Monthly Archives: September 2014

Barracuda Tackle and Tactics

This article is about fishing fishing for barracuda from shore with lures.  Trolling for large barracuda is another article in itself for another time.  Our hope is that anglers can learn a little more about this wonderful fish and experience the thrill of catching them on lures! Enjoy!

A healthy Barracuda caught on a lure

A healthy Barracuda caught on a lure

Barracuda are a torpedo shaped saltwater fish that can be found all around the world.  There a couple species of Barracuda that are found in the Philippines of which the Great Barracuda ( Sphyrena barracuda ) is the most notable.  Barracuda feed on just about any fish that they can manage to strike.  They have razor sharp teeth which are notorious for their slicing capabilities.  If is not uncommon for a baitfish to be severed in half by a strike from a barracuda.  Barracuda have a silvery color with a dark barred back.  In shallow water they can change the color of their bars from a dark almost black color to a light brown color that helps them blend into the sea floor.

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Barracuda can be caught in a variety of marine environments.  Smaller barracuda, called Juveniles, are mainly caught around reefs, estuaries, and coastlines, while the larger barracuda are usually caught around deeper reefs and offshore.  Juvenile Barracuda often form large schools while larger adults are more solitary.

Tackle

A Medium to Medium/heavy lure casting setup will suffice for most barracuda and other coastal fish that can be  caught around the Philippines on lures. Anglers here typically use 10 – 15lbs mono line or 12 – 30lbs braided line. More important than the size of main line used is the size of the leader line.  A safe choice is a small section of solid or stranded trace wire.  Fluoro and mono can be used and will be fine for most of the fish caught however occasionally cudas will strike a lure head on and slice neatly through even heavy mono and flouro.

A few of the many lures that work for Barracuda

A few of the many lures that work for Barracuda

Barracuda will strike almost any lure that is thrown at them.  More important than the lure used is the type of retrieve used.  Anglers usually have their preferred lures and colors which they feel work best. Some of the most commonly used lures include: soft plastic flukes, minnows and swimbaits; crankbaits, vibe lures, cuda tubes, spoons and jigs, feathers and flies, poppers and just about anything else :-).  Catching barracuda on live and dead bait is an art that we will not discuss in this article.

Tactics

The retrieve is one of the most important things when fishing for barracuda.  It can make the difference between no fish and no stop action.  Barracuda can’t resist an injured looking fish that is trying to get away.  The trick for anglers is to make their lures imitate that frantic action.  Despite the Cudas preference to fleeing baitfish their preference seems to vary quite a lot day to day.  We recommend that you try a variety of retrieves until you figure out what their interested in.  Try a fast retrieve with brief pauses, or a slow sweeping rod movement with longer pauses in between.  Slow retrieves with short sharp movements is also good.

By far the best time to fish for Barracuda is right around high tide.  Barracuda will often sit in one area and not so much as look at passing fish until the tide changes.  High tide usually draws the fish closer to shore to feed on small baitfish that are moving about in the tidal areas.

Barracuda are also a fun species to catch on flies

Barracuda are also a fun species to catch on flies

Because of their teethy mouths Barracuda can be difficult to land.  Often the barracuda’s thrashing will dislodge a lure from their mouth and allow them to escape.  Anglers call this spitting the hook.

Barracuda are great fun to fish for a variety of reasons.  They readily strike just about any lure when the tide is right and do not require much knowledge, skill or technique in that regard. The smaller barracuda also move about in school and can often be caught in numbers.  The violent thrashing strikes of Cudas also never get old.  They are incredibly fast in the water and their sudden strikes often catch angler by surprise.  It is also not uncommon for barracuda to strike feet or inches from shore.  Barracuda will often use structures in the water to help corner fish from escaping.

Barracuda are edible and are their flesh is considered fair though it is not encouraged they can be kept and eaten.  There is a risk of Ciguatera Poisoning when eating this fish because they are at the top of the food chain around reefs and often consumer smaller reef fish that have Ciguatera.

Fishing for barracuda can be useful along with fun because barracuda make great bait for deep sea fishing.  Smaller cudas can be sliced into steaks and used to catch grouper, snapper and other deep sea species. Larger cudas can be filleted which can be sliced into strips.

Care needs to be exercised when handling barracuda, even small ones, because of their razor sharp teeth.  Barracuda are not known to be the best fighting fish in the sea however they do often thrash about when they are handled.  Tools such as needle nose pliers, hook removers and lip grips are handy to have when fishing for barracuda to keep your fingers from harm.

By Benaiah J Fogle

Swordfish ( Xiphias gladius )

swordfish

Ram’s Sword caught on live squid

Common Name: Swordfish, Broadbill

Local Name: ? (Tagalog); Pugot, Malasugi (Bisaya)

Max Size: 455 cm ( 650 kgs)

Biodiversity: Marine, Pelagic-Oceanic

Depth: 0 – 800+ meters

Fishing Season: All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit: None

Recommended Bait/Lures:  Fish, Squid

IUCN Red List Status Status: Least Concern

Swordfish are a prized catch here in the Philippines because they are quite rare and also because they have the best tasting flesh of all the billfish.  Swordfish are known to stay at great depths during the day and to move closer to the surface to feed at night.

Clown Triggerfish ( Balistoides conspicillum )

Clown Triggerfish
Common Name: Triggerfish ( Scimitar, Lei, Scythe, White-lined)

Local Name: Papakol, Pakoy (Tagalog); Pugot, Tikos (Bisaya)

Max Size: 50 cm

Biodiversity: Marine, Reef-Associated

Depth: 3 – 75 meters

Fishing Season: All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit: None

Recommended Bait/Lures: Shrimp, crabs, other small crustaceans, sand worms

IUCN Red List Status Status: Least Concern

The Clown Triggerfish is another of the brightly colored trigger fish species that can be found around the islands.  These fish are generally small and are caught by angler who are targeting other reef fish. This particular species is prized as an aquarium fish because of its beautiful coloration and patterns.  

The Rabbit Hunt

The Rabbit Hunt
By Benaiah Fogle

A mention of the word Danggit in Filipino company is usually met with grins of delight and expressions of Lami-a uy! Sarap yan! and so on. This same word in the company of expats is met with groans and expressions of disgust. This is an article about Danggit, well the live one anyway, and its place in fishing here in the Philippines.

The word Danggit is a well-known name in Visayan for one of the many species of Rabbitfish inhabiting Philippine waters. Rabbitfish are also known in English as Spinefoots, and are known by many different names around the rest Philippines. Some of the names of the more well-known species include: Samaral, Kitong, and Danggit.
kitong
These fish are primarily a saltwater fish however they can be found in estuaries and even up stream in freshwater rivers. They also range in size from small almost minnow size fish to large kilo size fish. They all are generally round and compressed in body shape with small mouth bordered by lips that look as if they are ready to kiss. They range in color from mottled brown and green to silver, spotted, streaked and ever darker with more dramatic colors.

Rabbitfish all possess painful sharp spines all over their bodies. This is the reason they are called Spinefoots. A prick from one of these venomous spines leaves a throbbing pain for a long while. Fishermen need to exercise caution when handling this fish for that reason.

The mainly vegetarian diet of the Rabbitfish leads them close to the shore line around the country in search of seaweed and other plant matter. They often come in with the tide to shallow water to harvest the seaweed growing on the tidal flats. They often travel in schools which can be easily identified by the slivery flashes of the fish as they feed in schools on the algae on the seabed.

This is a Danggit

This is a Danggit

Rabbitfish are edible and make for fair table fare. Local favourite recipes for Rabbitfish include; Grilled Kitong (stuffed with onions and tomatoes), Steamed Kitong with Sweet and Sour Sauce and Fried Kitong. Small Rabbitfish are also a popular fish to salt and dry. Known simply as Danggit, these dried fish are then deep fried and eaten for breakfast lunch or dinner. My wife calls it her Philippine bacon. 😀 When the dried Danggit are fried there usually a pungent fishy smell that hangs in the air. This is usually what deters most foreigners from enjoying this Philippine delicacy.

Fishing Techniques

A Danggit float rig

A Danggit float rig

Float Fishing – The small mouths on these fish along with their sharp algae scraping teeth present a challenge that frustrates and deters many fishermen. There however is a technique for catching Rabbitfish that works and with a little practice angler both you and old can enjoy the thrill of fishing for Rabbitfish.
Making a Danggit Rig is the first step. The rig includes a float with a swivel attached beneath onto which two lengths or at least 18” of light leader line are tied. Two small split shots are pressed onto the lines near the ends and then two long shank hooks of the smallest available size are tied at the ends. The long shanks help keep the fishes’ teeth from cutting the main line. There are two favourite baits for catching Rabbitfish. The first and most popular is the boiled cooking banana (Saba) and the other is glutinous rice. Rabbitfish seem to prefer these sort of baits though than can be caught on other things. Once small pieces of banana or sticky rice are cut and placed on the end of the hooks the rig is ready to be cast.
Local fishermen often chum the spot there plan on fish both before and during the time they fish. Rabbitfish feed throughout the day and so can be caught all day long. In areas where large predator fish are present small Rabbitfish when caught can be used as live bait.

A good haul of Danggit and Kitong caught on a float rig

A good haul of Danggit and Kitong caught on a float rig

Salvage – Another less palatable way that local fishermen catch these fish is by using specialized “salvage” rigs. This rig is designed to attract the fish to a bait which has two large hooks behind it. When the fisherman feels the Rabbitfish nibbling on the bait they jerk the line in attempt to snag the fish on the large hooks. This is obviously not a method used when fishermen are practicing catch and release because it often leaves large wounds in the fish. The local sport fishing community looks down upon such a method because of that harmful result.

A Kitong taken on a salvage rig

A Kitong taken on a salvage rig

Pana – Because of their large round profiles, Rabbitfish make great targets for spearfishermen. They are also not a very shy fish and will often swim within spear distance of fishermen. Locals use homemade spearguns made of a piece of wood, a length of stainless steel bar and rubber straps. Spearmen either swim along shorelines, rocks, or reefs in search of fish or they set a bait in a good area and wait for the fish to congregate.

This is a Kitang which can also be caught when fishing for Kitong.

This is a Kitang which can also be caught when fishing for Kitong.

Now you know the basics of fishing for Rabbitfish.