Toothy critters can ruin a good catch
Up and down the east coast of the United States, water temperatures are doing strange things. Perhaps it is a result of global warming; perhaps it is simply an anomaly that will change. Whatever the reason, barracudas are more plentiful and are being caught farther north than at any time in my recollection.
In years past, it was not uncommon to catch a few large cudas over wrecks and reefs as far north as North Carolina. They were always caught in the summer, and when the water cooled, they headed south. Catching a winter barracuda any farther north than Daytona Beach was rare.
Today and over the past couple of years, I have witnessed a significant resident population of cudas staying the winter as far north as Georgia and South Carolina. The water temperatures may not be getting cold enough in the winter to send them south.
Fishing offshore on the southern Atlantic coast has changed over the past ten years. Barracudas have become a nuisance to anglers bottom fishing or trolling over wrecks and reefs. They completely ruin good leaders on trolled baits looking for dolphin or king mackerel. They also ruin good fish being brought up from the bottom, leaving anglers with half a fish or just a head on what would have been a fine dinner.
There are anglers who tell me that the cudas have always been this thick. But, I have my own personal experiences that tell me they are thicker than I have ever seen them. I need only anchor over a wreck, and within minutes I have several “logs” sitting in the shadow of and fifteen feet under my boat. I truly believe they have a learned behavior – that whenever a boat anchors, food will shortly be coming up to them.
Charter boat captains have turned the barracuda into a trip saver, giving out-of-town anglers a thrill catching thirty and forty pounders. They make quite a picture with those imposing sharp teeth.
I’m working with the state of Florida Marine Fisheries folks to see if they agree with my observations and to see if anyone has an answer as to why. In the mean time, I continue to fish and deal with the situation.
I’ll be back out this week and I’ll see how many fish I can get to the boat without being cut off by one of the ever-present logs!