Can things get any more interesting off the Southern California coast?
At the tail end of a phenomenal blue whale season — which also featured great white shark sightings and a rare visit by a pod of mammal-hunting ocras — comes an unusual invasion of large and voracious squid off Orange County.
Areas from Huntington Beach to Dana Point are literally teeming with two- to three-foot squid, which is great news for anglers who don’t mind being squirted with water and ink, and landing operators who had been enduring a very slow period of sportfishing.
Boats began to target the Humboldt squid after an image surfaced last week showing hundreds of the deep-water denizens washed ashore at Blacks Beach in San Diego County. (Hundreds more squid washed ashore Thursday in San Clemente.)
Humboldt squid, which can measure 7 feet and weigh more than 100 pounds, appear off Southern California every four or five years, spurred by a warm current or some other anomaly. Their historic range is off South America, but for years they’ve also been entrenched in the Sea of Cortez off Mexico.
Recent invasions off California and even beyond, off the Pacific Northwest, caused scientists to become concerned that the ravenous squid, which could be harmful to other fisheries, are expanding their territory to include West Coast waters.>Strandings of squid on beaches have historically preceded infestations in localized areas, and it’s apparent that such an infestation is occurring off Orange County, and that might have something to do with a considerable decrease in blue whale sightings off during the past couple of days.
The crew of the Freedom out of Davey’s Locker in Newport Beach reported the capture of 1,300 squid on Thursday night alone.
Also Thursday, anglers aboard the Sum Fun out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing had trouble locating the squid, which typically inhabit depths of 650-3,000 feet, until about 9:45 p.m.
“Then all of a sudden they just attacked the boat,” said Donna Kalez, who manages the landing. “They bit for 45 minutes and the anglers caught over 400 squid.”
While Humboldt squid are easier to locate at night, by using bright lights to lure them upward, anglers aboard day boats have been getting them, too.
There are even reports that fishermen off the Dana Point breakwater have seen squid chase game fish as they’re being reeled in.
Kalez said the last time Humboldt squid were off Orange County they stayed for three weeks, allowing anglers to load up on calamari steaks.
She’s billing her nighttime trips, which cost $25, as family-friendly. After all, what kid wouldn’t appreciate a creature with slithering arms and tentacles, capable of squirting ink the width of a boat?
As for crew members who have to clean the boat, they might be of a different opinion.
– Top two images are courtesy of Dana Wharf Sportfishing. Third image of squid washed ashore at Blacks Beach is courtesy of BD Outdoors