A large, streamlined predatory fish with a fierce appearance, the pickhandle barracuda (Sphyraena jello) is capable of quickly pursuing its prey using thrusts of the powerful, forked tail fin (2). The mouth of this species is large, reaching back level with the small eye, and is armed with long, sharp, dagger-like teeth. The dark bars that streak its sides are vertical in the lower half, but angled in the top half in the shape of a pick, giving this fish its common name. The pickhandle barracuda is light silver in colour, which acts as camouflage, making it difficult to see from below against the surface light (4)(5)(6).
Also known as
banded barracuda, giant sea pike, Indian barracuda, pickhandle seapike.
Using its excellent camouflage and ability to remain completely still in the water as if frozen (5), the pickhandle barracuda lies in wait for its fish or squid prey (2). Larger pickhandle barracuda tend to be solitary, while smaller individuals occur in schools (2)(8).
As with other barracuda species, little is known about the reproductive cycle of the pickhandle barracuda, but it is believed that spawning occurs once a year, with eggs and sperm being released into the open ocean for external fertilisation(5).
Despite being exploited for both sport and commercial fishing, the pickhandle barracuda does not appear to be under threat of extinction, although its exact conservation status has yet to be assessed (9).
Heemstra, E. and Heemstra, P. (2004) Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa. NISC and SAIAB, Grahamstown, South Africa.
Randall, J.E. and Hoover, J.P. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. Crawford House Publishing Pty Ltd, Bathurst, Australia.
Hansford-Steele, B. (2004) African Fly-Fishing Handbook. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2005) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Carpenter, K.E. and Niem, V.H. (2001) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific Volume 6: Bony Fishes Part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), Estuarine Crocodiles, Sea Turtles, Sea Snakes and Marine Mammals. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome. Available at: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/y0870e/y0870e33.pdf
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