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Shooting & Swimming with Barracuda?

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Aug 19, 2002
I free dive and spearfish the oil rigs on the Texas coast. I’m new to spearfishing so please give me some advice on barracuda. I’ve been out 3 times and every time their were many barracuda.

I friend who scuba dives says he sought one about 6’ once and it came at him. He was able to wrap the steel line around a leg of the rig, and leave his gun and swim to the side until the fish died.

Yesterday there, was one side of the rig with many barracudas (50 plus) and the larger ones (about 5 foot) were not at all shy and came within 5 to 6 feet of me. I got a little scared when they encircled me so I aimed my gun at the closest one, which then backed away. After that episode I went to the other side of the rig were there were still barracuda, but not so many to encircle me. I shoot a few times at ones about 3’, and graced one, which then made an aggressive swim, through a school of small fish, scattering them.

I was afraid to shoot a 5 footer, even though they were a lot closer, for two reasons: 1st what if it came at me (I have caught them fishing before and their teeth are sharp!), and 2nd would that size of fish dangerously pull me around and down?

To all you knowledgeable spearos, are my fears founded or should I shoot one? Also, is there anything to worry about, just swimming with the barracuda in blue water? I have had my children, snorkeling with me twice with barracuda around. I tell them they won’t bother them as long as they don’t try to touch them, but if I was wrong and one of them was bitten, I would never forgive myself.

99% of all barracuda attacks are when they're flopping around inside your boat. :D

sounds like you're not using a floatline/bouy setup, or even a reel. :naughty ;) you'll lose your gun in a jiffy to one of those 5 footers if the shooting line's attatched directly to your gun. :(

why are you shooting at them anyway? are you planning on eating them? if so, watch out for cig. try dropping some pieces of flesh to the cats, or even dropping one in an ant pile. if they stay clear, so should you. :(

good luck,
Hey Don! Listen to Anderson, he's an experienced spearo and has taught me a lot in a short period of time and just through his posts. I can add some comments from my experiences in the water with cudas when not spearing.

Cudas have a bad reputation, but from my experiences it is undeserved. Yes, there are predators that can be large, move quickly, and have razor sharp teeth. That being said I've also pulled right up alongside of cudas as big as me or bigger (6 feet or so) and never had a problem. I also used to dive with a silver clip on my bc and never had a cuda act aggressively towards me. If I were you, I would have done the same thing with my young nieces (since I don't have kids). They need to know that there are wild animals that can be dangerous, but if we treat them with respect they will generally leave us alone. Yeah, there is a very slim chance that a cuda or some other animal could react aggressively, but I'd say that you're taking more of a risk by driving home than you are swimming in the water.

Hope this helps. Keep enjoying the blue world and sharing it with your kids!

Thanks guys

Thanks andrsn,

I’m glad I didn’t shoot one of the 5 footers. I had better get a float line or a reel before I shoot one. Barracuda, according to a few fishing Texas books and local fishing guides, don’t have cig. in Texas. It’s because we don’t have live coral reefs here. The ocean bottom is mud, expect for a few rocks her and there. I ate the last barracuda I caught with a pole, and I’m okay, I think! 8&343$@# -- Well, maybe not!

Yesterday was my first try at using my speargun, a Riffe MT-5 which I think I should have bought the MT-4 or MT-3 for my first gun. I started out with a 3/8 poly rope attached to it and used the boat as my float, but I kept getting the spear-line tangled with the rope so I took it off and use the gun alone. From what I have heard, free-divers here don’t use float lines, because they tend to get tangled in the rig legs. The scuba divers use stainless wire rope for the spear-line and try to go around a rig leg to keep the fish from pulling them. A friend says he purposely stays close to a rig leg when shooting so he can quickly wrap around it or he used 44 cartridges on the end of his spears, which he says stuns and kills it quicker.

If you have any more advice, I’m all ears. I don’t want to lose my gun or my life!

Mike, I just saw your post and thanks for the advice and reassurance. My kids love the water and snorkeling in the blue water at the rigs is a real neat family activity. I feel better now!

M-2, it almost looks like you were saying "hey don't listen to anderson" :D i was like what the #$&%? but then i read it again. rofl

don, using a pwr head to shoot fish is highly illegal. opt to lose your gun by a fish and not a game warden. ;)

reels are pretty tricky to operate with big fish. especially if you're new to handling shot fish on your spear.

email me and i'll give you the low-down on what/why on setups.


In my water, there are two types of Barracudas. One is the with a yellow color tail and the other with black one. The yellow color tail seldom grow big, even if it get long it is not as thick as the black tail one. The black tail one is what people probably call great Barracuda.

I come across yellow tail one often and they are usually in group/school, sometime by the hundreds. I don't fear these yellow ones at all which can grow to 4 feet but the black ones which are usually a loner and 5 feet or more is not the best sight to see but I realy don't care about them. Sharks ( except white & black tip ) me scared. Cudas in my water do not attack divers or even swimmers, never heard of it, they don't even grab any fish I shot or bit their own kind when I shot one out of the hundreds in the school. In ur water, I don't know.

I used to enjoy shooting Barracuda but not anymore, meat not too good. Cig never a problem here even we have tons of corals....I guess we are more Cig-Proof :D :D. When I used to enjoy shooting them I was using a low power 85cm pneumatic. One time I saw a big one 5-6 footer, I was reluctant to shoot cause my gun power is piss but never had any Cuda that big so I aimed and shot. Either I miss or out of range, the shaft never hit the fish. Guess what happened, it darted away while I was doing the same...running away .....wha ha ha. I thought it would get pissed and bit me.

They sometime might try to bite you when they are shot & not very stoned.

They are common fish to find in wrecks or rigs. As long as u eat what u shoot, it is fair game.

If you wait only for quality fish ( I mean in my waters ) you will end up bringing nothing home most of the time. What I read about Texas oil rigs is that they are FANTASTIC !!!!!!!!!

MT-5 is quite long and swing rather slow. If I were u, I get second MT-3 or #Hawaiian. Convert ur MT5 for long range work. Ur MT-5 is equivalent to the popular #Island. A fully powered MT-3 should be able to get all u need in the rigs, even 100# Amberjack if u see one, as long as u shoot within 10-12 feet.
If you fully powered ur MT-5, you can shoot from 20 feet with good penetration guarantee.

Aside from Chief Anderson 5 Star info, there is also "Rigdiver" in the forum with a MT4 who does oil rigs very often, he will reply to you soon too, I am sure. More input is good. I don't freedive well but I know how to pull a trigger. Ha ha ha.

To freedive U must use float and cable for shooting line in rigs, no choice....unless u stoned all fishes shot. I hunt rigs ( now only abandoned one ...sad...sad ) with scuba and depth only 120 feet so .......any fish may drag me all I care, I'll follow........Hmmm...60 pounder Trevally will be the biggest I will ever find anyway.

Anyway enjoy the hunt.......& be safe.

Just where did these fish get their bad rep. ? I have often taken up to 15 kg ones out of schools (sphyraena jello) ; the rest simply hightail it . Sure , the speared fish sometimes show their displeasure by trying to nip you , but you can block it with your gun if using breakaway , kick it , grap the spear ect. If you don't want to risk being bitten , don't spear them .
BTW Don , interesting to hear you dive with no line whatsoever . In your thread on self - inflating vests you said you have no worries about hanging onto your gun ... must have an awesome breathhold ;)
hanging on to gun

I never said I had no worries about hanging onto the gun, I said I would rather have the lift of a vest helping me get to the surface when attempting to hang on to the gun. The lift of the vest would be a postive not a negative.

I have done a lot of pole & line fishing in the Gulf, and Thursday had either a Yellow Fin tuna or a shark on for about 15 mintues. Had to chase it with the boat to keep it from spooling us. A broken swivel ended the fun. Anyway we usually only fish with the drag set from 10 to 15lbs. I maybe wrong, but 30+ lbs of lift from a vest and long freediving fins should provide quite a bit of pull, as long as the fish isn't too big.
Well Iya said I would chime in and here I am...You definately need to have somesort of rig setup...the one you are using is great for scuba(thats how I rig when I use a tank) but freediving is a different game. I recommend and use a breakaway...mine consist of a shooting line of coated cable to a Riffe floatline hooked to a omer buoy...works great. Email me for more info. As for shooting the cuda's, the smaller ones are great eating and dont worry about cig in the north gulf. They are pretty easy to kill once you get the hang of it. As you noticed they will swim close to you and when you aim at them they will turn. When they turn you get a quartering away shot. you want to hit him about 2 inches behind the pectoral and your spear should exit out the opposit gillplate...this usually does the trick as it is a very high percentage shot.

Come on over to MS and I'll take you out or maybe I'll make it that way sometime and help you get setup...what kind of gun are you using? There are few freedivers along our northern gulf coast and we need to help each other out!

:D :D :D

Thanks rigdvr. I'll e-mail you and I would like to get together. I'm in Corpus Christi, TX, which is south Texas. I got to bust my rear the rest of the evening, getting ready to go out tommorow. Been watching the weather bouys and reports and it looks good. Tommorow morning could be a different story.

If rigdvr, or if anyone else is interested, Tanya Streeter lives in Austin, TX and she is going to contact me about a clinic when she gets back from Caribbean. I’m not sure, when she is thinking of having her next clinic, but I kind of gathered that it would be this winter. It would be great to take the clinic with some spearos.
Just let me know...there is a guy in Louisiana that is interested in the clinic as well. Good luck tommorrow!
BTW-a reel will get you just as tangled on a rig leg as a floatline but you are more apt to get tangled in your line as well with a reel. I say go for the floatline and youll understand the first time a big ling or amberjack comes up. Snapper are easy on a reel but those damn amberjacks...have fun and be careful.
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somebody say a Riffe 5??

Howdoo Don.

First off, the cuda is and can be given the right circumstances a pretty imposing pile of teeth. That side, the right circumstances are when you have a bleedin piece of protein in your paws and the cuda decides it's theirs. That and if you shove your hand in their mouth up on the deck. Other than that, they were there first so... They act as an incentive to you the spearo, to get a good kill shot and haul dinner in on the quick.

Now, on to your gear. You're new and have a 5??! Lucky bugger! I had a brand new one in my paws this last weekend, complete with the new muzzle, like my 4 and with the new ballast wings. Guys, I shit you not, it was beautiful!! :inlove Ahh if I wasn't such a fan of wood... (uh oh) You may want to put that cannon aside and opt for something a tad smaller till you get it all sorted out. A 3 or 4 at the outside is plenty for around there. I'm a big fan of a reel w/cable for diving around your area, SCUBA or free. This will let you save your gun and keep tabs on the fish, the boat and your bladder at the same time. A breakaway will often give you a rats nest with the floater and line necessary to show above the murk layer and will be gaurenteed to find every piece of wire and cable down there. You are carrying a pair of cutters right?

Come to think of it, a JBL magnum 450 w/ XHD upgrades to the old and mo betta solid trigger, w/a 3/8" shaft, breakaway tip is what you need. Just like one I have that I'd part with for $60, complete with autograph and good Karma.

'Course we could just trade guns...:king

Hey Sven it's a deal... you pay for postage and i will send you 60$ Australian for it :) :D :D
hehehe well you didn't specify currency *grins*

actualy on the whole barracuda theme i have been amongst enormous schools of them in PNG they hang in formation like a huge pillar and the groups i saw were composed of fish that were aroud 1 meter to 1.5 meter (in two seperate schools) the fish in each school were roughly all the same size!

I chased em round for a bit trying to get them to school around me but they seemed a bit worried about the bubbles...
I have to agree the most danerous a great barracuda (black tailed ones) get to us is generally if you have em in the boat next to you.. they get a little upset then...

I ordered my RA 1.4 the other day lets hops they get the little beast over here post haste!!! Oh and i ordered a pair of garra 2000LD fins (should be a blast). If anyone is interested when I finally get the info to finish my PNG post (I am getting annoyed at the communications breakdown) I will do a post on Townsville and put my boat and the fish I catch on in it also :) but if you laugh at my wetsuit... heaven help you!!!

As for the boat... well for those of you who read about how it had an excursion down the highway at top speed... it is getting fixed now also.. I had four mates (including me) get the motor off the back (Johnson 130 weighs a heck of a lot), we have decided we will fork out the $$ and get the fibreglass done professionally.
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Thanks guys,
I have learned a lot in the last two months. Friday I talked to my friend the divermaster about powerheads again and he assured me they were legal here and was the answer to not having to deal with a float-line or a fish pulling myself and/or my gun away, so I went to dive shop and bought one, plus an adapter to thread it on my spear. Borrowed some finger nail polish from my wife and sealed some 38 special bullets, like my friend had suggested.

Yesterday, we went out. It was rough and after hooking up the big fish by the Shrimp boat on Thursday (with rod and pole) we just had to stop at every shrimp boat we found. Then we tried to find an artificial reef to do some bottom fishing, which turned into another waste of time. Finally made it to a rig at 2:30 PM. My wife loves snapper, so I behaved like the good husband and helped her until we were one shy of the limit. I figured she could catch the last one while I did my spearfishing thing.

When I slipped into the water I was immediately greeted by several barracuda so I fired. There was a big loud boom and my spear seemed to lose all momentum and fall short of the fish. I thinking, did the powerhead just go off from the force of MT5 release? Back in the boat it appeared that is what happened, but just to make sure I went back in and did it again. Same result. What a waste of money! Found out today, that if you have a powerful gun you have to get stiffer springs from the manufacture to keep it from firing from the initial thrust.

I know some on the group think its just awful for anyone to use a powerhead, but I don’t think anyone should dictate what other people do, or should like, as long as its not hurting or costing anyone else. The fish is going to die either way. I sometimes go against politically correctness, just because I can’t stand dictation. After my experience I have decided not to use the powerhead for these reasons: it’s loud and my ears don’t need anymore abuse, half the fun of spearfishing is fighting the fish once its speared, and although a float or a reel is no longer needed, it the powerhead itself adds complication.

Anyway, my only tool in the boat was a little pair of pliers so I took the powerhead off and put the regular tip back on, but with out an extra pair of pliers or vice-grips to grip both the spear and the tip, I was unable to get it very tight. Went back in and located a grey snapper. It just watched my as I swam down and it was an easy shoot. My wife was excited that I shoot an edible fish so I went back looking for more.

I thought I saw another gray snapper about 20’ down, in the legs so I went down to check it out. It wasn’t and I could see no fish I wanted to eat so I started a slow ascent. There were barracuda all around me, but I saw one from beneath me with a funny grin on its face coming up to check me out. I aimed my gun right at him, which seem to further his curiosity. He came to within four feet of end of my gun and made a slow turn. I aimed right behind the head, like rigdiver said too, and pulled the trigger. The spear hit its mark and MT5 shoot the whole arrow right though the fish, just like it has with every fish I have shot with. Guess I don’t need a breakaway tip!

The fish immediately took off down and into the rig. I took off up and away from the rig. When the line came tight it turned the fish and he swam hard away from the rig. There was definitely some pull and I had to squeeze hard to hold on the gun, but it was less effort than loading the bands on the thing, which is a brute strength activity anyway. I easily made it too the surface, those big Picasso fins provided a lot of kick, and took a nice breath of air. I relaxed and quick kicking and he pulled me back under. We repeat this once more and then his pull became faint. My wife by this time was yelling, “what do you have?”. I was able to take the snorkel out and tell her. I then swam the gun to the boat and handed it to her tell her to pull the fish to the boat, but not into the boat, until I got in and could help her.

It measured 35”, which was right in the size I wanted to shoot. I have caught about 5 barracuda with a pole and all of them had a green color to them and not much in many scales. This one was all silver with black dots and pronounced scales. I read somewhere there were about 20 different types of barracuda. Iya, looks like we are all catching different types. Later I found out the tip wings must of acted like a propeller and spun the tip right off the shaft. Another expensive mistake!

We ate some last night and my wife put some more in my lunch today. It’s a good change from snapper, but I don’t think I will fill my freezer with it.

That’s it. Andrsn and rigdivr, I’m still don’t feel good about having to manage a float through the legs and cross braces of the rigs. It’s probably because everything is so new to me, like the gun, etc.. Of course personal instruction would probably help me understand and feel more comfortable too.
thanks for the update, chief. nice addition to my lunch break. ;)

it's totally preference, though. floatline, reel, or mono a mono with the fish, whatever floats your boat. ;) i think a decent suggestion would be to add a few wraps to your gun. that way you'd get a head start to the surface and the new distance you'd have between you and the fish would lessen his fear of you being so close.

just remember not to get gready w/ the size of the fish, and be smart about when, in your dive, you're going to pull the trigger.

stay safe,
I agree. Stories like yours are a lot of fun to reflect on.

If you want to do the bandstick right, like me:cool: , fab up some mounts so your bangstick is attached to the side of the gun. The 5 isn't the easist swinging thing the world to begin with and the bangstick won't add that much to it's mass.

That way, stuff happens you can jab it and get the thing's attention. If it, and I'm talking cuda, shark, or buddy, get's tooo close, you're covered. If it's further than my gun and arm can reach, it's covered. Everything wins.


I didn’t say it clearly, but I think your right about having a float or something. Although it worked out good yesterday with the fish being the right size, I’m sure there will come a time when there is a fish that I don’t to pass on, but is too big to safely spear without something. I’m married to a Filipino and we eat a lot of fish. If a 100 lbs ling or amberjack happens by, I’m going to want it our freezer!

Rigdiver may teach me how to use float, but I really like the idea of a self-inflating float attached to the gun. I was thinking of a self-inflating vest that I wore, but I’m less ken on that now after seeing how much they inflate around the neck and cut off movement and visibility, plus a really big and strong fish might rip my gun out of my hand. I talked to Dave at Carter Lift Bag and he is going to make me a custom spearfishing buoy with a CO2 cylinder. He already makes one that has 30 lbs lift, but he is going to add about 10” in the length of the tube (was 30”) to give it about 50lbs of lift and a bigger CO2 cylinder. The buoy has a pressure relief valve and uses a larger C02 cartridge than needed at the surface, so it fills all the way up at depth. This should give it 50lbs of pull at depth as well as on the surface

The plan is to attach it to the gun and put the pull string on a Velcro wrist strap. That way if I lose the gun, it will trigger the lift. I let you know what the result is.

Sven, I was thinking of doing something like that too. Your right the MT5 doesn’t swing good. I’m fine with it when I aim it in the direction I am swimming, put when ascending, I don’t feel good about aiming to the surface, because of people and boats. A rod with the powerhead on it (bang stick), attached to the side of the muzzle, might be just the thing.

your mt-5 cost a pretty penny. i think relying on a self inflating device on your gun is pretty iffy. remember, that 30lbs of lift is at the surface. as it goes down, it becomes less and less of a resistance. many of us use foam-blown floats that don't compress. a strong fish over 60lbs can submerge a 35L float which is about 70lbs of lift at the surface.

the floats that most of us use are 11L floats, that hardly get below the surface cause we're adding xtra lift by kicking up while tethering the floatline. these are fine for fish around 20-45lbs. anything bigger and we have to let go and pray our little floats will tire the fish out at one point and resurface.

i commend you on your thought processes. ;) this is how we come up w/ new inventions. just keep in mind many of us have gone through most of the things you're going through right now. :confused:

back to my original consensus.. simplicity is key. :)


ps. not trying to discourage you, but just adding to your thinking.
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just thought of another option. you could always grab an omer pelagic reel(best reel in my book) and have a small snap swivel terminated at the end of your spear line. get a non-locking snap of about a 50lb rating. clip the snap swivel to the line eye of the gun. if a fish is small enough for you to handle, everything will be like you had it before. if it's too big, it'll disengage the snap and go directly to your reel which will let out line and allow you to surface.

just adding more thoughts, don. i'm assuming more people may be going through the same dilemmas you are. :eek:

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