Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards 1771)

Other Names: Akerstrom's Sea-pike, Barracuda, Dingo-fish, Giant Barracuda, Giant Sea-pike, Short Barracuda, Small-eyed Barracuda, Striped Seapike

A Giant Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, at the Cod Hole, Ribbon Reef Number 10, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Anne Hoggett / Lizard Island Field Guide, License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


A voracious marine predator easily recognised by the large black caudal fin with a scalloped edge and whitish tips on the lobes, numerous indistinct oblique bars along the upper sides (above the lateral line), scattered dark blotches along the lower sides, and a pointed snout with a protruding lower jaw.

The Great Barracuda is a popular and highly-prized recreational fish. Although excellent eating, large fish should be avoided due to the risk of ciguatera poisoning. Great Barracuda have also been implicated in rare attacks on divers, and have bitten unsuspecting people dangling arms and legs in the water.

Great video of a Great Barracuda in the very shallow waters of Bonaire, Dutch Antilles.

Great Barracuda being cleaned by cleaner wrasses.

Video of a Great Barracuda at Richelieu Rock, Thailand

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Sphyraena barracuda in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024,

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards 1771)

More Info


Off North West Cape (and possibly  south to Albany) including Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef, Western Australia, Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, to Sydney, New South Wales, including reefs in the Coral Sea; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in tropical and warm temperate seas (including the Red Sea), except for the Eastern Pacific (individuals occasionally reach the Galápagos Archipelago).

Juveniles school in shallow inshore waters over sandy, weedy bottoms and estuaries including mangroves. Large adults are solitary and pelagic around shallow reefs and deep reefs to the edge of the continental shelf; also in offshore waters and around oceanic islands.


Dorsal fin VI, 9; Anal fin I, 10; Lateral line 75-87.

Body long, slender, snout pointed, lower jaw protruding beyond upper jaw. Mouth large, upper jaw reaching to or just beyond front of eye. Gill rakers absent from first gill arch; upper and lower gill arch with rough platelets that lack distinct spines. 

First dorsal fin originating behind pelvic-fin origin; pectoral fin not reaching origin of dorsal fin; anal fin origin well behind 2nd dorsal fin. Caudal fin of adults with a pair of large lobes near the midline of posterior margin; caudal fin forked in juveniles smaller than 50 cm.


To 200 cm TL and a weight of about 40 kg.


Dark green to brownish above, sides silvery fading to white below, with numerous dark oblique bars on upper sides, and occasionally black blotches on lower sides that are more prominent in juveniles; caudal fin black with white tips on lobes.


Voracious carnivores that rely on surprise and short bursts of speed to actively prey mostly on smaller fishes, squids and occasionally on crustaceans.

Barracuda captures fishes with a swift ram feeding strike and can attack prey larger than the gape of their jaws.


The Great Barracuda is a popular and highly-prized recreational fish, and is often taken by anglers trolling artificial lures. Although the flesh is excellent, people should avoid eating large fish because of the risk of ciguatera poisoning.


IUCN Least Concern


The specific name barracuda is the vernacular name for this species in the Bahamas (the type locality).

Species Citation

Esox barracuda Edwards 1771, The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: 1. Type locality: Bahamas, Western Atlantic.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards 1771)


Aiken, K.A., Dooley, J., Marechal, J., Pina Amargos, F., Russell, B. & Singh-Renton, S. 2015. Sphyraena barracuda (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190399A115319634. Downloaded on 01 October 2018.

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Russell, B.C. 1986. Part VII Fishes. pp. 79-103 in Berry, P.F. (ed.) Faunal Surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 25: 1-106 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Cuvier, G.L. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1829. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 3 500 pp., pls 41-71.

de Sylva, D.P. 1973. Barracudas (Pisces : Sphyraenidae) of the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas — a preliminary review of their systematics and ecology. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 15(1): 74-94 figs 1-4

Edwards, G. 1771. A catalog of the animals and plants represented in Catesby's Natural History of Carolina with the Linnaean names,. pp. 1-2 in Catesby, M. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. (Revised by G. Edwards). To which is now added a Linnaean index of the animals and plants. London : B. White 100 pp.

Fowler, H.W. 1903. New and little known Mugilidae and Sphyraenidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 5: 727-742 pls 41-44

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170.

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & Kailola, P.J. 1984. Trawled Fishes of Southern Indonesia and Northwest Australia. Jakarta : Dir. Gen. Fish. (Indonesia), German Tech. Coop., Aust. Dev. Ass. Bur. 406 pp.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

Grubich, J.R., Rice, A.N. & Westneat, MW. 2008. Functional morphology of bite mechanics in the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). Zoology 111(1): 16-29. DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2007.05.003

Habegger, M.L., Motta, P.J., Huber, D.R. & Deban, S.M. 2010. Feeding biomechanics in the Great Barracuda during ontogeny. Journal of Zoology: 1–10.

Hutchins, J.B. 2003. Checklist of marine fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. pp. 453-478 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., & Jones, D.S. (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Johnson, J.W. & Gill, A.C. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria. Gulf of Carpentaria Scientific Study Report. Geography Monograph Series. Brisbane: Royal Geographic Society of Queensland. pp. 239-260 

Marshall, T.C. 1953. Ichthyological notes. No. 2. Department of Harbours and Marine. Queensland 2: 48-63 pls 1-3 (described as Sphyraena microps)

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls. 

Pepperell, J. 2010. Fishes of the Open Ocean a Natural History & Illustrated Guide. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press Ltd 266 pp.

Porter, H.T. & Motta, P.J. 2004. A comparison of strike and prey capture kinematics of three species of piscivorous fishes: Florida gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus), redfin needlefish (Strongylura notata), and great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). Marine Biology 145: 989-1000

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. 

Russell, B.C., Larson, H.K., Hutchins, J.B. & Allen, G.R. 2005. Reef fishes of the Sahul Shelf. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory Supplement 1 2005: 83-105

Senou, H. 2001. Sphyraenidae. pp. 3685-3697 in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218

Walbaum, J.J. 1792. Petri Artedi renovati. Part 3. Petri Artedi sueci genera Piscium in quibus systema totum ichthyologiae. Grypeswaldiae 723 pp. 3 pls (as Esox barracuda, a junior homonym of Esox barracuda Edwards, 1771). See ref online

Whitley, G.P. 1947. New sharks and fishes from Western Australia. Part 3. The Australian Zoologist 11(2): 129-150 figs 1-3 pl. 11 (described as Sphyraena akerstromi) See ref online

Wilson, S.K., Wilson, D.T., Lamont, C. & Evans, M. 2006. Identifying individual great barracuda Sphyraena barracuda using natural body marks. Journal of Fish Biology 69: 928-932

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37382008

Behaviour:200 cm TL; 50 kg

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Aggressive; may cause ciguatera

Depth:0-110 m

Fishing:Recreational fish

Habitat:Coastal, pelagic

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map