BIG NUMBERS OF HUMBOLDT SQUID CAUGHT IN FISHING AT THE 51-MILE BANK
May 2, 2005, Stuart Burnett, Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), Mexico Fishing Trip Report:
All I can say is, if you ever wanted to try deep sea fishing in Rocky Point, now is the time!
Myself, my son Jarred, and Mike Doukas, of 3rd Strike, left the Rocky Point main harbor on the Constancia about 7:00 on Saturday morning. We opted not to take the time to go over to Cholla and enter the tournament because the water was absolutely flat. It sounded like Cholla was VERY congested because of the tournament and they were reporting on the radio that the launchers were backed up trying to launch everyone that was in the tourney. They were still trying to get boats launched at 10:30 in the morning from what we heard on the radio. So, maybe I’ll enter before the next weekend and try again.
We headed straight from Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) to the 51 mile reef. Mike Auditore and company were fishing on their friend Lloyd’s cat, the Arca de Noe, and left the Rocky Point harbor shortly after we did. They stopped and made live bait, but I had plenty of fresh mackerel on board, so didn’t stop to make live ones. They reported loading up on small candy size macks with no problem and had about 100 on board in no time.
There were lots of dolphins and whales on the way out. About 5 miles from the 51, we saw something working on the surface and stopped to see what it was. It looked like bait fish, but as we got closer, they dashed under water, then popped up again a short distance away. Took me a minute to figure out what was going on until I got a good visual on several shooting by the boat-- squid.
Humboldt squid. Big orange/brown squirters by the hundreds! When I checked my sounder, I saw a biomass extending about 100 yards, all the way from 100 ft. depth to the surface. The squid that were on the surface were just the tip of the iceberg. I thought it was extremely unusual to even see squid on the surface during the middle of the day; even more unusual that the Humboldts were this far north. I’ve never seen them out of Puerto Penasco before, this was a first for me.
I have some squid jigs, but didn't have them on the boat. So, I quickly tied on a couple of Tady iron jigs to my lightweight Jigmaster setups and let the fun begin! Drop a jig down, and suddenly the line would go slack. Give a sharp jerk, and bingo, you’re hooked up. Hooking them is the easy part. Getting them into the boat? That’s the tough part.
The business end of these big squid shoot about a 2 inch thick stream of water 30 feet or more. Apologies to 3rd Strike, but I was cautioning all to keep the squid in the water when Mike raised one just far enough that it shot a stream of water and hit him right square in the chest and soaked him from top to bottom. I was nearly in hysterics laughing! They call ‘em “squirters” for a reason! He also had the misfortune of catching a blast of ink from the first one of them we managed to get in the fish box. Just not Mike's day in the squid department.
After the first one, we figured out it was easier to just drag them up into transom wells where my motors are on the back of the boat, let them do their nasty squirting, huffing and puffing there (and they do get angry, visibly angry!) then carefully pick them up and put them in the fish box. I tried gaffing them, but they are too soft and the gaff just sails right through them. Don't try a net, either, because they just grab it with their tentacles. One of them hooked onto my motor when I got him close to the boat and it took some effort to pry him loose.
These are some really alien-looking creatures. The color show they put on, flashing between orange, brown, gray, and red is just incredible to watch. We boated six and figured that was more than enough for bait. They actually put up a great fight on light tackle, too! They are so aggressive that as many as four squid would be fighting over the jig as you reeled in one that was hooked, trying to steal it from the hooked one. I didn't put them on a scale, but these guys were in the 8 to 12 lb. range, some bigger than that. Seemed like the deeper you dropped, the bigger the squid, if you could get past the little ones at the top.
So, after this bit of entertainment, we went straight to the 51. I anchored up on my main coordinates for the reef and we began catching very fat, oversized goldspotted bass. Every drop, one after another. We soon started culling them and keeping only the biggest of the big. But nothing else, just a seemingly endless supply of these great eating fish.
Arca de Noe arrived a bit later and anchored up about 30 yards from us and started dropping live macks. Bingo, big red snapper. Bingo, big white seabass. Bingo, small black seabass. I decided to pull anchor and move in their direction to get off the goldspotted bass honey hole and catch something different. After moving and re-anchoring, we still caught the same thing. Time for a change of bait. I broke out one of the big squirters and carved it up. I cut a piece about a foot long and six inches wide and put it on my heaviest setup, the “Big Johnson” or BJ, for short.
BJ is a 7 ft. true 100 lb. test pole with a Daiwa 9/0 Sealine reel spooled with 135 lb. test Spectra line. I’ve manhandled marlin on it before; BJ is a big fish’s worst nightmare. I put the hunk o’ squid on a 14/0 circle hook, 24 ounces of weight, and nearly 300 feet to the bottom it went.
Within a minute, bump once, bump twice, then SLAM! BJ bent in half like a willow in the wind.
In all the years I've owned this rod, I've never seen it bend like this, nearly in half. The battle was now on. I struggled to get the beast off the bottom and now know what it’s like to have hooked up a locomotive. Eventually, I began making some progress on this fish and as soon as I’d get my breath, this beast would take drag on spool that had been locked down pretty tight. I don’t know how long the fight actually lasted, but it seemed a lot longer than it probably was. Back and forth, finally making more and more progress on this fish.
All of a sudden, the fish comes to the surface and just pops and hisses, totally venting out. A huge black seabass. I was actually hoping it was a large grouper and not a black. But as I’ve said in other posts, after a fight with these fish from so deep, they often do this at the surface and unfortunately, it’s a death sentence for the fish. Although stunned and awed that I was able to catch this huge beast, I actually felt a lot of remorse that I couldn’t release it alive.
I had no arms left at that point. I am still feeling sore today. It took both 3rd Strike and my son on the gaff to 1-2-3 together, then pull the fish over the side. We had to do some serious rearranging to get it into the fish box. Total weight at the Rocky Point dock, 45 kilos or 99 pounds.
We also caught a nice size white seabass using big pieces of squid. One other Rocky Point fishing boat that arrived at the 51 had seen the squid, too, and was fishing with them whole. We watched them boat a black sea bass that was probably larger than the one I caught.
We left about 3:00 p.m. The fish were still biting, but we were too tired to keep catching them. Nice smooth ride back to Rocky Point, a little choppy about 20 miles out from Penasco. All in all, another great day on the water!
(See "Mexico Fishing News" online for current fishing reports, photos, weather, and water temperatures from Rocky Point and other major Mexican sportfishing areas. Vacation travel articles, fishing maps and seasonal calendars, and fishing related information for Rocky Point may be found at Mexfish.com's main Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) page.