To describe Saturday night's squid bite off Orange County almost seems an understatement, given the volume of squirming cephalopods reeled from the depths: 800 squid in 45 minutes.
That's a lot of calamari.
It's also the combined number for two Dana Wharf Sportfishing boats that were fishing in deep water about two miles from Dana Point Harbor.
Davey's Locker in Newport Beach also has been sending boats out for a nighttime bite involving mollusks that squirt water and ink while being bounced over the rails.
These are Humboldt squid, also called jumbo squid. They're voracious, fast-multiplying denizens that can measure to about six feet and weigh to about 100 pounds. Most of those being caught this week have been juveniles measuring to about three feet.
Orange County landings began sending boats on squid runs on Jan. 1, and have scored each night. But Saturday's squid bonanza suggests that there are thousands, perhaps millions of these bizarre critters off Southern California. (Humboldt squid feature probing arms and tooth-lined tentacles, a raptor-like beak and an insatiable craving for flesh.)
Unusual? Yes. Surprising, no. The last big bite of Orange County was in 2011, and there was another in 2009. In late 2012 Humboldt squid made headlines by washing ashore dead on Monterey Bay beaches in Central California.
Decades ago, this species was found largely off South America. More recently they established themselves in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, and during the past 10 years or so the ravenous squid seem to have been expanding their range to include waters off California, and even the Pacific Northwest.
Reasons for this range expansion are not fully known, but gradual ocean warming, pollution and over-fishing of large predators are suspected factors.
It remains unclear what impact the predators ultimately will have on West Coast fisheries.
--Photo: Ryan Beatty of San Juan Capistrano displays two of 20 Humboldt squid he and his father, Kyle, caught Saturday aboard the Clemente out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing. Credit: Dana Wharf Sportfishing
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