PAT NEAL COLUMN: Those giant squid and their predators

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news.

An invasion of giant Humboldt squid in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca has fisheries experts scratching their heads.

No one seems to know where the giant squid came from or where they are going. This should come as no surprise.

Modern science knows more about the surface of the moon than what lies beneath the surface of the oceans that cover two-thirds of our plant.

It’s my own humble theory that the invasion of the giant squid is the result of their predators, the halibut, cod and salmon, being removed from the ecosystem by an obscene over-harvest.

It allowed the squid population to explode.

It is not a new idea.

The same theory has been used to explain why the crab are abundant. We killed their predators.

It’s just a theory. All we know for sure about the giant squid is that these voracious predators made fishing for salmon tough.

Fishing was tough enough already with the single-barbless-hook-clipped-fin-mumbo-jumbo fishing regulations also known as “The Fish Cop Employment Security Act.”

No, you also had to worry about a giant squid eating your salmon as you reeled it in.

Even if the squid didn’t eat your catch, they tangled up in the gear and made a mess of your tackle.

Squid might make a nice calamari, but nobody is going to take their vacation to the North Olympic Peninsula to catch one and have it mounted over their fireplace like you with would with a proud angling trophy like a salmon.

I think it’s time to take a stand for the future of our salmon fishing heritage and do something about this horrific invasion of giant squid before it is too late.

It might be a good idea to look at some of our past fisheries management strategies for a clue to our future squid management goals and objectives.

We need look no further than the Dungeness River for a good example of how modern science can effective mitigate an overabundance of marine life.

For example, in the old days back in the last century, I used to fish the Dungeness for rainbow and cutthroat trout. Some times you would catch a lot of bull trout instead. We thought bull trout were a mushy scrap fish that preyed on the other fish.

Back then, the Dungeness was alive with what we thought were scrap fish. Every other year, the humpies or pink salmon would run so thick you couldn’t catch anything else.

You’d try to catch a red-meated, thick-bellied steelhead, but all you got was a white-meated, slack-bellied humpie every cast.

Later in the year, the dog salmon would come up the Dungeness in waves so thick you could walk across the river on them.

The dog salmon were named because people used them for dog food, which tells you how good they are to eat.

No one wanted a dog salmon when there were silvers or coho salmon in the river. Sometimes you’d have to catch a lot of dogs before you got a coho.

Since then, an effective co-management strategy between competing groups of sport, commercial and tribal lobbyists has transformed these Cinderella scrap fish, the bull trout, humpie and dog salmon into threatened or endangered species that support a sustainable salmon restoration industry.

Our fisheries managers have an effective tool in their arsenal that could be used to control the squid problem:

Study them to death.

It worked on the Dungeness, a river without a dam, so why wouldn’t it work on the ocean?

We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.


Pat Neal is a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide and humorist. His column appears Wednesdays.

Pat can be reached at 360-683-9867 or [email protected], or see his blog at

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