Central California—May-Sept.; Southern California: Nov.-March.
Seine, trawl, jig.
• Pink or red discoloration
• Freezer burn
• Off odor
• In years when landings are good, California squid is a very low cost squid and an excellent source of raw material for processing into finished products or for domestic consumption as whole squid.
Although it’s the second most widely consumed shellfish in the world, squid is still a relative newcomer to American seafood cuisine. Still, squid is definitely catching on. Since 1990, U.S. squid imports have soared from 13,000 metric tons to more than 40,000 tons. But since the name squid still makes people squeamish, we prefer to call it calamari—the Italian name for squid.
More than 2 million metric tons of squid are landed throughout the world. Although almost a hundred species of squid are fished commercially, two species, the Japanese flying squid and the Argentine shortfin squid, account for over half the world harvest. Squid are molluscs, just like clams, mussels and oysters. The difference is squid have an internal shell, which is called a pen. Voracious feeders, squid eat up to 14% of their body weight a day in small fish and other squid.
Squid range greatly in size, from less than an ounce to thousands of pounds. Giant squids, which can reach a length of 55 feet, are the largest invertebrates on the planet. Their flesh, however, is not edible as it has an ammonia taste.
California squid is the largest squid resource in the U.S. Although catches can drop dramatically in El Nino years to less than 3,000 tons, the fishery typically produces landings of more than 50,000 tons. More than 90% of this catch is exported to markets in Europe and China.
There are two distinct fisheries for California squid, Loligo opalescens: the summer Monterey bay fishery and the fall and winter fishery off the Channel Islands in Southern California. Monterey squid are larger, running about 8 per pound, while squid caught off Southern California typically average about 10 per pound.
Off the Northeast coast, fishermen land two species of squid, Loligo pealii (longfin squid) and Illex illecebrosus (shortfin squid). Each species produces annual landings of about 20,000 tons. Longfin squid are caught primarily in the winter, while shortfin squid are fished mainly in the summer.
Highly prized in both Europe and the U.S. for their large size and tender meat, longfin squid average about 2 to 5 per pound. Shortfin squid are slightly larger and not considered as tender. There are two large families of squid: Ommastrephidae and Loliginidae. Ommastrephids, which include the larger species of squid, account for about 75% of the world catch. The largest squid fisheries—and the largest squid markets—are in Asia. From a processing standpoint, squid are ideal, as they can be frozen and refrozen without any noticeable loss of quality. Whole squid from around the world is shipped to Taiwan and China, where it is reprocessed into a wide variety of processed squid products, including steaks, rings and cleaned tubes and tentacles.
Three countries, China, Taiwan and India, account for more than 80% of all the cleaned squid sold in the U.S. Squid are usually fished at night, when fishermen use bright lights to attract them to their boats. Squid are caught in a variety of ways. Off California, fishermen use seines, while East Coast fishermen mostly trawl. On the high seas, squid are caught with trawl and automatic jigging machines. How a squid was caught has no impact, however, on its quality. Squid steaks, which are made from large squid such as the Argentine shortfin squid, are normally tenderized either with a cube-steaking machine or by using a natural meat tenderizer such as papayin.
Loligo opalescens (California squid), Illex argentinus (Argentine shortfin squid), Todarodes pacificus (Japanese flying squid) Loligo pealii (longfin squid), Illex illecebrosus (shortfin squid)
California squid, market squid, calamari, winter squid (longfin squid), summer squid (shortfin squid).
1/2 ounce to 2 pounds.
From whole to cleaned tubes and tentacles: 60-70%, depending on species.
FROZEN: Whole, cleaned tubes and tentacles, steaks.
STORAGE & HANDLING:
Frozen squid will store for up to 18 months at 0°F or lower.
Squid is a very versatile seafood that is served in cuisines around the world. While most people are familiar with calamari rings, breaded and fried, squid is also great in pastas, salads and soups. The tentacles are delicious as well, though not everyone has a taste for them. Try sautéing squid in an infused olive oil and serve with chopped tomatoes and capers, or baking stuffed tubes. Squid can also be added to cioppinos or any seafood stew. Cook squid either very quickly (no more than 2 minutes) or slowly, at more moderate heat for about 20 minutes - or it becomes tough.