both cautioned Mervin to be careful on boating this fish. We could have saved our breath. Mervin had done this many times before and had it figured out. From nowhere he produced what looked like a sawed-off baseball bat, and with three whacks dispatched the fish.

I had no qualms about this one. We provided dinner for Mervin and his family and for Audley and no doubt for some of their neighbors by whacking two more fish before heading for the dock. In fact, Mindy caught the next one, which was a good five pounds larger than mine. As she whipped that fish, I thought about what a good athlete she was and what good natural tim-

ing and coordination she was applying to tire this great barracuda. I also thought about how fortunate I was to have a wife/fishing pal who enjoyed the hunt as much as I.

Imagine our reception when we returned to the dock with three 'cuda all more than twenty-five pounds (caught in about thirty minutes). It's great to be the breadwinner!



End of expert fishing tips

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Last modified on 02/01/05.