Posted by on February 07, 2005 at 00:43:51:
Loved ones greeting 45 returning fishermen Thursday night were met with open arms and arms and arms and arms.
The New Sea Angler, a party boat based in Bodega Bay, landed hundreds of giant squids during a trip to Cordell Banks on Thursday, the first time since 1999 the creatures have been so abundant in Northern California waters.
There are probably tens of thousands more squids out there, hiding in deep water during the day, rising to feed at night and following a warm current that has brought them north from Mexico or South America, said Karl Menard, aquatic resources manager with the Bodega Bay Marine Lab.
"These animals usually travel in shoals of thousands to hundreds of thousands," Menard said. "They follow the warm water and they follow schools of bait fishes, specifically anchovies and sardines."
This is a mild El Niņo year and the sea surface temperatures are as much as 5 degrees above normal, said Travis Tanaka, a marine biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
But there's no way to know how long the squids will be around, or if they will travel farther north, Tanaka said. "Squid are really unpredictable."
Rick Powers, owner and captain of the New Sea Angler, had taken his 45 customers 25 miles southwest of Bodega Bay expressly to catch the squid. They used a hook and line with a special squid lure.
By the time they were done, the boat was lower in the water from the weight of the squid and fishermen were walking through the ink the squid ejects as a defense.
"They're absolutely excellent table fare," Powers said. "I've been fishing for 40 years and I've only seen them once like this before, in 1998-99."
Known as Humboldt Squid or Peruvian Jumbo Squid, the creatures grow 4- to 6-feet long and weigh about 50 pounds.
They have the ability to change color rapidly, but no one knows the purpose of the changes.
The squids have 10 powerful tentacles, excellent underwater vision and a razor-sharp beak that easily tears through the flesh of their prey. They will even eat their own species, usually injured or smaller animals, Menard said.
The Humboldt squid is one of the few squid species that are believed to have killed people, Menard said. They have been photographed attacking human beings who were swimming or diving nearby.
"You would not want to be swimming at Cordell Banks," Menard said.
Powers estimated his group caught about 600 squids equaling about 12,000 to 15,000 pounds. A fisherman is allowed to catch 35 squids a day, under Department of Fish and Game regulations.
The squids will be filleted and frozen to provide calamari steaks, Powers said.
These squids are of the same species that washed ashore last month by the hundreds on Southern California beaches. No one is sure why those squids died, Menard said.
"It could be changes in water temperature. It's possible they picked up a toxin from eating a bait fish that ate toxic dinoflagellates (one-celled organisms)," Menard said.
The squids are caught by the ton commercially and are an important source of income for fishermen in Mexico, Peru and Chile. They are considered a delicacy in Japan, he said.
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