Barracuda Return to Florida Keys Flats

March 13, 2007 By: Marshall Cutchin

About 15 years ago the large barracuda that dotted the flats around the lower Florida Keys during January and February suddenly began disappearing. A delight for spincasters throwing “tube lures,” barracuda were also great sport for fly fishers and one of the easiest fish for beginning fly fishers to hook on the flats. Plus they did jaw-dropping things when hooked: long, greyhounding runs, leaps that would make migrating salmon jealous, and sudden bursts of speed that ranked them number one in knuckle-busting. You never forget the first time you see your fly line going one way, your rod bent at a hard angle against it, and a barracuda rocketing through 18 inches of water in the opposite direction.
So while permit fishing for the last two days in Key West, I was geniunely warmed by the site of lots and lots of 10-20-pound barracuda on almost every flat we fished. “What’s next,” I wondered, “the return of the mutton snapper?” If you’ve ever wanted to catch a barracuda on fly, get on the next plane to the lower Keys. It likely won’t last beyond mid-April this season, but if the numbers we saw are any indication, the ‘cudas are back for good, and you can count on them for next winter. Good stuff.