Fisherman line the rail under the lights of the Western Pride hoping to catch a Humboldt squid during a trip to the waters off San Onofre State Beach. (Don Leach / January 10, 2013)

She likes fishing with Davey's Locker, she said, because "they clean the fish for us, fish is good," and "we always bag the limit."

Wednesday, however, Capt. Dustin Devoe, whose SoCal surfer's twang periodically crackled over an aging loudspeaker, seemed a little wary from the get-go.

"The last few nights we've caught a few," he said just before pulling out of the harbor. "We're going to make the rounds tonight. Hopefully it'll be the same."

By the end of the night, on the almost two-hour trek back from down near San Onofre, some wondered if the reports were just a little inflated.

Blame it on the bananas.

"Bananas on a boat are bad luck," said Peter Enriquez of Sylmar.

"Call it superstition, but that's the way it is," La Mirada angler Joe Flores said, ruefully shaking his head.

Numbered burlap sacks hung at the ready, dry and empty.

Forearms aching from dropping, then minutes later, reeling in, lines at stops off San Onofre and Laguna Beach, anglers hunkered down against the wind for naps.

Santino Simolo, 11, of Garden Grove, scampered around the deck and pointed out dolphins racing the bow. Clusters of weather-beaten fishermen traded calamari cooking tips over beers.

For most of the trip, the boat smelled more like the bacon cheeseburgers grilling in the galley than fish.

"We're telling fish stories because we can't catch fish," Enriquez joked.

He mused that fishing's real benefits come from looking out over the sea, the inky black of the water indistinguishable from the darkened horizon.

"It's like a cheap psychologist," he said.

And while Long Beach angler Brian Smith said he was bummed about missing the squid bonanza, he was actually feeling pretty good.

"Some days you catch 'em, some days you don't," he said. "It's better than being at home."

Twitter: @jillcowan