Humboldt Squid visit the piers —

Humboldt squid have returned to the Balboa and Newport Piers this week, much as they did in 2002 and 2007. Whenever they visit, the crowds of anglers increase and the frenzied mob tries to catch a few of the huge cephalopods while avoiding getting squirted by ink when the gnarly beasts reach the top of the pier.

Their arrival at the pier also brings back memories of the Pier Fishing in California  Message Board report by my friend Ben Acker during a visit in 2007— and the fictional story that resulted.

DOMPFA Ben with a jumbo squid caught from Balboa Pier. Ben is  6’3″

Date: May 29, 2007

To: PFIC Message Board

From: dompha ben

Subject: Jumbo Squid Invasion at Balboa!

Around 3:30, we… drove around to Balboa Pier. When we arrived, there were only a few families at the end, enjoying a wide-open mackerel bite. I split-shotted a small piece of mackerel and kept a few of the cannibals for bait. Almost all were released; those that didn’t look like they would make it (eye injuries, etc.) were given away to folks.

As the afternoon turned to evening, more and more people showed up at the end of the pier. By the time the sun was setting, it was shoulder to shoulder, with people wrapping all the way around Ruby’s.

As dusk fell, I saw the first squid cruise under the lights. At first, I thought it was a baby seal, but I noted the erratic pulsing movement, and realized what it was. Soon, there were hundreds of the huge critters flashing in the water. Bryan and I tossed out squid jigs, and immediately hooked up. Everyone on the end of the pier was bendo…it was incredible! I haven’t seen that much excitement on a pier for a long time.

After a solid 40 minutes of wide-open squidding, they seemed to vanish just as quickly as they had arrived. I didn’t keep any of the beasts, as I have a few slabs of calamari in my freezer from a squid my brother Dan gave me a few weeks ago. Instead, the squid we caught are going home with some of the nice families with whom we fished tonight, including a couple of people that didn’t manage to land any squid of their own. I don’t like to give away my catch as a rule, but in the case of squid, which don’t release well, I didn’t mind.

All told, the pier probably landed around 50 squid by 9:15, with over 100 lost due to light line, pulled jigs, inexperience, and unpreparedness. I had one of only three nets at the end of the pier, and it was being passed around like community property… I didn’t mind, actually, and stopped catching squid for a while so I could help people net theirs.

My hoop net was in high demand tonight…Did I mention…BRING A NET!

Yes…that’s my net.

Everyone was appreciative, and no one fought, complained, or acted too greedy. I can see why people think Balboa is the “friendliest” pier in SoCal.

Word has it the last few nights have had similar showings of the big squid at Huntington, Newport, Balboa, Oceanside, and Dana Point. Don’t forget a landing net… these squid are BIG. By the way, I’m not blowing up the spot. It’s already blown up, and the number of people using cell phones to call in their buddies tonight was almost comical. As we walked down the pier leaving, there were hoards of people coming in with coolers and buckets. I hope the squid came back to give them a repeat performance…because they were gone when we left. Happy hunting…

Calstar Bryan poses with an angry squid at Balboa Pier. If you do catch a big squid, stay clear of the tentacles and the sharp beak. They can do damage to your flesh, and give you a painful experience!

Posted by Calstar Bryan

Hi Everybody- Thanks for all the kind responses. The squid were (no pun intended) a blast to catch. As for rod and reel combos, I was using an 8ft. jig stick coupled with a Daiwa Sealine 30 tossing 30lb. test and they were still ripping drag and putting tons of bend-o in the rod.

Ben seemed to take top honors in “Fight of the Night” fishing an Abu 6500 on an 8ft. 15lb. rod with 50lb. Power Pro. I can’t tell you how jealous sick I was watching him fight those freight trains on that light gear.

As for jigs, Ben was rigged pretty traditional for squirts, working a plastic squid jig 12 inches above a four-ounce torpedo sinker. I threw a painted glow-in-the-dark torpedo sinker with squid hooks and that seemed to work well too. Anglers fishing neon glow sticks (green or purple) were hooking up pretty consistently. Unfortunately, as Ben mentioned, some squid unbuttoned due to pulling the jig, inexperience and/or too light of line. It was kinda’ entertaining though seeing some of the broken-off glow sticks breeze through the water then disappear into the depths.

I’ve never seen such excitement on a pier in all my life. People were cheering and high-fiving while others patiently played out the big cephalopods waiting for a landing net to be lowered. Complete strangers encouraged their fellow anglers on throughout their fights as fresh ones were being hooked up around the entire end of the pier. Oh to be a patron of Ruby’s, witnessing all this from a booth, must have amazing. The experience was truly awesome.  If my brother reads this…Brady sorry I inked up your jeans.

Ben, being a great writer,  could not resist a short fictional account of what could happen on a crowded pier.

Pier Collapse Prompts Investigation

by B. Russell Acker, Staff Writer

May 31, 2007

NEWPORT BEACH– In what is being called a freak accident, the Balboa Pier collapsed under the incredible weight of a large crowd of fishermen, and plunged into the roiling surf, late Wednesday night. While no one was killed in the incident, scores were hurt, and hundreds have already filed claims against the city for their injuries and loss of fishing gear.

Nick Tripodes, a local merchant, witnessed the ordeal.

“I heard a loud snap, followed by screams and a tremendous splash,” recounts Tripodes. “You could hear all those people swimming for shore in the dark. It was awful.”

Newport Beach Police Sgt. Raymond Devonian cites eyewitness accounts that suggest the pier collapse was caused by giant cephalopods.

“When the giant squid come in, the pier loads up with [anglers],” stated Devonian. An avid angler himself, Devonian empathized with the calamari-crazed fishermen. Still, he encourages anglers to be safe.

“It’s just not designed to support that many people,” Devonian said about the pier, now little more than a concrete and wood jetty jutting out from the shoreline at a right angle. “What we’re going to do with the tons of squid jigs that are washing up on the beach I really have no idea,” said Devonian.

Initial reports from the Army Corps of Engineers suggest that over 17,000 people were on the pier Wednesday night at the time of collapse.

“That’s astronomical,” said Ken Jones, author of Pier Fishing in California. “It’s not the kind of thing we [pier anglers] take lightly. When this sort of thing takes place, there’s really only one question: Where’s the tartar sauce?”

Jones’ comments were merited by how rare it is for the tasty cephalopods to swim en masse this close to a pier.

It is unclear at this time if last winter’s cold weather spared enough of California’s lemon crop to meet the demand of calamari anglers. “Let’s just hope the price of lemons makes these eight squid I caught last night worth it,” stated one soaked angler. He did not wish to be identified, but added, “Balboa is still the friendliest pier in California. I’ll be back.”

Several organizations are calling for a probe into Wednesday’s catastrophe. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) exercised his executive powers early Thursday morning, declaring a state of emergency, which makes many anglers eligible to apply for federal aid to replace lost fishing gear.

At a press conference, Schwarzenegger’s comments were short, but hit a sour note among California’s pier anglers.

“You are mine now! You belong to me!” exclaimed Schwarzenegger. It was not clear if Schwarzenegger was speaking about the Balboa pier collapse, or if he was simply quoting lines from the 1990 film, Kindergarten Cop.

What is clear is that the Governor has called for the immediate closure of all piers in the state, until such time as they can be inspected and deemed safe.

When asked when the piers might be reopened, Schwarzenegger only stated, “You forgot the second rule in a crisis situation…”

He did not comment further, leaving many pier anglers and residents of the quiet Newport Beach community to wonder about their beloved pier.

The 2011 squid were a little smaller —

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2 Responses to Humboldt Squid visit the piers —

  1. Armando Torres says:

    Hello, my name is Armando Torres. I’m not sure, but I think Ben Acker, pictured above, was my sixth grade English teacher. I haven’t talked to him in forever, and he has been a hug influence on my life. If this is him, let him know please, and to contact me at

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