Recently Davy Jones Locker diving instructor Matt wrote an article for the DJL blog. Barracuda and Diving describes the four different breeds of barracuda that can be found off the coast of Koh Tao. DJL instructor Rich has since followed up on this with an article that concentrates on one these breeds, the Great Barracuda.
The Great Barracuda
Taking a break from Dicks Top Tips I have decided to write a little about my favourite ever creature to see on a dive…… The Great Barracuda!!!!
The Great Barracuda is a large fish. When they reach maturity the usually reach up to a metre in length. Their weight can be anything from 2.5 to 9.0 kg. The biggest recorded however, caught on rod-and-reel weighed 46.72 k. Its’ length was measured at 1.7 metres while an even bigger specimen measured 2 metres and weighed 50 kg.
The mouth of the Great Barracuda has an underbite. This means its’ lower jaw sticks out in front of the upper jaw. Their teeth are similar to fangs which are in set in sockets. These are situated in the jaws and also the roof of the mouth. The head is quite large and is pointed and pike-like in appearance. The gill covers do not have spines, small scales cover them with the two dorsal fins widely separated. The first dorsal fin has five spines and the second has one spine and 9 soft rays. Usually the barracuda is a blue or dark green colour on it’s top half and it’s belly is a whitish. They sometimes have row of black spots or darker cross-bars which appear on its’ sides. The fins may be yellowish or dark.
Like sharks, some species of barracuda have a reputation of being dangerous to swimmers. They are scavengers, and may mistake snorkelers for large predators, following them in the hope of eating the remains of their prey. As a rule Barracuda don’t usually enter muddy, shallow water. If there is a report of an attack in the surf it is more likely to be a small shark that is to blame.
When barracudas are feeling curious they may follow swimmers and divers, however attacks on humans are rare. If it does attack it will usually be a single strike. It’s possible the barracuda will spot prey on a spear and try to steal it, or it may mistakenly attack a shiny object believing it to be a fish. Attacks are almost never lethal, however bites can result in lacerations and the loss of some tissue which can be quite serious. As a result, divers should avoid hand feeding or touching large barracuda. Diamond rings and other shiny objects may also catch a Barracudas attention, sometimes they will mistake these objects for prey. It is always advisable to remove or cover items such as this, especially near to mangrove coastlines.
Finally on a personal note, a Great Barracuda did join me on a 35 minute night dive. It was a 1 metre long beauty and it swam in front of me for the whole dive, using my torch light to spot his dinner for the evening!