Tag Archives: Barracudas

Fish at Viper Rock

Fish swim in the waters off Hawaii

On the coast where I snorkel, there’s a spot known locally as Viper Rock. This is where a very large Viper Moray Eel used to reside in a recess in the rock. I haven’t seen him lately, but it’s also a good spot for a variety of fish so I go down there regularly.

On this day, I approached the rock from the shore side and noticed these Whitebar Surgeonfishes swimming by. Then I noticed the Great Barracuda that can be seen in the background against the edge of the farther rocky outcropping. A few moments later I saw another one, and then a third.

It appeared that the barracuda ohana that frequents that area was around in force. Rather than cross to the other side of the ridge by Viper Rock, where the barracudas were, I returned the way I came. A couple of barracudas looked like they might follow, but quickly lost interest. Their interest in people appears to be related solely to the possibility that those people will snag some fish which the barracudas will then hope to steal.

Milkfish at Lahuipua’a Fishpond gate

Milkfish congregate at Lahuipua'a fishpond gate at Mauna Lani Hawaii
A sign next to Lahuipua'a Fishpond at Mauna Lani, Hawaii

Fishponds were places where the early Hawaiians used to raise fish for consumption. Lahuipua’a Fishpond at Mauna Lani is a very large pond which holds many Milkfish. Awa is their Hawaiian name.

These Milkfish were congregated at the entrance gate, no doubt hoping for someone to open it and let them out. The gates can be used for either purpose, but the idea of the ponds is that small fish can enter, but as they get bigger, they can’t get out. The fish in the top photo are far too big to escape through the grill.

There is another way out, as the sign in the second photo notes. Jacks and barracudas sometimes manage to get into the pools and will feed on the juvenile fishes. There are supposedly a couple of very large barracudas in this pool that have so far evaded capture and they’re probably living well off the inhabitants there.

A great barracuda

A great barracuda off the coast of Hawaii

I’ve mentioned before that great barracudas give me the willies more than sharks do. But the truth is, that while they look menacing, I’ve yet to see one being aggressive. The black fish in this photo wasn’t far from the barracuda, but was ignored by it as it swam by.

Even though they unnerve me, there are times when I just have to laugh. A couple of weeks ago I was snorkeling, puttering along as I looked around for things of interest, and I happened to look behind me. One of the very large barracudas was following me, about a body length behind. The instant I looked back, the barracuda turned away. It could have been a great photo, but I wasn’t ready for it and then the fish was gone. It was also a good illustration of the fact anything that might attack me in the water is highly likely to take me completely by surprise.

Barracudas will follow spear fishers in the water, hoping to snatch their catch, and I think because of this, they’ll follow anyone in the water in the hope that they might be in the fish acquisition business, too.

Cleaning a barracuda

A small cleaner wrasse works at removing parasites, dead tissue and mucus from a great barracuda. The service they provide is recognized by larger potential predators, which don’t harm these little blue and yellow fish, even when they go inside the mouth to clean.

Great barracudas are generally mostly silver with black marks on the tail fins and second dorsal fins. However, some great barracudas, such as this one, have black marks on other fins and their silvery sides are mottled with darker markings.

Great barracuda

This is a photo that comes with a story. There’s a place where I often snorkel that is home to a large group of barracudas. Most of these barracudas are around a foot and a half in length, though a few are much larger than that. I’ve mentioned before how barracudas give me the willies. They have not attacked anyone in Hawaiian waters to my knowledge, but they just have a certain look about them.

On this day I had passed the barracudas’ territory closer to the shore than I usually do. I didn’t see a single one of them. On my return, I swam farther out and, at one point, saw this barracuda and a second one (the jaw of which can just be seen in the photo) coming toward me. This was a bit unnerving but they slid by to one side, which is when I took this photo.

I turned my head and saw them curl around behind me. This wasn’t unusual; I’ve often had barracudas track me as I pass. Then I noticed a couple more arrive. This was less reassuring. I kept swimming steadily because I didn’t really have any other options. There was no way I was going to outrun them. Pretty much everything in the ocean moves faster than me and that probably includes some snails and sea cucumbers. Equally, I didn’t feel like turning to face them because the possible results of doing that included some I didn’t much like.

It seemed like every time I turned my head to see where they were, another barracuda had joined the pack. There must have been eight or nine of them at one point. Luckily, I didn’t see any of the very large barracudas among them, as that would definitely have made me even more nervous.

After a while I reached a rocky islet, a place where I usually first encounter the barracudas. They were all still behind me when I got there, but soon after I passed they were gone. While I’ve seen them in many different areas, this spot does seem to mark some edge to the territory of the main group.

I swam on, looking behind from time to time, and feeling more relaxed each time I did so. At least until I looked ahead one time and saw one of the huge barracudas heading right at me. It too passed by and I didn’t see it again, but it was time for me to get out of the water.

Great barracuda being cleaned

Great barracudas give me the willies, more so than sharks or most anything else in the ocean. There’s something about their appearance and how they hang motionless in the water that I find unnerving.

A little way south of my usual snorkeling spot, there’s a concentration of these fish that always rattles me as I swim through. Most of the barracudas I see are two feet long or less, but there a few among them that are much bigger than that. When I run into them, I’m leery about pointing my camera at them in case that upsets them in any way, because they don’t look like fish that would take kindly to being upset.

On this day, I was swimming with a friend when we came upon this very large great barracuda, just hanging in the water. Turned out it was being cleaned. The little blue and yellow fish above the head of the barracuda is a cleaner wrasse. These little fish set up store in different areas and clean mucus, dead tissue and parasites off other fish, which make regular visits to take advantage of this service.

Many fish being cleaned have an aura of great contentment while it’s going on, and this barracuda also looked quite relaxed, to such an extent that I lost my trepidation about it and got a bit closer than I normally would.

The wrasse is probably around 3 inches in length which would mean this barracuda is probably around 4 feet long.

A mackerel scad school draws attention

Mackerel Scad shoal

Mackerel Scad shoal over coralMackerel scad are schooling fish, the kind that make ‘bait balls’ which end up being decimated by large predators. They’re members of the jack family, not that this does them much good. Some of those large predators are other members of the jack family such as greater amberjacks and almaco jacks.

I came across this school not far from shore. There were probably two or three hundred fish in the school and it was fun watching them twirl and circle in harmony. They encircled me, went past and I popped out the other side. It was then I noticed they weren’t alone. One the other side of the school, a medium-sized great barracuda cruised around.

The barracuda came toward me to take a look, but I was clearly less interesting than the scad and it moved away again. The barracuda can be seen in the bottom photo. See if you can spot it.

Mackerel Scad shoal and a great barracuda