Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 40 No 3 - SUMMER 2016 - Page 28

by John H. Hook The Bay Naturalist Everybody Likes Squid W ho doesn’t like calamari? I suppose it’s possible to find someone who would turn up their nose at this Mediterranean delicacy, but I have a feeling for that to happen somebody must have said “squid” before the first bite. Squid dishes are global. If a culture comes with a coast, they have recipes for squid. There are recipes utilizing every culinary technique. Although locally, once you venture beyond the bread crumb encased fried version, finding squid in a restaurant becomes a bit of a challenge. Your best bet is to go Asian and try Ika dishes in Japanese restaurants whether they focus on sushi or not. Squid is a common ingredient in Korean seafood pancakes (try before you mock!), and not surprisingly Filipino joints offer a Spanish-Asian fusion version of squid cooked in its ink. That last one might be a stretch for most people even though it really is quite good. There hasn’t been much interest in developing the squid fishery in the western Gulf which is definitely one of those good news – bad news scenarios. Disappointingly, fishing for squid around the Gulf is much more of a challenge than it is along the Pacific coast. Seattle residents have no trouble jigging squid off piers during their winter season. Our squid populations are too spread out for that to be very effective. You could luck into a bunch off one of our lighted piers, but it isn’t something that you could depend on happening. Seining is about the only way we have a reasonable shot at catching our own calamari to be. Seining and fun are 28 GULF COAST FISHERMAN not usually used in the same sentence by most fishermen. The commercial guys catch a bunch of them while bay shrimping, either for table or bait shrimp, but almost all of those go right back over the side of the boat. While that bycatch is a problem, at least the food value of those squid stay in the bay even if it gets rerouted from our desired pathway. Bait shrimpers might be convinced to save them for you if you make it worth their while. Or, if you happen to have a bunch of kids handy, you could “Tom Sawyer” them into seining up an ice chest full. You might even get a repeat performance if they were in on the calamari feast afterward. The good news is a little more complicated. Squid hang out near the bottom of the food chain and so are responsible for converting sunlight and food gathered by producers and small animals into pounds of trout, redfish and flounder. Similar to humans, just about every predator fish, from pinfish to tarpon, likes to eat squid. A dedicated squid fishery might make fresh calamari easier to buy, but it might put a dent in our bay fisheries. I am fine with eating squid caught off Washington and Massachusetts. How about you? Besides, most of the squid in our bays are little bitty guys called “brief” squid. The mantle (body part) of brief squid is just a couple inches long and is very thin. The tentacles stretch out a couple inches more, but you would need a bunch of them to even begin to turn hungry around. It can be done though and the result is about the best calamari or spicy squid salad that you’ll ever get. It’s just that the effort level is definitely a commitment. We have bigger squid, too, but they are found from just beyond the breakers out to tuna and marlin country. Longfin and arrow squid are part of the bycatch for nearly every shrimp trawl drag. These get the same treatment as brief squid caught by bay shrimpers. The vast majority go right back over the side. If you have ever been next to a shrimper when that bycatch gets dumped, you know that our Gulf predators appreciate their generosity very much. The water boils with slashing mackerel, ling, sharks and whatever else happens to be in the neighborhood. While they never seem to eat every scrap of bycatch thrown over, I have never seen even a tiny piece of squid make it very far from the boat before it was somebody’s lunch. Squid make up a very important base layer to our fish pyramid, whether we are rolling in waves or skimming the flats. They do an excellent job of transferring the energy and biomass of things too small to feed trout and reds, into something that our predators enthusiastically consume. I completely agree with those guys too, whether I am dipping squid in soy sauce or Longfin enjoying the satisfySquid ingly herbed crunch of calamari. GCF Photo by Kathy Hook W W W. G U L F F I S H I N G. C O M