California Outdoors Q&As: Monster-sized Humboldt Squid

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Posted by Cal. DFG News Release on February 05, 2009 at 15:23:19:

Question: There’s been a huge population of Humboldt squid showing up off the central California coast in recent years. As aggressive as they are, I am curious what effects they may be having on our game fish populations. These squid are also really fun to catch and it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the fishing when you get into a big school of them. Unfortunately, the result is often boats and their anglers wind up harvesting more than they can handle, and many of these big squid end up going to waste. Should we have bag limits on them? (John P., San Jose)

Answer: Humboldt, or jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas) have indeed made their return to California waters, and in a big way. They are now being caught on party boats from San Diego to Fort Bragg. Special evening trips that specifically target the squid are catching behemoths ranging from 12 to 40 lbs.

As far as what impact the Humboldt squid may be having on other game fish populations, the jury is still out. The squid's major prey items include lantern fishes; however, lantern fishes are prey to a lot of other game fishes, so it may be more of a competition aspect rather than strictly a predator-prey aspect. Humboldt squid are more efficient predators in low oxygen environments than fish predators and can out-compete these species. However, they also feed on a wide range of species from northern anchovy, Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, juvenile rockfishes, and squid species (including themselves, hence their reputation) so there is great potential to directly affect game fish populations.

According to Senior Marine Biologist and DFG squid expert Dale Sweetnam, “Researchers have been observing the expansion and shallowing of oxygen minimum zones off the West Coast in recent years. It is that environment that Dosidicus flourishes in and is probably the reason that they are still out and about and in no hurry to leave.”

Although there is no limit at this time on the number of Humboldt squid that can be caught, anglers should be conservation-minded and take only what they can comfortably use. Landing reports indicate that large numbers of squid are not only being caught, but also being kept. The DFG is also receiving disturbing reports of a number of fishermen actually then dumping these dead squid when returning to the docks. Not only is this unethical but it also constitutes violations of wanton waste which is willfully wasting the state’s fish resources (CCR Title 14 Section 1.87.)

For everyone who gets the fun opportunity to fish for these enormous mollusks, take only what you plan to use. One large jumbo squid can easily feed an entire family for quite a long time. By being thoughtful and helping to conserve the state’s marine resources, we hope these animals will keep coming back in good numbers for years to come.

If you catch a jumbo squid and do not plan on eating it, please release it back into the water. These monster-sized creatures are a lot of fun to catch and they will usually survive when released, to be caught by another angler on another day. Photo: Angler with a Humboldt squid available at www.dfg.ca.gov/QandA/2009/20090205.asp)

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