Flying Squid

By: Deborah Reid

Ommastrephes bartramii

Neon flying squid, Red flying squid, Akaika

If fish soup or seafood salad is on the menu, squid should be on your shopping list. On our counter, whole squid is purple with a glossy sheen and has two fins on the upper body, large eyes, ten arms and two feeding tentacles. The tubular body alone measures 15 to 23 cm (6 to 9 in.) and weighs 115 to 170 g (4 to 6 oz.). Once cleaned, the body can be left whole for stuffing, baking or braising, sliced into rings for deep-frying, or cut into strips for stir-frying. Squid needs to cook either very quick at high temperature or very slow at low heat. When cooked, the white flesh has an appealing firm yet tender texture and sweet sea flavour. We like it grilled over charcoal yakitori-style or finished with chilli oil and herbs. Toss with pasta or serve raw as sushi. It’s low in calories, high in protein, and a good source of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins.

Flying squid are found in ocean waters globally and are a highly migratory species. In Canada, they’re fished in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, as well as coastal B.C. They get their name because when threatened they move through the water at incredible speed and can jump 30 metres through the air by jet propulsion. The fins create an aerodynamic lift, keeping the squid stable in flight and fold back for landing to minimise impact. Squid also have ink sacs they use as a protection against predators, which are many and include tuna and dolphins. At night they feed for small fish in the upper layers of the ocean, and during the day plunge into the dark depths. They live for one year and die after reproducing.

Squid swim in shoals and are caught at night by jigging. Bright lures are dropped in the water and jiggled to attract them. Lines lower to the desired fishing depth, and once hooked, the squid is released from the gear as they’re lifted aboard the vessel, and the process is repeated. Because they are short-lived and reproduce abundantly, squid is considered an excellent sustainable fish choice. In 2018 the world’s first sustainable squid fishery in the Northwest Atlantic was certified.