Large, mysterious squid send California anglers into fishing frenzy

During a 45-minute stretch for anglers on two boats Saturday night off Southern California, they reeled an estimated 800 large ink- and water-squirting squid up and over the rails.

That’s a lot of calamari, and a solid indication that tons of the voracious and mysterious denizens have moved into the area–or have been there for months; nobody really knows.

Dana Wharf Sportfishing reported that the squid were being caught about two miles from Dana Point Harbor, from 80 feet blow surface to 400-plus feet. Davey’s Locker in Newport Beach also recently began sending boats out in search of Humboldt squid (16 anglers aboard the Patriot littered the deck with 340 squid in stormy seas on Sunday night).

These are predatory squid that boast probing tooth-lined arms, a raptor-like beak, and an insatiable craving for flesh.

They can measure to about six feet and weigh to about 110 pounds. Most of those being caught this week have been juveniles measuring about three feet.

Orange County landings began sending boats out to deeper water on Jan. 1, and have scored each time. But Saturday night’s squid bonanza suggests that there are thousands, perhaps millions of these bizarre invaders off Southern California.

Unusual? Yes. Surprising, no. The last big bite off Orange County was in 2011, and there was another in 2009. Humboldt squid, which typically occupy depths of 600 feet or more, recently made headlines by washing ashore dead on Monterey Bay beaches in Central California.

Decades ago, they were found largely in the Southern Hemisphere. More recently they established themselves in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, and during the past 10 years or so they’ve been expanding their range to include waters off California, even the Pacific Northwest. They’ve even been documented off Alaska.

The reasons for the expansion of territory have not been pinned down, although gradual ocean warming, pollution, and over-fishing of large predators are suspected factors.

It remains unclear how their presence might affect West Coast fisheries.

–Image and video are courtesy of Dana Wharf Sportfishing

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