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02/13/2023 10:14 AM

Squid: Ancient, Intelligent, Resilient

A vintage etching depicting one of the intuitive futuristic adventures of Nautilus and crew as they traveled throughout the world in the novel, ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Members of the ‘Squid Squad’ are in action (left) while crew members of a commercial fishing vessel (right) work on a collaborative research project. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, a non-profit foundation formed by commercial fishermen in part, researches, tests and educates watermen on automatic squid jigging gear (top) versus traditional trawling gear (bottom). Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

First off, squid are not fish! They have been around for the last 500 million years, have the intelligence of a dog, are classified as cephalopods, and are members of the Mollusca phylum — which incidentally contain octopus, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, snails, and abalone. The global demand, coupled with a lack of regulation, is a concern of those monitoring industrial overfishing.

One of the more popular sea-going commercial and recreational species to be caught and subsequently eaten or used as bait, squid has an intriguing cultural history. In 1869, for instance, Jules Verne wrote the adventure science-fiction novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea that popularized Captain Nemo and his run-in with a giant squid.

Squid (collectively over 300 different species) can be found in deep offshore waters, on the Continental Shelf, in federal waters, and Long Island Sound. They have short life spans (1 year) and are prolific reproducers, making them resilient to most fishing pressures. Within the past few years, shortfin squid (Illex illecebrosus) have been caught in Connecticut inshore waters and from land. On the other hand, a good portion of the offshore commercial fishery utilizes automatic gear — although, smaller nearshore vessels tend to jig using hand lines.

A lot of ground was covered at the Feb. 7 to 9 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) held in Washington, D.C. Of particular interest was an update on the ongoing work of the Squid Squad. In order to improve our understanding of squid, a collaborative group called the Squid Squad was organized with the sole purpose of improving squid science. Comprised of government (NOAA), Academia (School for Marine Science & Technology, UMass Dartmouth), Industry (Sea Freeze, Lund’s), OpenOcean Research, various commercial fishing vessels, etc., this collective is involved with all aspects of temporal and spatial variables including Illex production.

Collection of biological and physical data, investigating how the changing environment affects Illex availability, refining best management practices, and comparing and contrasting the Illex and longfin Loligo (Loligo vulgaris) fisheries, including consideration of more socioeconomic factors, are key investigative and research priorities of the group.

Oceanography, inward from the slope sea, shelfbreak, continental shelf, and inshore, is a major player as all of this comes together. By combining knowledge about the dynamics of the physical oceanography in the region with the current ecological and observational understanding of this species (Illex), a reasonable understanding of how the overall system works was established.

Fishing and research collaboration, such as the relationship between salinity and squid, abundance, acoustics, bottom temperature, physical attributes, growth curves, conditions, and frequency analysis, continues to be underway. As far as MAFMC priorities are concerned, of importance to sustaining this fishery is demographic data, analyzing availability changes due to oceanography, correlation of oceanography and abundance, and feasibility of real-time management.

After further discussion on the stock status and distribution of Illex, (catch, trips, permits, economic allocation, fleet flexibility, etc.), the Council perceived continued tensions between the objectives in the fishery management plan that promote freedom, flexibility, and opportunity in the fishery, versus those that promote balancing the social and economic needs of various sectors, including shoreside infrastructure.

It is interesting to note that automatic squid jigging equipment is being researched and tested in the field (Block Island, Point Judith, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Hudson Canyon, etc.) in the hopes that it will catch on for the commercial harvest of squid in the U.S. Atlantic. Optimistically, in view of its success in the foreign water fishery, there will be a considerable positive impact on bycatch rates, catch rates, and product output compared to the normal squid trawl.

All in all, squid is a valuable worldwide resource throughout the food chain that needs to be carefully managed. Balancing between harvest, bycatch, consumption, changes in oceanography, habitat, and socioeconomic needs is tricky. However, time is seeing tremendous advancements in technology that is bringing us closer to meaningful real-time management. That is the hope and driving force in reaching that goal.

On The Water

Bitter Arctic cold interrupted daily routines, as air temperatures plummeted into negative digits as gale force winds chilled the air even more. Fortunately, that system was short-lived, as a weak front dissipated to the west while offshore low pressure rapidly deepened well south and east of our waters. A frontal system approached, followed by low pressure and an associated warm front that lifted north before another cold front moved in prior to the weekend. Meanwhile, Long Island Sound water temps slowly edged backed toward 40 degrees, as gusty winds rose seas to heights of three feet and air temps clawed back to the 50’s.

The Sound remained in typical winter mode in terms of fishing activity, although in the greater picture, it felt rather mild during calmer days. We have the normal striped bass activity running in spurts as their major tidal river habitats experience fluctuating water temperatures and fringes of ice buildup. Harbor seal feeding is up, beachcombing continues, and, during breaks in windy, colder days, clammers are taking advantage of the low tides and tasty bivalves.

Even after the recent bout of bitter cold, ice fishing remains tentative at best along the shoreline. Ice did form on a limited number of lakes, ponds, and some rivers, but overall, there was a wide variation of conditions ranging from black to cloudy, skimmed to partial. North of I-95 improved, and north of Hartford in the northwest and northeast hills, chances of finding suitable, safe ice that produced favorable results were better. However, the break in weather that brought 40-50-degree temperatures was more welcome by trout and salmon anglers than ice fishers.

As to be expected, cold shock along with high and fast water flows dampened the inland water bite. As air temperatures gradually bounced back, fishing conditions improved in the trout-stocked rivers and management areas. Small spoons, inline spinners, swimmers, subsurface flies, and scented and natural baits when fishing deep.

Fly Fishing: Outstanding Opportunity for the experienced or beginner! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with World Fisher, certified Master Fly Fishing Casting Instructor and Fishing Lodge Director. From trout, salmon, steelhead, and sea-run browns to striped bass, bonefish, permit, and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing.

Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and International fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.

For all things fishy, including the latest gear, ice fishing, flies/fly fishing, rods/reels, clam/crabbing supplies, fishing trips, licenses/permits, and much more, swing by the shop (203-245-8665), open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter and Authorized Penn Premium Dealer, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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