This is No Fish Story: Humboldt Squid Make Rare Visit to the Strait

Note: The headline of this post was corrected to say squid were in the Strait (of Juan de Fuca) not Puget Sound. (9/21/09)

I noticed today Chris Dunagan’s “Watching Our Waterways” blog a post on fishing jokes. It piqued my interest, since I recently got to go salmon fishing with my husband for the first time since B.C. (before children).

The fishing was good, and with two of us licensed, we were able to bring home more than he usually does. “You only love me for my punch card,” I told him.

On October 7, we were trolling the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu. I was reeling in my line, and I saw that something was after it. I thought it was a salmon, but then I saw a wide flap-like appendage break the water. It was brown in color, not at all like a salmon. A minute later something hit my husband’s line hard and dove with it. Believing it to be a large salmon, Mike got excited and had fun playing it. It moved and acted enough like a salmon that he was convinced that’s what he had. But when he got it close to the boat, he couldn’t believe what he saw – a three-foot squid. Netting it was a trick. Getting it out of the net was even trickier. Unhooking it was just plain scary. Those things have a beak that could do some major damage to a finger or hand.

Although Mike has fished this area for more than 20 years, catching a squid was first for him.

Squid
Squid

We looked up the regulations and determined that were were allowed to keep it.

The creature was amazing. Its skin changed color rapidly in moving patterns, ranging from iridescent white to rusty brown. Every now and then it would hug itself with its flippers (probably the wrong term) and turn itself into a rigid torpedo shape. Its eyes conveyed the impression that it had a level of intelligence, like a whale.

When we got in to shore, we found a number of other people had also caught squid. Ours turned out to be 10 pounds. The largest caught that day was an estimated 20 pounds, although it was let go.

Turns out they were Humboldt squid, which typically hang out in California and South America. They can get up to six feet long and 70 pounds. What they were doing up this far north, no one could guess. Chris Mohr, owner of Van Riper’s Resort in Sekiu, said he’d never seen anything like it. Theories include fluctuations in ocean temperature, Ph levels (relative acidity) and food sources, but none so far has been proven.

On the docks of Van Ripers’ some people knew just how to filet and skin the squid. One couple said they had caught one the day before, and they had cubed and sauteed the flesh in garlic butter. The consistency was rather like scallops although a little chewier, they said. They had even kept the ink, which they heard could be used to flavor pasta. They had kept to beak, which was an intimidating appendage, larger and harder than a parrot’s beak.

My husband is not a fan of squid (he’s had calamari a couple times), and since we had plenty of salmon to process, we gave ours to a Korean friend, who was most appreciative. Fishermen on the Bremerton marina dock and Southworth dock can often be seen fishing for six-to-10-inch squid. I’m guessing our friend was not expecting a specimen the size of a small dog. When Mike opened the back of the truck to show off his catch, the guy said, “Holy ….”

This week, as reported in the Peninsula Daily News, the squid began beaching themselves on the shores of Clallam Bay, again for unknown reasons.

I’m hoping my fellow reporter Chris Dunagan can pick up where I left off and offer some explanations for the strange phenomenon. If our Web editor Angela Dice were here, she would no doubt find it fodder for her food blog, The Food Life.

If anyone out there can offer recipes for squid, I’d be most interested, although I suspect that was our once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the species.

4 thoughts on “This is No Fish Story: Humboldt Squid Make Rare Visit to the Strait

  1. Chris Dunagan warned me I might get some flack for this. Technically the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound and not one and the same, but many people refer to all the inland waters of Washington using the generic “Puget Sound.” Dunagan himself admits he does it on occasion when he wants to let his hair down. But I stand technically corrected, and the headline will reflect that. Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter

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