HOW THE BARRACUDA MAY BE TAKEN.
Taking advantage of the habit of the barracuda in basking near the surface of the water, and of its insatiable curiosity, it was our custom to have a trolling-spoon behind the Velella or the Henderson (our smaller launches) on their trips to and from the various collecting-grounds. In this way most of the barracudas studied were caught. These spoons were connected by a swivel to a "snood" of 6 or 8 feet of piano wire, and this in turn by means of another swivel was attached to the heavy cotton hand line. The wire was necessary to keep the fish from cutting the line, and the swivels to keep it from snarling the latter while endeavoring to break away.
Our largest barracuda was thus taken in the summer of 1913. In the latter part of the season we secured several good specimens, but during the first part the barracudas took our spoons in one, two, three order until it seemed that every big barracuda in the harbor was thus decorated. Chief engineer John Mills, however, provided some extra strong tackle, and with it was caught the largest specimen ever recorded from the Tortugas. This was No. 12 of the table, a female 55 inches long and 38 pounds in weight. Some of the incidents of its capture will illustrate the strength and vigor of these powerful fish.
While trolling one afternoon there came a tremendous strike which nearly pulled me overboard. Responding vigorously, this giant bar racuda rose some 2 or 3 feet in the air.* The Velella was slowed down and I began pulling the fish in hand over hand as rapidly as possible. Captain Wilson jumped into the glass-bottomed boat, which was towing behind, and began helping me, the fish offering a vigorous resistance all the time, leaping and backing, and dashing from side to side. Finally, when the line had been hauled in fairly short, the fish ran under the skiff, caught Captain Wilson amidships with the line and stewing the boat around nearly threw him overboard; and even when safely slid over the rail into the boat, it threshed and ham mered around at such a rate that it was feared that it would break the plate glass bottom; nor did it become quiet until it was soundly trounced on the head with a monkey wrench.
In the matter of the capture of the barracuda I am happy in being able to add further data from a man who can speak with authority, *In none of the hooks and articles consulted in this study of the barracuda have any accounts been found of leaping by this fish save only in Bfittikofer's hook (1890). He says that on the
coast of Liberia they often leap wheu in pursuit of smaller fish. My brother, while fishing among the Florida Keys, has had them leap when hooked.
for Charles Frederick Holder lived as boy and man for many years on the outer Florida reef and knew it and its fishes as no other scientific man ever has. Among these fishes, he had much acquaintance with the barracuda. During several years spent at Fort Jefferson on Gar den Key, he had great sport with the barracudas in the lagoon. He used the hand-line (trolled) sometimes, but being in search of sport rather than specimens, for the most part he trolled with a rod and light tackle. He generally had a white rag tied to a string 4 or 5 feet long trolling behind the boat, as a lure to "flush the fish." When the fish was "flushed" he would cast out his bait, which he notes must be a fish with bright shining silvery sides, and was rarely disappointed in getting a strike. Holder makes it plain that the fish falls a victim to its own inquisitiveness; but when a large specimen is hooked, and if the angler uses light tackle, there is a battle royal before the fish can be gaffed. He writes very interestingly (1903) of the barracudas in the lagoon at Tortugas.
The earliest writer to speak of taking them by trolling is Dampier, in his "Two Voyages to Campeachy" (1729, 6th ed.): "We commonly take them when we are under Sail, with a Hook towing after our Stern." Labat (1742) also notes that they are taken with the line and adds "by the use of the seine" also, but is careful to say that these latter are only small ones, not over 3 feet long. However, the first reference found to the use of a lure is in Macgillivray's "Voyage of the Rattle snake" (1852). He says that in Bass's Strait (between Australia and Tasmania) they took them with "a hook towing astern baited with a piece of red or white rag." Once at Tortugas our stock of trolling spoons having been depleted, successful use was made of a small steel shark hook to which a piece of white canvas had been attached.