Posted by on October 17, 2004 at 02:44:14:
A rarely seen school of jumbo-sized squid has been lurking off the Pacific Northwest coast.
The mysterious Humboldt squid, unlike their tiny cousins who flood into Elliott Bay every winter, have appeared in sport-fishing catches this summer from Ilwaco to Vancouver Island.
"It is really a fluke thing to see them, and it's the first time I know of in about 40 years that they've been seen off the coast," said Greg Bargmann, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "They are typically found off Mexico and southern California, and rarely come up as far as southern Oregon."
The strong and voracious squid are named for their habitat in the warm Humboldt current along the South American coast. They have of diet of small fish like anchovies, herring, sardines and even salmon, and are also known to prey on their own.
Bargmann said most being found along Washington's coast weighed 5 to 15 pounds, and he has heard word of a 20-pounder. Some caught off the Mexican and South American coast have weighed in excess of 80 pounds.
"They started showing up in late August about 30 miles offshore mixed in with schools of albacore, and the water out there was 67 degrees and some say they could have come up north with a cell of warm water," Bargmann said.
The giant squids then started moving closer into the coastal shorelines in early September, and sport anglers were hooking them off the docks at Westport, and some were showing up dead on beaches.
"They have disappeared lately though, and the ones we've seen in the shallow (water areas) have been lethargic," Bargmann said.
During the La Push Last Chance Fishing Derby held Oct. 2-3, George Pepper of Lynnwood had a hands-on encounter with a giant Humboldt. While fishing just south of La Push on northern Olympic coast near the Rock Needles in about 100 feet of water, Pepper hooked what he thought was the trophy king salmon of a lifetime.
"I thought I got my trophy salmon when it took my herring," Pepper said. "You can't believe how strong it fights, and it almost spooled all my line."
In fact, Pepper and another fishing companion had hooked two Humboldt squids at the same time.
This summer, state Fish and Wildlife enacted a new ruling that allows anglers to keep one single squid daily in excess of 10 pounds in all marine waters or, as before, 10 pounds (or five quarts) of smaller squid in the round.
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