ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The jumbo squid have arrived. They're off the coast of Southern California, and they are huge - five feet long, up to 60 pounds. And when hooked, they put up quite a fight, much to the delight of nighttime anglers.
Debra Baer went out on a boat the other night and she has this report on squid mania.
DEBRA BAER: Nearly 100 fishermen and women crowded the docks in Newport Beach, swapping fish tales while waiting to board one of Davey Locker's sportfishing boats. They're running every night now since the squid invaded Orange County waters.
Mr. WALTER MARTINEZ: It was huge. There was only a few people that were able to see it. But I was, and you'd probably laugh at me if I tell you how big it was. But it snapped my line and he got away.
BAER: Walter Martinez is angling for a good squid story to replace that one about a giant crab.
Mr.�MARTINEZ: I figured it was a good time to get out here and get some of the action. Yeah, I brought some heavy poles just in case. I heard they're pretty strong, pretty big. So you want to make sure you have good gear.
Mr.�JEFF HAGGE: I'm going out for the giant Humboldt squid. They weigh between 30 and 60 pounds. So we're looking forward to that. We're going to get wet, inked up, have a lot of fun.
BAER: Jeff Hagge from Riverside is wearing a baseball cap that says Squid-a-Lot. That's the name of a commercial boat he used to crew on.
Mr.�HAGGE: Not crew tonight. No, I'm going out for the fun. Once you do it once, you'll go back over and over and over. They only come around between one and three years.
BAER: The squid are luring first timers like Sarah Person and her daughters.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms.�SARAH PERSON: We heard reports of giant squid out there, and we thought -the guy said it was not to be missed, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So we got our girls together, and we're here to get some squid.
BAER: The girls, like most everyone here, are dressed in dark colors. They're expecting to get sprayed with black squid ink as they reel in the jumbos. By the time everyone gets situated onboard, they're elbow to elbow along the rails of the 70-foot Western Pride.
Unidentified Man: It is a little crowded, but that's okay, and again, please pay attention to what's going on around you. There is going to be quite a bit going on if these things do bite.
BAER: Biologists say that over the last decade, the creatures started swimming up from the Sea of Cortez between Baja and mainland Mexico. The species is considered invasive and aggressive.
Mr.�BROWNIE GUTIERREZ: I got chop-chop cut up. Hop in, chop-chop.
BAER: Crew member Brownie Gutierrez is chopping up baby squid as chum to throw overboard.
Mr.�GUTIERREZ: It's like feeding goldfish in a fishpond. You get them to come up and eat it, and they start grabbing the hooks.
Unidentified Man #2: Hook oh, there we go. We got one going in the -(unintelligible).
Unidentified Man #3: If we get one going, usually when you get one, they start climbing on the hooks.
BAER: Brownie grabs a gaffe, a long pole with a big hook, and he rushes over to help the angler that's got a bite.
Mr.�GUTIERREZ: Okay, here he is, guys. Get 'em, Bill. Keep them coming, buddy. Quick, quick, quick. That's a killer. Good job, buddy.
BAER: The big squid is a bright copper color. As Brownie drops it on the deck, its color starts changing as it expels a large amount of water and ink. Bill Bacheller brought in the first catch.
Mr.�BILL BACHELLER: It was fun. It was a lot of fun, especially when it gets going, the squid coming over. There's going to be ink flying all over the place. They're squirting out. It's just fun. There's like a membrane on it. I take the skin off top and bottom, cut 'em in like little French fries, deep fry 'em, Cajun seasoning and a beer, you're good. They're going to be Super Bowl appetizers.
Mr.�GUTIERREZ: All right, let him go. Oh, there's another one. Hold on, guys.
BAER: Monday's take was 125 jumbo squid. The largest catch weighed in at about 40 pounds.
For NPR News, I'm Debra Baer.
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