California Market Squid Run

Market Squid mating off California shores have recently been observed by divers. We share photos and video from this exciting event.
By Eric Aubort

Market Squid Run Observed off California Shores

Underwater photos and video of this amazing event

by Eric Aubort


Many Southern California divers have reported and recorded a massive amount of Market Squid just off the local beaches, making for some great photo and video opportunities.  Reports have come in from Catalina, Vet's Park in Redondo Beach, La Jolla Shores, and more.




"Mating squid during their last moments of life.  Taken in roughly 50fsw at Indian Head Rock, Catalina Island."  Nikon D90 in an Ikelite housing, Tokina 10-17mm lens behind a 5" Precision Dome port, 1/125th, F11, ISO 200 at 14mm. Photo by Michael Zeigler, editor of Underwater Photography Guide.


Close-up of squid egg case at Indian Head Rock, Catalina Island by Michael Zeigler.  "You can make out the eyes of the tiny, developing squid, and some are starting to show signs of purplish pigment spots."  Nikon D90 in an Ikelite housing, 60mm + 1.4 teleconverter, 1/125th, F22, ISO 200.


Market Squid information from NOAA

  • The Market Squid or Pacific Loligo / Loligo opalescensis a fast growing species with a relatively short life span.  Approximately 12-14 months.

  • Range:   Southern tip of Baja California to southeastern Alaska. Most abundant between Punta Eugenia, Baja California and Monterey Bay, California.

  • Food:   As juveniles, squid feed on copepods (small crustaceans). As they grow, they feed on krill and other small crustaceans, small fish, and other squid.

  • Maximum size:  Approximately 12" including arms

  • Reproduction:   Market squid are terminal spawners – they spawn and then die. Spawning squid concentrate in dense schools near spawning grounds. As seen in the picture above by Michael Zeigler.

  • Spawning Season:   Year-round. In southern California, spawning usually begins during fall-spring. Off central California, spawning normally begins in the spring-fall. Off Oregon, spawning has been observed from May to July. Off Washington and Canada, spawning normally begins in late summer.

  • Spawning Grounds:   Spawning occurs over a wide depth range. Known spawning areas include shallow, semi-protected nearshore areas with sandy or mud bottoms adjacent to submarine canyons where fishing occurs. Specific habitat requirements for spawning are not well understood.

  • Regulation:  The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) actively manages the market squid fishery consistent with federal fishery management guidelines through a seasonal catch limit, time and seasonal closures, and a permit system. The CDFG and NOAA Fisheries Service also cooperatively monitor and conduct research on the species and fishery.

  • In the last decade, increases in catch and price have combined to make market squid the most valuable fishery in California.


Commercial Squid Fishing

On a recent night dive in Laguna Beach California, I observed many large fishing vessels approximately 200-300 yards off shore.  There was a vessel anchored off almost every street from Main Beach south to Pearl Street.  The vessels use very bright lights to attract the squid and purse seines to harvest squid. Scoop nets are also used in the southern California fishery.


Roger Uzun recently took this awesome video titled "Night of the Cephs," illustrating the squid run and other marine life that benefits from it.




Catalina west end

Mike Bartick, staff writer for Underwater Photography Guide, recently observed the market squid at Catalina Island.

"The day we experienced the squid run on the west end of Catalina was nothing short of incredible. The fields of egg baskets were endless and vast. Densely packed mounds of white cigar-shaped tubes filled with eggs. The squids were everywhere and at times there were so many of them that it was hard to see the back of my camera. After discussing a few shots, my friend Terry decided to model for me.

Having experienced partial or mini squid runs over the years has always been exciting, and diving in December is always punctuated by the opportunity. La Jolla Shores, Vets Park and a few other places on the mainland are pretty predictable for runs, and once they begin it's important to get out there and experience it right away.

Bat rays, lobster, and crabs can be seen wandering aimlessly gorged by the sudden windfall of available food. The squid are everywhere, dying and being consumed while others mate and lay the eggs, the pace is frantic and near fever pitch.

I have never had the experience of seeing the squid in and around the kelp like this before. Normally they tend to be out over the sand flats but I was lucky enough to have the kelp in the background.

I feel fortunate and lucky to see such an abundance of life and to witness the incredible lifecycle of the squid run. I think 2012 will go into the books as one of the great squid run years."


A bat ray cruises over the masses of squid eggs and dead squid at Catalina's west end. Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17mm FE lens, and two YS250 pro strobes. Photo by Mike Bartick


Mike's model, Terry, and a pair of mating squid. Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17mm FE lens, and two YS250 pro strobes. Photo by Mike Bartick


More mating squid at Catalina's west end. "I have never had the experience of seeing the squid in and around the kelp like this before. Normally they tend to be out over the sand flats but I was lucky enough to have the kelp in the background." Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17mm FE lens, and two YS250 pro strobes. Photo by Mike Bartick.



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