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On the inky sea, a search for squidA first-person account of night fishing off the coast of Jeju Island
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승인 2010.10.16  11:06:56
페이스북 트위터
▲ The author admires one of the evening's catch.Photo courtesy Nicole Erwin

I was in a sporting mood on Saturday, Sept. 25 and, wanting to make our squid fishing excursion more interesting, made John Curtin an offer he couldn’t refuse; five thousand won to whoever catches the most squid. John and I shook hands and made the bet with high hopes. We were 10 minutes out to sea, and our dear friend Mona Hassanien had already set the tone for the evening — queasy.

“She has the scurvy,” John announced trying to make light of Mona’s sea sickness. However it just got worse.

Eight of us were on one boat, while another three squid fishing boats carried an additional 30 or so foreigners who had agreed to partake in an evening of white lights, salty sea air and of course, the squid fishing experience.

Peter Jang organized the event via Facebook sending out invites to more than 50 people with the intention of going with a group of no more than 10. Close to 40 people showed interest but I didn’t expect all of them to actually commit, especially for this particular evening, with a forecast of showers and strong winds.

I had been drawn to the idea of squid fishing since figuring out the purpose of all those looming lights out on the ocean. Sitting on my deck that overlooks the ocean at my home in Samyang, the view often looked like a cross between the Friday night lights of a football field and an alien invasion. Like the squid, those white lights had drawn us in.

My seven crewmen and I boarded with smiles and anticipation of an eventful evening. We quickly realized that our captain and his skipper didn’t speak a lick of English, so we scattered about the boat to await instructions of some sort. We set out a little after six and the night sky was pitch black aside from the city lights and other boats.

We sailed out for approximately 15 minutes and dropped anchor. We were a bit suspicious of the dropping location as every other boat appeared to be at least five to 10 minutes further out to sea.

The magical lights we had all been watching from afar suddenly turned on above our heads and blinded us temporarily. After our trip I was told you are supposed to bring a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses to deflect the bright white light. In hindsight I think the lights may have contributed to our nausea as well.

The skipper quickly unfurled our lines as we discussed the attached multiple neon-colored shrimp-like jigs. After sunset in early spring and fall are the best for squid fishing I am told.

Still giddy with the idea we had finally made it out, we sat holding our lines. The captain made a motion lifting his arm up and down slightly with the line, so we did the same.

Half an hour later the captain approached my set up and pulled up this gorgeous specimen. I was the first to catch a squid and needless to say, mine was the largest. I had considered wearing a white T-shirt for my inking initiation. Typically when the squid is pulled from the water it will release a mixture of sea water and ink and I had imagined this inking to be the next best thing to actually catching the squid.

When I was 10 my father decided I was old enough to go deer hunting with him. Killing my own deer wasn’t enough to be considered a real hunter we thought, I had to be marked with the blood as well. So, he dabbed his thumb and marked both my cheeks. It grossed me out.

However, without the ink of the squid I knew I would never feel like a real squid fishermen. I motioned to the skipper what I thought looked like what would make a squid ink but he didn’t understand. Oh well, I thought, someone else will catch a squid and I can get inked by theirs.

After another 10 minutes my scurvy started to set in as well. Actually scurvy is a mouth disease common to people at sea, it really has nothing to do with nausea. Boy, once it hit, I was out for the remainder of the ride. Shortly after my catch Tim LaTour and Kelly Chrisman caught their own calamari supply. I managed to lift my head to get a look, and yep, mine was still the biggest.

Another half hour went by and our count had stayed the same. While Mona and I were the only two on the boat to contribute to the water that evening everyone looked like hell. Josh Hutchison asked the captain if we could head in and we did. The night before, the boat had apparently caught 103 squid. I don’t know if the captain was saving the spot for himself or if we were just really bad at jerking the line. Reports from the other foreigner boats were similar; 10 people in total were sea sick by the end of the night. The other boats caught 30 squid collectively and I was a lot lighter by the end of the evening.

There was 30,000 won less in my pocket, my stomach was empty and I had yet to be inked. In the US we are told we can be whatever we want when we grow up, I know I don’t want to be a squid fishermen.

John, you owe me 5,000 won.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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