A beginner’s guide to squid fishing
Squid, or calamari as they are known, are one of the most readily available species for anglers around Australia, even if a lot of people don’t know it. It’s true that wherever you find yourself along our coastline, you can catch at least one of the several squid species we have here, and that includes Tassie!
Their availability makes them highly sought, but they offer more than just that. Their willingness to eat large prey, forgiveness of sloppy presentation, alien appearance and gourmet eating qualities makes them worthy of more praise than they get.
These unsung heroes of the sea offer a unique and fun fishing experience for beginners and veterans alike, and what’s more, you don’t even need a boat to do it. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to catch squid, chances are it’s going to be easier than you thought!
There are many species of squid worldwide, but the main three encountered by Aussie anglers are big fin reef squid also known as Northern Calamarior Tiger Squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana), Southern Reef Squid orSouthern Calamari (Sepioteuthis australis) and Arrow Squid (Nototodarus gouldi).
Northern Squid tend to inhabit tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, while Southern and Arrow Squid are found in more temperate waters. There is overlap in these ranges and Arrows are found from Exmouth all the way down and around to Cairns there area few areas where all three can be taken in the same session.
All of these cephalopods have short life spans of about one year, with Northern and Southern squid spawning over shallow reefs through spring and summer, and Arrows spawning at various times throughout the year in deeper water. Having a short life means they need to eat regularly to sustain a healthy growth rate, and because of this they are almost always looking for food.
Northern and Southern squid tend to spend a lot of their time in the shallows searching for tucker, with tigers having an uncanny habit of venturing into water so shallow it barely covers their hood! A good specimen of either species is around 1kg, with a 30cm hood length, but they do grow to around 3-4kg in extreme circumstances.
The story with Arrow Squid is a bit different. The specimens encountered inshore by land-based and trailer boat anglers are usually juveniles with hood lengths under 15cm. The adults will spend most of their time living around the continental shelf area, and can grow to about 2kg and reach 40cm in the hood.
With a strong resurgence of Deep Drop line fishing, encounters with the Giant Squid can be expected, most however will be very brief. Southern Ocean Giant Squid (Architeuthis dux) is often referred to as ‘Monster of the Deep’. Giant Squid are the largest of all the living cephalopods and the largest individual invertebrate in the world. There is still little known of the identity, distributions, biology and behaviour of Giant Squid.Two thirds of the length of these squids is made up by a pair of long feeding tentacles each bearing an elongate club on the tip. These metre-long tips bear large suckers armed with toothed horny rings.
Size Range: Body to at least 2m, total length to at least 15m. Little is known of size range of this species due to the limited number of observed specimens, although it is reported to weigh up to at least 220kg.
Habitat: The deep, dark, cold waters of the open ocean-this species has been captured from depths of 400-800m.
Squid tackle couldn’t be simpler, with any light spin gear perfectly suitable. Anything you’d feel comfortable using for bream, bass, flathead and whiting will work just fine as a squid outfit.
If you can, you should arm yourself with squid-specific tackle. Known as ‘egi’ rods (egi is theJapanese word for squid jig) squidding rods are long and soft. It’s much easier to stay connected to a squid when using an egi rod, as stiffer actions are more likely to pull the prongs out of the squid’s tentacles.
There are many jigs from trusted brands that work really well all over the country. The Yamashita Egi-O Q Live, Daiwa Emeraldas Nude, Yozuri, IKA and Shimano Sephia Cinch all have a proven track record, and each come in a range of effective colours, weights and sizes.
Squid jigs are generally measured in inches, with sizes ranging from about 1.5-4.0. Jig size often correlates with the size of the prey however small jigs like a 1.8 are a good starting size in shallow water or at night when squid are on the surface. Depending on sink rate from the current flow you can progress up in size. Most anglers like to keep a good spread, but 2.5 is a good size to try if you’re in deeper water or fishing new water. As for colours, most stick to the rule of dull day bright lure, and bright day dull lure, while at night glow-in-the-dark patterns seem to get the bites.
Bait fishing is also an option! Dead baits such as pilchards will attract squid, and rigging them on aBarbed Pin Squid Jag from companies likeNeptune Tackle and suspending them under a float will put you in with a good chance. Squid aren’t usually able to pull the float down, and instead you may notice the float bobbing or moving to the side slowly when there’s a cephalopod mouthing your bait.
With all squidding it’s always a good idea to keep your line nice and light. Squid have good eyes, and in clear, sunlit water, heavier lines will cast a shadow. Braided line between 6-12lb with a nice long length of 6-10lb fluorocarbon will give you plenty of stealth as you hunt these suckers in the shallows.
Store them safely! SuRPpa lure cases work a treat and make transporting your jigs easy as.
Squid fishing tips
Whether you’re fishing from a boat, a pier, or just off the shore, it’s a good idea to fish the clearest water you can find. Inshore areas are usually at their cleanest on high tide, and this is therefore a good time togo squidding, regardless of the time of day.
Structure is important for these animals as well, with rock, rubble, coral, weed and mangroves providing great habitat for the small fish and crustaceans they eat. Squid are also food for larger predators, and won’t stray too far from anything they can hide in.
Water depths between 2-4m are a good starting point for any novice squidder, but this isn’t a strict rule. Tiger squid will sometimes venture into ankle deep water, and likewise southern Calamari will sometimes hang out over seagrass beds in 6m of water or more. The trick is to move around to find where they’re hanging out. Where there’s one, there’s usually more.
When fishing from the shore, taking a few steps between each cast will help you to cover the water you need to find the squid. In a boat, anglers will often use the wind to drift across likely ground and cover water this way.
There are infinite ways to work a squid jig, however the most popular way is by allowing it to sink nearly to the bottom, before giving it several sharp rips, taking up the slack with the reel as you go. Good quality jigs will dart side-to-side as they climb up in the water column. From here, the jig can be allowed to slowly sink back down again. It’s normally during this ‘hang time’ that a squid will grab the jig.
Another popular technique, particularly over super shallow ground, is a slow straight retrieve. This is a good method for anyone new to fishing with lures.
Boat owners sometimes cast a jig out and sit the rod in a holder, relying on the waves to gently work the jig or bait while they work another jig. Doing this means there’s always a jig or bait in the water and help maximise your chances.
When you hook up, it’s important to play them different to how you would with a fish. Squid have soft flesh and pulling too hard can tear the prongs from their tentacles. To give yourself the best chance, set your drag really light, and make sure you always have a good bend in the rod. Slowly retrieve your prize, and if it wants to lunge, just let your light drag do the work.
Landing these animals is where the fun really begins. Most cephalopods, including squid, have ink that they can shoot out of special ink sacs near the gills. Ink is discharged when the animal is distressed and works a lot like a smoke bomb for James Bond villains.
To avoid any inky disasters on you or in your boat, netting the squid is the best way to go. Scooping from the head end will make netting them easier. Trying to scoop their tentacles first will see them jetting off when they see the net and you’ll risk losing them. Once netted, it’s a good idea to hold them over the water for a few seconds while they shoot out the last of their ink.
Squid love to move around in small packs, so be sure to look around for any others following the one you have hooked. Quite often these inquisitive squid will eat just about anything you throw at them, so if you’re fishing with someone else you should be able to double up.
Fresh calamari is the true prize of squid fishing, and to ensure the best eating quality, the squid should be dispatched and put on ice soon after capture. The most popular dispatching method is with a karate chop to the bottom of the hood, just above the eyes. Once this is done, the animal should lose its colour and turn white.
Now you try
So as you can see, squidding is that easy! If you live near the coast and you’ve never been squid fishing, what are you waiting for? There’s a readily available source of gourmet food and highly entertaining fishing waiting right on your doorstep. If you’re interested in taking up the challenge, Tackle World will be able to help kit you out and get you pointed in the right direction. Make sure you drop into your local Tackle World and get the lowdown on the local squid!