Saturday, January 02, 2010

Giant squid invasion threatens Calif. rockfish

Like a horror show picture, giant squid seem to be invading the coast. From Fort Bragg to Monterey, giant Humboldt squid have shown up in massive numbers.

Every year, we see more giant cephalopods. The scary fact is that the squid are caught near the main habitat for deep-water rockfish.

"We have boated 5,500 squid this year, and the average is 40 pounds," reported Rick Powers, aboard the New Sea Angler in Bodega Bay.

Powers has seen squid up to 70 pounds this year, and he agrees that the number and size of squid are increasing. He has targeted the squid outside the Cordell Banks, which are a hotbed for protected rockfish. Most fishermen are worried that the rockfish will fall prey to the rapidly growing squid population.

In Half Moon Bay, Tom Mattusch, who runs the charter boat Huli Cat, encountered scary numbers of squid while on an experimental rockfish trip with the California Department of Fish and Game. While Mattusch fished for Chili Pepper rockfish, the squid tore the rockfish off the hooks so fast that the boat had to move from spot to spot to avoid them.

In past years, encounters with giant squid in these areas were almost nonexistent.

Recently, in Monterey Bay, squid have been caught along canyon edges in 1,000 feet of water.

Giant squid can be eaten if handled correctly, iced, cleaned and cooked properly, and most people enjoy them. There is no limit on giant squid, and there does not seem to be any worry at this point about overfishing. Some anglers hope a commercial fishery might be established to help reduce the numbers of squid.

"I will be running squid trips after the first of the year," reported "Captain Jimmy" Rubin from the Becky Ann.

On a happier note, though, crabs and sand dabs are still being caught.

Rubin has loaded up on Dungeness crabs. His most recent trip yielded 28 nice crabs for his passengers.

Meanwhile, Ken Stagnaro and the Velocity are running sand dab and whale-watching trips.

Gray whales are starting their southbound migration and are passing through the bay now. Trips for gray whales will last into May.

Finally, remember to get your new fishing licenses for 2010.

Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 15 years. Contact him at

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