Paul's Barracuda Backstory

Diver Paul Varian talks about his history with the notorious -- but delicious -- barracuda.

By Paul Varian 

So far, I love “Catching Hell”. I am proud to be a part of this show. My friends in South Florida are all divers and spearfishermen. The most common thing they ask me when seeing my pictures of fish or after watching the show is “what do you do with all the cudas?”.  To many, barracuda are not seen as a delicacy, but ya’ll gotta remember that not everyone can afford hogfish, stone crabs, and Chilean seabass.  Barracuda is actually quite palatable from what I hear (I don’t like fish).  Fisherman hate them because they are a stinky bycatch, spearfishermen are wary of them trying to steal their catch, and snorkelers are scared of them because someone, somewhere told them some horror story about them attacking anything shiny in the water.  To others, it’s dinner.

 If I were to do rough math, over the past 14 years, I have provided over 100,000 people with a nutritious barracuda dinner.  I have friends who have harvested much more than I.  That’s a lotta cuda.  On the east coast of Florida, when they decided to shut down grouper for the wintertime, shooting cuda became an important part of my income.  One winter, I even moved my boat 40 miles north for 5 months just to target them.  They are plentiful, relatively easy targets, and the buyers always wanted them.  Many divers proudly tell you about their best catches.  Many of my fondest memories, and craziest stories were from my cuda hunting days.

 Things change.  Four years ago, I suffered an arterial gas embolism when a barracuda dragged me up a few feet while I had my lungs full.  I couldn’t walk or pee for a while, but my only permanent damage is that my left leg is numb.  A year later, just after I started getting back in the water, my local cuda buyer stopped dealing with them.  Once again, I had to readjust and change fishing tactics to maintain my income.  This ongoing transition is part of what led me to the west coast and the “Just Shoot Me”.  I was delighted to find out on one of our trips that Scott’s buyer wanted a few hundred pounds of my old friends.  Like a kid on Christmas, I was begging to go in and do what I do best.  Whack ‘em and stack ‘em….


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