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Barracouta (Thyrsites atun) Photographs and Information

Barracouta take lures avidly even spectacularly at times when they are feeding at the surface. They even provide strikes on poppers. On top of the lure action the fish will take just about any bait and feeds anywhere from the surface to the bottom. 

Barracouta are also known as 'couta and snoek (South Africa) and Sierra (South American waters)

The barracouta is frequently referred to as 'couta. It also has several other colloquial titles, including "pick-handle", "axe-handle" and "hammer-handle", all of which refer to its shape. In some areas its South African name of "snoek" or "snook" is also used.


Barracouta are an excellent sporting fish which will have a go at anything that sparkles and will jump clear of the water chasing lures which are trolled behind boats.

It is abundant in the southern hemisphere, ranging widely from southern Australia, both islands of New Zealand (where is is particularly plentiful) south of Cook Strait, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

It is related to the great mackerel family and its allies.  It is an important commercial fish.  The Barracouta is a pelagic fish, traveling in schools and has been known to grow to a length of 1.5 metres, although an average size is around 1 metre and weighing 2.5kg.  It has an elongated, compressed body which is covered with minute, easily dislodged scales.

underwater photo of a school of barracouta

This slim, needle-toothed fish is usually dark, steely-blue or green along the top of the back and bright, metallic silver on the flanks and belly. There is a distinct black patch near the leading edge of the long, relatively high first dorsal fin. The forked tail is dark, often black. Barracouta are sometimes confused with the tropical barracuda. However, beyond vague similarities in body shape and teeth, the two have little in common and are unrelated.

Although often caught at lengths between 50 and 140 cm, barracouta are very lightly built. Even exceptional specimens in excess of 150 cm rarely weigh more than 4 or 5 kg. A more typical barracouta measures under a metre in length and weighs between 0.8 and 1.5 kg.

Barracouta eggs are small, transparent and pelagic.  Fry inhabit sheltered waters of bays and estuaries and grow very quickly, reaching 30cm by the end of the first year.

Although they are a pelagic fish, they can be found in schools at all depths down to forty fathoms.  They feed and travel very close to the coast.  They will feed on small baitfish such as anchovies and pilchards, jack mackerel and krill.  They are active, savage hunters and are driven on by a voracious appetite.

Barracouta (Thyrsites atun) Photo

Map showing where Barracouta (Thyrsites atun) are found in Australian waters

The Barracouta have 3 large vicious teeth under it's upper front lip, followed by rows of very sharp, flat cutting teeth in each jaw.


In the early part of the twentieth century, the fishing industry in Australia began to target additional species and use of new fishing methods. Until mid-century, sea mullet was the most common commercial fishery, followed by barracouta.


Scientific Name Thyrsites atun
Location Southern half of Australia
Season All year round.
Size To 1.5 metres and up to 6kg
Australian Species Code 37 439001
Taste, Texture -


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Barracouta fillet.

Kilojoules -
Cholesterol -
Sodium -
Total fat (oil) -
Saturated fat -
Monounsaturated fat -
Polyunsaturated fat -
Omega-3, EPA -
Omega-3, DHA -
Omega-6, AA -

See Also:  Snoek

Angling for Barracouta :

Barracouta take lures avidly even spectacularly at times when the 'couta are feeding at the surface. They even provide strikes on poppers if you like to get your jollies with visible takes. On top of the lure action the fish will take just about any bait and feeds anywhere from the surface to the bottom.

Barracouta often form very large schools and appear to 'invade' an area making it impossible to catch anything else. When this situation occurs, anglers often get frustrated and hurl abuse at the 'couta. The best thing to do in this situation is maximise the opportunities available and enjoy the fishing. The school behaviour of these fish can be quite irrational as they chase anything that moves. The fish will even leap at a lure suspended above the water.


Cooking Barracouta:

Although generally despised in New South Wales, barracouta actually have tasty, pinkish-coloured flesh which is firm and white when cooked, and is also ideally suited to smoking. After cooking, the many long, flexible bones are easily removed. The flesh of barracouta can occasionally be infested with parasitic worms. Cooking destroys these worms and they appear to have no effect on the eating quality of the fish. However, barracouta should never be eaten raw.

Commercial Fishing for Barracouta:

Barracouta (Thyrsites atun) Photo of whole fish

The Couta Boat:
A couta boat is a type of boat sailed in Victoria, Australia, around Sorrento and Queenscliff and along Victoria's west coast as far west as Portland. It was originally used for fishing around the coast there from around 1870 until the 1930s, although it survived as a commercial fishing vessel until the 1950s.

The couta boat developed for the coastal fishing industry over the later part of 19th century. Fishermen chased such sought-after fish as barracouta (hence the name couta boat, scientific name "Thyrsites atun") but fishing co-operatives established quotas to control prices, and it was this that led to the added requirement of speed in a good fishing boat.

More resources about Barracouta & Barracouta Information




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