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Squid lures seal pups and fishermen to area piers

Each evening across South Puget Sound, piers are packed with diehard souls who brave frigid temperatures after dark, clutching fishing poles and lanterns or flashlights. Casting eerie beams of light down through the water’s black surface, these fishermen hope to attract migrating squid, who feed mainly at night and are drawn to the shimmering light and illuminated “jigs” (learn more about squid here).

The most common species is “market squid” (Loligo opalescens) which is found in Washington inland waters year-round, but more abundant during these cold late fall months through February. Measuring about 8”, these squid are called calamari when served in restaurants. However, not only are they a taste delight for diners, they are also a favorite delicacy of young harbor seal pups.

One such pup, nicknamed Squidoo (shown at left), prompted a call to Seal Sitters’ hotline yesterday. The pup was resting at the water’s edge below the entry to the Seacrest fishing pier. When our first responder Lynn arrived, the rising tide had begun sloshing at his rear flippers and, about 20 minutes later, he swam off into Elliott Bay.

Unfortunately, fishing piers can pose dangers for seals of all ages. Hungry seals are also attracted to light and fishing lures, especially those with clinging 8-armed squid or baited with small fish. A swallowed lure is almost always fatal and discarded monofilament line can be equally hazardous - always dispose of fishing line responsibly! We do hope Squidoo continues to forage safely around the pier and pack on a thick layer of blubber for warmth in the cold, challenging months ahead.

Though hardly robust, Squidoo was certainly on the plump side compared to the skinny pups we have monitored this very strange seal pup season. Seal Sitters MMSN has not had a response to a live pup onshore since October 27th. Typically, October is a very busy month for responders and volunteers who look after a myriad of pups in all sizes and conditions. Not so this season with fewer pups and more deaths. Squidoo was a welcome sight and long overdue.
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