Cleaning squid is an intuitive process. It wasn’t difficult to discern parts to toss and parts to eat. Manny & Armando’s 4 charity squid yielded about 8 ounces of rubbery white meat, or 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of saturated fat, 7 carbs, and 36 grams of protein. By the numbers, squid is powerful food. Compare it to 8 ounces of lean beef at 320 calories, 18 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 carbs, and 42 grams of protein. I’m thrilled with the protein to fat ratio, not to mention the fresh change of pace.
For last night’s supper, I julienned the cleaned squid, and sauteed the strips in a few tablespoons of homemade tomatillo-peach salsa. Served with a side of rice and beans, the squid made a tasty meal. It was so tasty that I needed more.
I hit the dock early this evening. My old Coast Guard parka held the rain out, and a pair of hand-me-down powder pants kept my jeans dry. I need to invest in a decent set of rain gear if I’m going to be chasing squid on a regular basis.
A lone angler leaned against the railing bobbing his fly-rod up and down. I joined him under the light to tie my jig line. His eyes studied the flooding tide. I’m not sure of jig-protocol. Do I say hello? Introduce myself? Make a comment about the weather? I’m not sure. I thought it best to start with a simple salutation.
He jumped a few inches. “Gawd. You scare me.”
“Sorry. I’m so sorry. I figured you heard me walking.”
He pointed to a headphone bud in his right ear. “Music. iPod.”
I nodded and worked on my jig. It was hard not to giggle. I hate being startled, but I kind of enjoy scaring the crap out of someone once in a while. As teenagers, my brother and I took turns waiting for each other to return home from a late night out. I’d slide under the pickup truck and grab his leg as he walked up the patio. Or he’d hide just inside the doorway and boo me. I’d scream and alert my parents of a curfew infraction. Sometimes, the anticipatory fear of being booed is scary enough to receive a good thrill.
Mr. Scaredy-pants reeled in. His pole arched. He pulled a line of four jigs with two squids attached. I followed the squids to his bucket. It was just after 5 pm and his bucket was a quarter full. I hurried and tossed my jig in. I wanted to lay down some bait while the squid where hitting.
Two men walked down the pier to join us. I adjusted my gear and secured a position in the full flood of overhead light. Good real estate is a big deal in a squid line. I scored by showing up early.
“Is that Christine?” said one of the men approaching.
“Yeah. How did you recognize me?” Only my eye-glasses and dark braids were visible beyond the parka hood.
“What other white girl would be out here?”
The men came into the light. “Oh, you must be Armando.”
“No, I’m Manny.”
“Sorry. I only know you by your rod.” Of course there was chuckling. “Wait. I mean – never mind.” What I meant is that I never got a good look at Armando or Manny two nights ago. I spent hours standing shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the water, and watching them jig out of the corner of my eye. I focused on line, jigs, hands, reels, and rods. I listened to instructions and advice, but never stood face-to-face.
I gave up the conversation, reeled in my jig, and tossed it back out. I worked the line up and down falling into an easy rhythm. My pole bent. I jerked and reeled. From high on the pier, I heard the tell-tale squirt of a stuck squid, but my line appeared empty. I reeled in until I was eye to eye with my top jig. Snared on the second jig was the tiniest squid I’d ever seen. My first catch! Scaredy-pants laughed. “Oh you caught the baby with your Barbie doll pole.”
I knew it would happen. My Lady Ugly-Stick, in black and hot pink, was a scab waiting to be picked. “Go ahead and tease my pole, but at least I’m not wearing my grandma’s rain gear.”
“What you talking about? It’s blue.”
“Yeah, but check out the flower garden.” I pointed at his exposed hood liner flocked in swirling pink and red roses.
Scaredy-pants shushed me, but it was too late. The other men noticed the raincoat, and the conversation switched from English to rapid-fire Tagalog. I settled into the lively banter that floated several inches below my ears. I was unaware of what was said, but fairly confident it had nothing to do with me or my Barbie pole.
The rain stopped. Usually this is a good thing in Washington State, but not tonight. Squid feed more actively in the rain than in clear conditions. I saw a shadow stir beyond the lighted water. The shape bobbed in the current. I figured it was a drift log. But the log barked and then dove beneath the surface. The water below flecked white with scampering squid, kind of like shaking a snow-globe. A sea lion popped up center-stage. Squid and squid parts leaked from a gnashing snout.
The other anglers pulled their lines. I copied. The sea lion devoured his fill and swooshed away. An hour passed before another squid struck a line. Eventually, I landed my second squid. It was only slightly larger than the first.
I hooked 3 mega-starfish and learned to ease them to the dock below without breaking my 6-lb line. The 4th monster gobbled my jigs and ended my 2-squid streak. Two teensy squid don’t amount to much, but the night wasn’t a skunking. Manny told me to replace my line with 15 to 20 pound strength. He also told me where to buy a new rod and better jigs. “You’re doing it right. You need more practice, but you really need stronger gear.”
I turned to pick up my pitiful catch. Silver glowed in a pool of inky-black. My squid multiplied. Manny pointed to Mr. Scaredy-pants, or Marlo, as I now like to call him. I’m starting to like these fellows. I appreciate the generosity, the lessons and advice, and even the good-hearted teasing. But I really want to catch my own squid.
I met Armando in the parking lot. It was dark, but he greeted me by name. He inquired about my luck before offering advice. “You need a real rod, not that toy one.” I caught a white flash of his smile.
“That’s what I hear.” I packed the Barbie Ugly-Stick in the truck and wished my new friend a Happy New Year.