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Fishermen Love the Plague of Flying, Red-Devil, Giant Squid

Two groups of people are thrilled that giant, Humbolt squid are showing up in record numbers and sizes off California: journalists and sport fishermen. The squid are expanding their range both north and south because of warming ocean temperatures and overfishing of their predators, according to MarineBio.

Sport fishermen get the chance to bag squid up to 100 pounds–and help the environment. And journalists get to do sci fi-tinged stories on the squid formally known as Dosidicus Gigas, which goes by the colorful nicknames of Flying Squid, Giant Squid, Red Devil.

Photos courtesy of Jon Wiley

For the third time in a decade, the squid are pushing north into California, exciting locals with tales of the six-foot monsters with giant beaks. They can fly in that they eject themselves out of the water to escape predators. “They’re very aggressive, including attacking divers,” says Rick Marin of H&M Landing. “Their tentacles have little claws and they’ll pull you in and bite you with their beaks.” The beaks, about the size of a macaw’s, become the trophies, he says.
I can imagine it must be the equivalent of hunting for deer and finding a herd the size of rhinoceros. Fishing charters have sprung up all along the coast. From San Diego to Half Moon Bay, charters offer the unusual experience of catching one of these sea monsters. Online squid fishing forums offer tips and recipes.

The added thrill for anglers is that it is totally guilt-free. They are helping the environment, much like the Midwestern fishermen who bow-hunt invasive flying carp. I emailed with one first-time squid angler, Jon Wiley, who let me use his flickr pictures of his adventure. He and his friends were well aware was helping curb this invasive species. “Most of the people I was with on the boat (all friends) were happy that something fun was also helping to reduce a nuisance,” he says.

Californians have gotten used to the squid–but not this time of year. According to Huli Cat the squid are now common in really deep waters off northern California, but usually only September through March. Marin of H&M Landing in San Diego, normally just goes out in January and February for giant squid. The trips leave at dusk and attract prey fish to the surface with lights and that lures the squid, too.

Commercial fishermen in Canada are less pleased, according to the Globe and Mail. They fear the squid will eat their hake and maybe even salmon. Even in San Diego, sport fishermen notice that other fish usually decline the year after a big squid onslaught, Marin says. On the bright side, Chile wasn’t thrilled to see the red giants when they started showing up in 2002 and they now have a 200,000 ton industry.

Though, how much calamari can we really eat? (MarineBio says commercial fisheries use a lot of their giant squid just as bait.) Marin says a 50-pound squid yields as much as 35 pounds of meat. Maybe squid will become a new eco-trendy food, the anti-veal, a food that it does the environment good to eat. “I still have about 10 pounds of squid in my freezer,” says Wiley. “I cook it occasionally. :-)”

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