Big teeth make barracudas scary to novices and an ugly nuisance to many saltwater anglers. But with the right timing and tactics, even these unsung predators become targeted gamefish. As the water cools, 'cudas gravitate to shallow-water flats in the lower Florida Keys, where anglers can sightfish for them with lures.
The fish viciously attack plugs, and when stuck, they launch like missiles. In fact, catching these ugly buggers has become quite popular. The Keys hosts an annual all-release Cuda Bowl each year, scheduled around the same time as the Super Bowl.
To get a flavor for this unique fishery, Sport Fishing traveled to the Keys last winter with Rapala’s Dan Quinn to fish with Lower Keys captains Justin Rea of Sting Rea Charters and Tim Carlile. “We had a ball,” Quinn recalls. “There are lots of primo flats like bonefish habitat. When the 'cudas are shallow, they’re acrobatic.”