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Barracuda caught sportfishing at the northern Channel Islands.

Barracuda (Sphyraena argentea) [California barracuda], range from Alaska south to the Baja Peninsula, but are rare north of Point Conception. The California barracuda is the only member of the barracuda family known to inhabit the coastal waters of California. There are 22 species known worldwide, and three smaller species are found in temperate and tropical waters south of California. California barracuda feed primarily on anchovies and other small pelagic fishes.

Barracudas are elongated fish, pike-like in appearance, with prominent sharp-edged fang-like teeth, much like piranhas, that are all of different sizes which are set in sockets of their large jaws. They have large pointed heads with an under bite in many species. Their gill-covers have no spines and are covered with small scales. Their two dorsal fins are widely separated with the anterior fin having five spines, the posterior fin having one spine and nine soft rays. The posterior dorsal fin is similar in size to the anal fin and is situated above it. The lateral line is prominent and extends straight from head to tail. The spinous dorsal fin is placed above the pelvic fins and is normally retracted in a groove. The caudal fin is moderately forked with its posterior edged double-curved and is set at the end of a stout peduncle. The pectoral fins are placed low on the sides. Their swim bladder is large.

An 18-pound barracuda is the California record, although fish over 10 pounds are uncommon.

In the News~

June 16, 1876 [SBDP]: “There are plenty of fish of all kinds now in the Channel. The luscious pompano, the muddy walleye, the diminutive halibut, and the gamey barracuda. And many are the hooks hanging out for them.”

August 14, 1878 [SBDP]: “The time when the Chinese fishermen go to the islands to fish is approaching. Something might now be done to prevent them from destroying such vast quantities of young barracuda and other fish, as is their usual custom.”

July 16, 1882 [LAT]: “Col. Banbury, Mr. Woodbury, Mr. Washburn and Mr. Giddings, of Pasadena, and Mr. G. A. Brandis of Los Angeles, returned yesterday from a very enjoyable trip to Catalina Island. They caught 1225 barracudas, three jewfish and a large number of yellowtails in about three days …A large number of fishermen are engaged in the work of catching and drying barracudas which are shipped to San Francisco, realizing four cents per pound…”

July 16, 1882 [LAT]: “Thomas Strohm, J. B. Binford, E. J. Thompson and Henry Lecroiq have returned from a very enjoyable trip to Catalina Island. They caught a large number of barracudas and a large sunfish weighing 160 pounds…”

July 18, 1882 [LAT]: “Joining the throng at Catalina… A party consisting of the Misses Fannie, Katie and Lucy Howard, Mrs. Jessie Newmark and infant, Mr. Isaac Haylock, wife and infant, Uncle Billy Malott and Mr. Belsar, depart for Catalina on the 19th inst. Messrs. Charles Layman and A. O.

June 23, 1883 [SBDP]: “Barracuda are running quite lively just now, and a plentiful fish supply is the result.”

July 23, 1883 [SBDI]: “A fishing quartet, consisting of Messrs. Crane, Garland, Gilchrist and Diehl spent a number of hours yesterday on the channel trolling. A number of fine large barracuda and bonita were caught.”

September 20, 1883 [SBDP]: “The cannery has contracted with Captain Larco for a large supply of the barracuda from the channel and propose to thoroughly test the experiment of drying and packing them for the market. If successful, as probably it will be, this new industry ought to form a paying and permanent business.”

August 17, 1884 [SBDP]: “Good fishing. Yesterday some of the members of the Union Club had a fishing test. Messrs. Bates, Winchester, and Eddy sailed in Jack’s boat. Messrs. Broome, Knapp and Culbertson sailed in Larco’s sloop. Each boat fished about four hours. The party in Jack’s boat caught 75 fish. Those in Larco’s boat caught 54 fish. Only barracudas and bonitas were caught, weighing from three to eighteen pounds each. The combined catch weighed over 200 pounds.”

May 23, 1884 [SBDI]: “The excursion of the Angel Dolly on Sunday next will start about noon, sail about the channel, allowing a fine opportunity for barracuda fishing… The fare will only be one dollar. See Captain Ellis.”

June 16, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Angel Dolly yesterday took out a large party, who had fine sport catching barracuda, although there was not much wind, which interfered in some degree with the fishing. The same schooner has been chartered for today by a party from the Arlington, who will also troll for barracuda.”

April 28, 1885 [SBDI]: “Larco’s son in two hours yesterday caught 150 barracudas, five yellowtails and one monstrous sea bass.”

June 8, 1885 [SBDP]: “Sailing is delightful on the channel at this time; usually just the right amount of wind. Larco is engaged almost daily in taking out parties of from four to a dozen. Terms are cheap and, for those who like the water at all, no greater pleasure can be experienced than a half days’ skim before a gentle breeze. Fishing for barracuda is excellent just now. Larco is perhaps the best sailor on this coast, and knows every inch of the fishing grounds.”

September 14, 1885 [SBDP]: “Channel fishermen reaped a usual harvest Saturday, the principal catch being barracuda.”

March 29, 1886 [SBDP]: “Three of Captain Larco’s boats were out Saturday and brought in over two hundred barracudas. Fishing now is said to be fine. His boats are splendid for pleasure sailing.”

April 23, 1886 [SBDP]: “One of the young sons of Larco, the fisherman, caught three hundred barracuda yesterday. The fish mentioned are unusually fine this season.”

April 29, 1886 [SBDP]: “The barracuda that Larco is marketing now are excellent in flavor.”

July 12, 1887 [SBDI]: “In the morning is the only time that barracudas can be caught in any quantities. Yesterday forenoon, just outside of the kelp, Captain Larco caught 150 of them, reckoning eight pounds to the barracuda, would make twelve hundred pounds of fish, and at five cents per pound, he realizes for his half day’s work, sixty dollars. Who says there is not money in the fish business?”

1888 Report of the Commissioner, United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (GPO: 1892) maps the Santa Barbara Channel as “Trolling grounds for barracuda and bonito.”

May 7, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The first barracuda of the season were caught by the Larco boys today.”

June 10, 1900 [SBMP]: “Henry Short's yacht Ariel was out trolling with a party for a short time yesterday, and 25 barracuda were caught.”

July 18, 1900 [SBMP]: “Fishing on the channel is reported excellent. Barracuda are running quite freely.”

August 11, 1900 [SBMP]: “Mr. Higgins of Carpinteria, while out in his launch Bumblebee off the Sexton Ranch at Goleta, caught 57 barracuda and yellowtail. This beats the sailboat record of the season.”

August 5, 1903 [SBMP]: “The fine catches of fish now being made fill the lover of the sport who can't get out to enjoy it, with envy. Small boats come in loaded to the gunnels with sea bass, barracuda, and bonita.”

September 2, 1904 [SBMP]: “Troll fishing for the large fish in the channel continues good... Henry Short took out one party Wednesday morning and another in the afternoon, each catching a number of barracuda, besides yellowtail and bonito.”

April 15, 1905 [SBMP]: “Fishermen report the presence of increasing schools of barracuda in the channel, which will be good news to the lovers of the most interesting sport of trolling. While no great catches have been made as yet, a number of parties are being organized, and the barracuda season will soon be in full swing.”

October 6, 1908 [SBMP]: “Santa Barbara Channel’s fishing offers best sport on Pacific coast… Yellowtail, barracuda, bonita and other gamy ones are biting well…”

April 15, 1906 [SBMP]: “The barracuda season opened with a rush yesterday, the first catches indicating that the favorite fish of Santa Barbara waters is here in large numbers…”

July 5, 1906 [SBMP]: “George F. Trenwith made a fishing excursion in the channel yesterday on the Nina, Captain Gourley, and had good success of yellowtail, barracuda and bonito.”

July 25, 1908 [SBMP]: “Barracuda are running well and 1000 pounds of these were brought ashore by the fishermen at the commercial wharf yesterday.”

July 29, 1906 [SBMP]: “A fishing party including Miss Lydia Lee Dozier, Joseph F. Sexton and others, on the Nina yesterday, caught 37 barracuda, and enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon.”

October 21, 1906 [SBMP]: “Reports brought in from the channel by Captain Henry Short of the Point Firmin state that the barracuda are running again, and yellowtail are biting well.”

October 23, 1906 [SBMP]: “Captain George Gourley and Arthur C. Greenwell on the launch Nina yesterday smashed all fishing records to a thousand pieces. In two hours trolling they brought in 132 barracuda, 28 bonito, and 18 yellowtail. This was on a run between More's Landing and the lighthouse.”

October 6, 1908 [SBMP]: “The accompanying illustration gives a fair idea of an average catch of barracuda, bonita and yellowtail taken with rod and reel from the Santa Barbara channel in four hours.”

October 8, 1908 [SBMP]: “Jack McLeod, David E. Jacobs of Ocean Park, and Casey Maher, who were out in the channel yesterday as the guests of Captain George W. Gourley in the launch Vamoose, made a splendid catch bringing in barracuda, yellowtail and bonita. They presented a large number of friends with piscatorial trophies and entertained some friends at a fish luncheon.”

October 8, 1908 [LAT]: “Fish of all kinds, which were scarce following the equinoctial storms, are again running in great quantities… Fishing boats returning from the Santa Barbara channel today loaded to the guardrails with barracuda caused much excitement among the fishermen. This is the first season for six years that barracuda have been running along the coast of Ventura county in big quantities…”

March 5, 1909 [SBI]: “Fishermen report barracuda running, but state that all other fish are exceptionally wary of the hook and net.”

March 18, 1909 [SBI]: “The fishermen report that barracuda are running fine these days, and large catches are in order. Between 2000 and 3000 pounds have been brought in daily by the Isaac Waltons for several days past.”

May 14, 1909 [LAT/VC]: “All kinds of fish, but especially barracuda are reported scarce in Santa Barbara channel waters this year. But some good catches of grouper have been made at the Anacapa Island banks.”

September 17, 1909 [SBI]: “Fishing has improved within the past week. Barracuda are fairly plentiful and some big catches are being made by S. Larco’s fishermen.”

September 25, 1909 [SBI]: “Professional fishermen are suffering financially as the result of an unusual scarcity of all kinds of fish in the Santa Barbara channel. This morning several boats returned after drifting with the tide all night, with less than a dozen barracuda for the night’s work. ‘Bait seems plentiful, but the fish either are not there or escape the net,’ said S. Larco. ‘Several boats are here from San Pedro, but they have no better luck than our own fishermen.’”

September 14, 1910 [SBI]: “Albacore are declared to be running well in the channel just now, and yellowtail and barracuda are augmenting the sport with their great schools…”

May 9, 1911 [SI]: “Big catches of barracuda are being brought to the commercial wharf and trolling parties are having the time of their lives on the channel.”

May 1, 1912 [SBI]: “Fishing in Santa Barbara Channel is the poorest it has been for years, according to the reports of local fishermen. Few boats are going out and these bring in little or no fish. Barracuda are the only fish in the channel. A few boats making regular trips to the islands bring catches of rock cod.”

July 19, 1913 [SBMP]: “Captain George W. Gourley brought the largest single-handed catch of barracuda ever reported in Santa Barbara in Thursday night on his launch Vamoose. Gourley left the camp at Pelican Bay, Santa Cruz Island, alone on his boat. He soon entered a big school of barracuda, and having four lines aboard, he cast them into the water, and between attending to his engine and steering wheel, and hauling in fish, he had a bust hour and three-quarters. In that time he landed 187 barracuda. The Vamoose was loaded to the gunwales.”

August 21, 1913 [SBDN]: “Heavy catches of fish are being brought in from the channel these days. Yesterday, fishermen caught and brought here over three tons of halibut, which is one of the largest catches this season. Besides the halibut, quantities of albacore and barracuda are in the channel. The barracuda may be caught but a short distance from the shore, while the albacore run about the middle of the channel.”

July 12, 1914 [SBMP]: “Big fish are running at the island now—barracuda, bonita, sea bass and yellowtail — in large schools that area frequently seen on top of the water…”

August 20, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Three hundred pounds of barracuda, bass, albacore and bonita were caught yesterday by L. D. Guyer, LeRoy Armstrong, and Lionel Armstrong of Pasadena, who made a fishing trip to the islands aboard the launch Otter. They are guests at the Potter.”

January 12, 1915 [SBMP]: “The fishing boats Anacapa, San Pedro and Bear came in from the islands yesterday morning with very light loads of fish. The old fishermen declare that they have seldom seen such a scarcity of fish so long continued as the famine the present winter has brought upon them.”

January 26, 1915 [SBMP]: “Last Sunday the Bear came in with a big load of barracuda caught in the channel off the mainland.”

January 26, 1915 [SBDNI]: “After being as scarce as hen’s teeth for several weeks, fish are plentiful. Local fishing boats have been bringing in heavy catches the last few days. The Bear brought in a bog load of barracuda, while the Eagle came into port with 1000 pounds of halibut and sand-dabs.”

March 12, 1915 [SBMP]: “The power fishing boat Bear came in from the islands yesterday morning with a good catch of barracuda.”

March 8, 1916 [SBDN]: “A ‘sun barracuda,’ the first known, was landed this morning by Mike Stanovich in the channel, just off Santa Barbara. When the fisherman pulled up the long golden fish, he for a moment could scarcely believe his eyes. He has taken the fish to C. H. McIsaac, who proposed to preserve it as another storng argument in favor of Santa Barbara’s sunshine. ‘I have fished in the waters of the Pacific all my life, for 11 years fishing off Santa Barbara, and never caught anything like that fish, not have I heard of anyone else catching one. It is a distinctly new fish so far as my knowledge goes,’ said the fisherman. Mr. McIsaac, who has had long experience with the fish of the Pacific, backs up this assertion. To Mr. McIsaac, the golden barracuda is a new fish. ‘It has taken this high color from the sun,’ said Mr. McIsaac, ‘and may be called very properly Santa Barbara’s sunkist barracuda.’ The fish is 38 inches in length, and in every particular a barracuda but in color. The barracuda is a dark bluish fish.”

April 11, 1916 [SBDN]: “Fishermen from the island this morning report a merry camp of Hueneme men at Willow Harbor on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. They are John Wiltfong, Albert Porter, Albert Korts, R. J. Callens, Emil Barsot, Frank Eastman, Cleve Wiltfong, Henry Keir. Barsot caught a 50-pound yellowtail Sunday, while John Wiltfong made the record for the number of fish, hooking 25 barracuda. The men also brought down a wild boar. They have an ideal camp, with pure water close at hand. It is stated that unusual preparations will soon be under way to establish sanitary camps on the island, which promises to be a very popular resort this summer. The increasing number of visitors, it is said, is making the demand for sanitation more than ever urgent, so that this feature will be given attention by the health authorities.”

June 18, 1916 [SBMP]: “The local fishing boats brought in large catches of barracuda and halibut yesterday, and Captain Gourley’s Whitehall boats have been in great demand during the past few days by anglers out for the latter fish, which are quite plentiful between the kelp beds and the shore.”

September 18, 1916 [SBDN]: “Joseph Witch, of the fishing boat Santa Ana, arrived from the islands this morning with a record catch of barracuda for the season. The Santa Ana had 150 pounds of fish on board.”

October 23, 1917 [SBDN]: “The biggest catch of barracuda landed here in a long time was brought in by the fishing launch Vienna this morning, the fish weighing down the little vessel until she sat low in the water. The night’s catch had yielded between four and a half to five tons of fish. It required several big loads before the Larco company had hauled the catch to the fish plant. Yesterday a crew brought in two and a half tons of albacore. Fishermen report more fish running now than in months. Many of the fishermen have turned their attention to crawfish, but those who go after barracuda, sea bass and other fish are getting big catches.”

May 16, 1918 [LAT]: “The Federal government is taking drastic action against some of the fishermen operating at the harbor—mostly Austrians, who are said to have recently indulged in the practice of destroying large quantities of fish. Deputies of the United States Marshal C. T. Walton last night sought to locate Martin Suich, owner of the fishing boat Verbus Unitis and his son, Peter Suich, commander of the boat; Tony Marincovich and J. Marincovich, members of the crew, who, it is alleged in the complaint upon which the warrant is based, destroyed twenty-five tons of barracuda near San Clemente Island a few days ago… The Austrians will be prosecuted under the provisions of the recently enacted law, making it a felony to destroy any food…”

May 17, 1918 [LAT]: “Pending further investigation by the authorities as to why the defendants threw forty tons of barracuda from their trawler, the Viribus Unitis, off San Clemente Island… The Austrians were arrested at Los Angeles Harbor yesterday morning… on a charge of destroying fish…”

November 21, 1918 [SBMP]: “With 100 pounds of barracuda in the hold, the gasoline smack Bear came in yesterday. This is by far the largest local catch of barracuda in some weeks.”