An influx of giant squid off the shore of Santa Barbara has sparked the interest of seasoned fishermen and locals alike.
Santa Barbara Fish Market owner Brian Colgate was reported to have caught a five-foot squid last week, and almost a hundred additional catches have been reported along the Southern California Coast. The specific species of squid being caught is approximately five-feet in length and travels in large schools. They have not been spotted in the area since May 2007.
Officer Cummings of Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol said people tend to catch giant squid for the thrill of the fight rather than for commercial value.
“My understanding is that they put up a good fight, which is why a lot of people fish; for ‘the fight’ [and] the excitement of that fight,” Cummings said.
Cummings said both fishing and commercial vessels are currently arranging trips specifically for the giant squid.
“Most of these fish are caught [by local residents], generally folks will go out on local fishing boats, and they will go out for just a fishing trip,” he said. “I do know some of the commercial fishing boats that you would [normally] pay for a half day or full day trip but they are doing these for the giant squid trips.”
According to Monique Berry, an employee at Dana’s Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching in Orange County, giant squid are unusual and good for business.
“People get really excited for [giant squid sightings] because it is so rare,” Berry said. “There’s not a set time for it. It’s a big deal. They’re super, super fun to catch. Just catching one of these things will give you enough meat to last for an entire year. Our boats will just be packed.”
There are eight different species of giant squid, the largest of which can reach up to 43 feet in length for females. This makes the giant squid the second largest type of mollusk in the world, eclipsed only by the colossal squid, which can reach lengths of 46 feet.
The best time of the day to catch squid is at night, since they are attracted to flashing and glowing lights. Berry said that the fishing excursions are truly an adventure.
“The squid start out in deep water, and then they move towards the surface,” Berry said. “They follow light [in order] to see. Then they are in about 50 feet of water.”
Mario Cervantes, a local fisherman and Santa Barbara Fish Market employee, said squid have huge appetites, which can have a devastating impact on the local fish populations and, subsequently, commercial fishing operations.
“A lot of fish are being attacked by giant squid,” Cervantes said. “I go out [fishing] once a week. [The squid’s arrivals] are affecting the long lining and they are big fish that are eating up a lot of the fish here.”
Cervantes said that, despite the voracious appetites of the squid, Santa Barbara Fish Market has not directly been affected by these squid and that their profits have remained stable over the past few weeks.
The Santa Barbara Fish Market has not yet received squid for public consumption.