By Steve Breazeale
This story was updated on June 18 at 6:28 p.m.
Every year, Humboldt squid make their way through the waters surrounding Dana Point Harbor.
In his 17 years working on Sum Fun, a sportfishing boat that is part of the Dana Wharf fleet, captain Brian Wooley has seen the jumbo squid come and go.
The last few days, however, have been abnormal.
Anglers aboard the night-time Dana Wharf squid boats have been pulling in squid ranging between 3 to 15 pounds at an eyebrow-raising clip.
Although much larger than the abundant market squid (in the 10-inch range and most often eaten as calamari appetizers) that attracted dozens of commercial fishing boats earlier this winter, the jumbo Humboldts are used for squid steaks.
The squid being harvested over the past few days are somewhat smaller than those seen in recent years. In September of 2011, anglers aboard Dana Wharf boats were pulling squid in the 10 to 40 pound range. In January of 2010, many topped 50 pounds.
According to Dana Wharf general manager Donna Kalez, the boats out on January 4 caught a total of 140 squid. That number jumped to an astonishing 800 the following night, Kalez said. Things leveled out somewhat on January 6, when 400 of the Humboldt squids were reeled in.
“It’s been really good (over the past four days),” Wooley said. “I’d say we are getting anywhere between five to 20 squid per fisherman out there.”
Wooley described how the Humboldt’s are no stranger to the Dana Point waters and the veteran captain has seen their massive migration patterns coast by throughout the years.
Most of the time, the squid keep to the deeper waters off the coast and don’t travel inwards. But this latest group seems to be feasting on the krill that have made their home in shallow water just outside the Harbor.
“Numbers like this are indicative of mass movement,” Wooley said. “They’re following food. They usually follow bait fish or the krill.”
The art of catching the squid starts with Wooley and his fish finder. Once he finds a spot that is rife with bait and krill, Wooley and his deckhands will send lures down to the very bottom and work their way up, advising the anglers on what depth they should be fishing at. Once they start getting hits, the squid get easier and easier to catch.
“Eventually (the squid) all come to the surface. Once a few of them get caught they just follow the others. By the end they are all at about surface level,” Wooley said.
Dana Wharf will continue to offer evening trips as long as the squid stay in the area. For pricing and other information call 949.496.5794 or visit www.danawharf.com.