Vol. 3, Issue 6, February 5-11, 2010
By Andrea Swayne
Dana Point Times
Jumbo Humboldt Squid amass in numbers in the waters off Dana Point, anglers rejoice
Have you heard of the popular reality television show, LA Ink, highlighting a famous Los Angeles tattoo parlor? If Dana Point had its own show, “DP Ink,” the ink referred to in the title would be that of an entirely different sort—squid ink.
Since Friday, Jan. 29, excited Southern California anglers have been clamoring about the arrival of massive shoals of Jumbo Humboldt Squid
in the waters just off the coast, prompting sportfishing companies to add
special nighttime “squidding” excursions to their lineups of fishing trips.
Dana Wharf Sportfishing jumped into the action on Saturday, Jan. 30 when they sent out their first, of the since nightly, squid trips. Captain Corey Lieser and his crew, aboard the vessel Clemente hosted 41 anglers, all “amped” at the opportunity to reel in these mysterious creatures of the night often referred to as El Diablos Rojos or Red Devils. That night the Clemente brought back over 200 squid weighing in at 20 to 50 pounds each.
Brendan Buckel of Aliso Viejo, one of the anglers that caught a jumbo squid on Saturday said, “The crew was fantastic and they were great at helping with all the fisherman. We had our limits within two hours. The squid were everywhere!”
Sunday night, the Clemente went out again to see if the good luck would continue, and it definitely did. According to San Clemente’s Michael Gannon, one of the 39 anglers aboard that night, “The fishing was ‘squidtastic! My arms are about to fall off because the squid are so huge and put up a good fight!” That evening’s take numbered over 200 once again.
By Monday night demand had grown so much that Dana Wharf found it necessary to add a second boat. The scene aboard the Clemente was one of fast, frenzied, adrenaline driven fishing. Within minutes of the boat’s arrival at the drop-off of the undersea canyon—located about two miles from the harbor mouth where the depth drops to 600 to 1000 feet—all 55 anglers almost immediately hooked into their first squid, stowed it in their own numbered burlap sack and dropped their jigs back into the water to try for another. The Humboldts obliged. The usual bottom-
dwellers, attracted by the boat lights and glow-in-the-dark jigs, were ignited into a feeding frenzy, marking much shallower than usual at 200-400 feet. Fishermen (and women) were yelling “Over!, Under!” urgently, but cooperatively, passing either over or under the lines of the anglers next to them and doing their best to keep the lines from becoming tangled. Everyone followed their lines as the strong squid pulled hard, trying to make a run for it.
The scene became that of controlled chaos. People were moving in every direction, yelling “Gaff! Gaff!” as the hard work of reeling one in came to an end finding the squid at the surface of the water. Members of the very busy crew reacted to the yells, rushing to each fisherman. As gaffed squid were pulled on to the boat, most of the animals sent a powerful stream of water shooting out—like a giant squirt gun—toward its opponent. Once on deck, the squid released a shot of oily black ink as a last ditch effort at defense. In less than one hour of dropping in the first line everyone had as much as they could eat—about 4-5 per person—and the crew began cleaning and filleting the catch. (Dana Wharf promotes only taking as much as you will eat or practicing catch-and-release.) “Everyone will definitely get their fill of calamari after this.” said Jack VanDyke who captained the Clemente on this night. The two-boat total for the evening was estimated at around 530.
The next morning Dana Wharf Captain Sean Smith was quoted saying,”It was a blast out there last night! Absolute chaos. I love it!”
Although Humboldt squid have been showing up in our local waters since 1983 according to Dana Wharf Sportfishing, it is next to impossible to predict how long they will remain in such numbers. “The movement of the squid is very unpredictable. No one knows how long they’ll stick around. It’s kind of anybody’s guess. They can be here today and gone tomorrow,” said Dana Wharf co-owner Donna Kalez. “Our phone lines have been jammed with people trying to get in on the action and it has been really nice to see so many families bringing their children out to experience squid fishing.”
The scene was repeated, this time with three boats—Clemente, Dana Pride and the Sum Fun—on Wednesday. On the way back to the harbor, as everyone started coming down from the adrenaline rush of the catch, Capt. VanDyke joked with the anglers aboard the Clemente when he said, “If anyone aboard didn’t catch a squid, when we get back to the dock we’ll trade in your rod for a set of golf clubs or something, ‘cause there is no way anyone should be going home empty handed tonight.” And with that, a cacophony of cheers, laughter and applause arose from the squid ink stained passengers, all tired and smelly, but happily satisfied.
Trips departing at 5:30 p.m. nightly will continue to run as long as the Humboldt squid swim in our local waters. The cost for the trip is $25 per person. Rental rods, squid jigs and one day fishing licenses are available on site. These special night fishing excursions are filling up fast so those interested in experiencing an adrenaline filled evening of reeling in some of the deep’s most mysterious creatures should reserve a spot soon. For details and reservations 949.496.5794 or visit Dana Wharf on the Web at www.danawharf.com.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT SQUID?
There’s more than one way to cook a squid
The squid fishing frenzy happening in Dana Point brought to mind the very obvious question of what to do with the squid once it’s caught. We asked Dana Wharf’s Donna Kalez who pointed us in the direction of the Wind & Sea Restaurant. “Chef Tony makes some of the best calamari around. You should go meet him,” she said. And we did just that.
We caught up with Chef Tony Guerrero at the Wind & Sea in the Dana Point Harbor on Tuesday, Feb 2 and looked on as he prepared a calamari dish out of fresh squid meat.
Chef Tony explained that the meat can be tough and requires tenderizing. He begins with a piece of squid about half an inch thick and pounds it flat with a meat tenderizer to about a quarter-inch thickness. The squid is then dipped in an egg wash (beaten eggs) and then coated with a cra
cker-crumb coating seasoned with seasoning salt and other spices. The breaded fish is then sautéed in butter.
It seems that everyone you ask—and we asked a lot of people—has their own take on preparing squid meat. Most of those questioned responded with methods very similar to the one demonstrated by Chef Tony but with slight differences. It seems that fresh minced garlic added to the butter in the sautee pan is very popular among squid fans and the seasoning suggestions range from simple salt and pepper to spicy chili powders and lemon juice.
One tip for preparing the fresh caught Humbolt variety that came up repeatedly during our interviews involved a quick method for further tenderizing the somewhat tougher meat than the usual served at restaurants—market squid are usually only around about a foot to 18 inches in lenghth compared to the 4-5 foot Humboldts. The jumbo squid steaks are about an inch thick and should be butterflied (split to half-inch pieces), dipped for about five seconds into boiling water, then immediately into ice cold water to stop the cooking. After that, pound with a meat tenderizer to the quarter-inch thickness than bread with your choice of crumb coatings, seasonings
and sautee. Olive oil was often mentioned as an alternative to butter for sautéing.
Or…if you are not much of a cook, head over to the Wind & Sea Restaurant and give some of Chef Tony’s calamari a try.
Jumbo Squid 101
By Morgan Richie
Local marine biologist sheds light on the mysterious Humboldt Squid
Studies show that Dosidicus gigas, commonly known as the jumbo or Humboldt squid, is expanding in abundance and range in the California Current ecosystem, which includes the waters off of Dana Point. Scientists offer several possible explanations for the expanding range and abundance including natural environmental variability such as El Nino events, climate change, movement or change in the squid’s prey sources, loss of competitors, and changes in the Oxygen Minimum Zone (an area of low oxygen concentration at a depth of approximately 200-1000 meters.) No specific cause has been isolated and it is likely that two or more are interacting synergistically. The squid are highly adaptable and flexible predators which makes them very well suited to changing environmental conditions.
The squid themselves are astonishing creatures. The body (without tentacles) can be up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds. They have large eyes and special structures on their skin called chromatophores which allow them to change color and reflect light for camouflage and communication. They have sharp teeth on their suction cups and a hard beak that resembles a parrot’s in size and shape. Humboldt squid are among the fastest growing and reproducing of similar squid species. Large females have been found with nearly 32 million eggs. They live for 1-2 years and die after spawning.
During the daytime, they are found in deep water in an area where there is very little oxygen, called the Oxygen Minimum Zone. The area of low oxygen is a refuge from predatory fishes which cannot sustain themselves under such low oxygen conditions. At night, the squid migrate toward the surface feeding on fish, crustaceans, and other squid. They are voracious predators and will eat almost anything that they are capable of killing. In different areas they are known to focus on different prey items. Until recently, it was thought that they fed primarily out of the water column. More recent data indicates that they also eat groundfish, flatfish and other species which are associated with the sea floor. In the absence of abundant prey, cannibalism has been known to occur.
The predators of the Humboldt squid include large predatory fish such as sharks and marlin and marine mammals such as sperm whales, Orcas, and Risso’s dolphins. During other years when large numbers of Humboldt squid were sighted, the occurrence of sperm whales also increased.
The specific impacts of the arrival of the Humboldt squid on the local ecosystem is unknown. However the large numbers, flexibility in diet, high reproduction rates, and high demands for food point to possible ecological impacts.
Sources: Field et. al. 2007, Markaida et. al. 2006.
Morgan Richie is a 2005 graduate with a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is a narrator for Dana Wharf’s Whale Watching excursions and collects blue whale data aboard the OCean Adventures catamaran. She is a professor of Marine Science and Oceanography at Orange Coast College and Fullerton College and the coordinator of the Pacific Life Foundation’s Southern California Marine Mammal Workshop. Richie is also the owner of Pacific Naturalists, an ecotourism and photography business, active in the local marine science community and makes awareness of recent research a top priority.