Pacific Barracuda and Sardine

Three barracuda chasing a live sardine shoot through the water like a volley of streamlined, silver missiles.  With mouth open for the strike, the lead fish displays its formidable array of stout, curved, needle-sharp teeth.  The closed mouth of one of the trailing fish displays the barracuda’s superb streamlining.  The shorter, upper jaw fits cleanly into a recessed space in the protruding lower jaw, turning the head into a smooth-surfaced conical nosecone for this underwater rocket of a fish.  The second part of the Pacific Barracuda’s Latin scientific name Sphyraena argentea means “silver” – a fitting name for this strikingly beautiful fish with sides of silver.

The calligraphic inscription translates to “In order to catch a big fish, one must cast a long line.”  The first time I went fishing for Pacific Barracuda aboard a boat off the San Diego coast, I was totally unaccustomed to casting the big, heavy open-faced reels provided by the boat’s crew.  Due to this lack of experience, the many barracuda surrounding the boat were just outside my casting range. Those around me who could cast a bit farther each caught several barracuda, but I caught nothing.  Determined to catch a barracuda the next time out, I bought an old, used reel and rod and practiced hurling the line with an ounce of lead as far as I could into the center of a local pond in Tempe, Arizona.  Over and over, day after day, I cast the line, further and further, until I no longer tired from the work and was experienced and confident enough to venture to sea once again.  On my next trip to San Diego, I hooked and landed the first barracuda taken on the boat that day and this gyotaku was made from that prized fish.

Size:  52 x 27 inches (2001; on display and for sale at Shogun Japanese Cuisine, Albuquerque, New Mexico)

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