Well, it finally happened today. The barracuda really popped up down out of Long Beach, and several boats ended up with limits. Targeting barracuda can be really exciting and fast paced. It’s when the action gets too fast paced that someone can get hurt, especially when throwing the iron. Here are some tips on barracuda safety.
- Always look behind you when you cast – especially when you’re casting a jig. Be aware of your surroundings. Just because your casting space is clear one second doesn’t mean someone can come running into that space the second you begin your cast. Make sure you are clear, call your cast loud enough so people can hear, and then cast out.
2 .Bouncing barracuda with jigs can be dangerous if you don’t do it properly. Don’t have a lot of line out when you bounce one. The jig could go flying out of the fish like a sling shot if it’s not hooked well.
3. There are two ways to bounce a barracuda that I have used. One works relatively well in close quarters, and another can work well either way, but better when you have more open space. Before bouncing the barracuda, be sure there is not so much line out, and then hold the spool tight and take the reel out of gear.
4.While holding the spool tight, grip the reel and rod tightly at the same time. Then step back and lift the barracuda up over the rail. When you clear the fish across the rail, let your line out (keeping your thumb and/or fingers on the line so you don’t get a backlash) and let the fish fall to the deck in front of you. This technique takes some practice, but when mastered, it is a safe way to bounce barracuda in tight quarters.
5. Another way to bounce barracuda is to not take the reel out of gear, step back, and bring the fish over the rail. Once it clears the rail, lower your rod until the fish hits the deck. Then free spool your reel to give you some line to take the jig off the fish. This is safer when you have more space to work with rather than in close quarters, but you can do it if you step back far enough to let the fish hit the deck in front of you.
6.Don’t be a “crane operator” when you bounce a barracuda. That means don’t swing your rod sideways when you are bouncing a barracuda. You can do this, for example, on a light load when you have plenty of room to your side, but absolutely not when you’re fishing in close quarters.
7.If you don’t feel comfortable bouncing a barracuda and/or you have a big one, don’t hesitate to call for a gaff. A lot of times deckhands will go for any shot on barracuda just to get the gar on the boat quickly to go gaff another. Here’s my philosophy: you can eat around a gaff mark, but you can’t eat around a missed fish. Always call for a gaff if necessary.
8.Lastly, when you’re walking back to get something out of your tackle box or you’re getting another bait from the bait tank, be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for people bouncing barracuda or casting their jigs. It’s like driving - you need to be defensive on top of being a safe driver.
Whether you’re a new angler, have some experience, or you’re a veteran, everyone needs a reminder now and again of these tips. Sometimes adrenaline will take over and you’ll forget about safety in lieu of trying hard to catch that trophy gar. Have fun, but be safe!
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