Spectacular Live Squid Encounter on Oregon Coast

Published 06/28/2014

(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – One little boat and one really big squid encountered each other Saturday on the central Oregon coast. (Photos courtesy Whales Tail Whale Watching, Depoe Bay).

Before you start thinking Jules Verne here, the squid was only about six feet long and the boat much larger, actually. But it was pretty large for a Humboldt squid, and it made the day for one ship captain in Depoe Bay.

Gary Stephenson is owner and captain of Whales Tail whale watch tours in Depoe Bay, and described coming across a squid in what is a very rare instance on several levels. First, they are rarely seen along the Oregon coast, but rarer still are they seen close enough to be photographed alive and in their natural environment.

“We were coming in towards Boiler Bay when I saw this orange thing, and this Humboldt Squid started coming towards the boat, coming towards us,” Stephenson said. “I've never seen that before.”

The encounter lasted about ten minutes. He estimates the weight at about 80 pounds.

Stephenson said the squid seemed to be making a beeline for the engine. He kept moving the boat around, but the squid seemed intent on heading towards that part of the boats.

He found himself worried just slightly, as the Humboldt squid are known to be quite mean, certainly aggressive towards their prey.

Usually, Stephenson has seen them only just below the surface, and even those encounters are extremely rare. In his 40 years of being at sea Stephenson said he's only seen Humboldt squid about half a dozen times.

Stephenson managed to only snap a few photos of the critter.

Was the squid curious about the boat? Was it really interested in the engine?

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, has dealt with these creatures a lot – although almost always when they've died and washed up ashore. He and the aquarium are part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which attends to stranded sea creatures like seals, whales and other bodies that have washed up, even if they're just large fish.

Chandler did not think the squid was actually gunning for the boat, saying it was probably just coincidence. He didn't think the creature was even curious about the boat.

“He was looking for fish,” Chandler said.

Humboldt squid sightings are extremely rare on the Oregon coast because the waters are too cold, in general. Sometimes, large groups of them follow warm water currents up from warmer, southern ocean areas – and that's the only reason they wind up on this coastline.

Often, this ends in a mass die-off of them, as the warm current abruptly runs out and they quickly freeze to death in these waters. When that happens, you may see a sudden surge of dead squid washing up along the beaches.

Chandler said he has not heard of any dead squid washing up along the Oregon coast recently.

More about Depoe Bay below and at the Depoe Bay, Virtual Tour, Map.

Boiler Bay

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A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
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