Squid Time: All you need to know

For a sea creature that are not actually a fish squid sure do have an enormous following amongst anglers. Some would argue that the humble squid has eclipsed the popularity of the highly-regarded bream – a bold statement given that for the past decade bream have been at the pointy end of a slick marketing campaign pushing soft plastics and tournaments.
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A great sized squid fell to this well present lumo YoZuri style squid jig.

  Squidding is a growth industry, one clearly reflected by the razzle-dazzle of jigs we see hanging on tackle shop walls. There might not be as many brands of squid jigs as their are soft plastics,but when it comes to variations in colour and size, squid jigs come in a mind-boggling array of options. With prices starting from around $4 for the el cheapos, they go right through to the $40 region for jigs aimed at the pros, well … I’m not that gullible. Each year the wheel is being reinvented with the latest must-have, you-beaut squid jigs’ promoted by tackle shops and on the Internet. “So and so was fishing the inshore weed beds using (jig name and colour) and caught his bag limit. We have the new range in stock but hurry, they are flying out the door,” Yep, it’s the cyberspace lure aimed at attracting the big bucks from anglers, and I guess that’s what selling the latest and greatest fishing tackle is all about.
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As they come near to the boat, squid get ready for a major ink discharge. It pays to leave them out of range until you see the ink.

But it must be said that squid jigs do work differently. A good jig will swim correctly without side-to-side wobbles. It will dip or dive with a smooth and balanced action when you stop retrieving. Even then, there are jigs that perform better than others on a given day. It isn’t so much brand or supposed design secrets as colour, size and presentation that are critical to it’s success or binning.

Shady characters

When observed from a distance squid look like shadowy creatures yet I don’t recall ever seeing a shadow cast by a squid. I’ve asked a few dive mates about this and they say the same. Squid are slick movers, graceful creatures perfectly adapted to a marine environment. These creatures don’t so much swim as glide, moving forward or backward with effortless ease. Ever alert and always hunting, squid will be found laying in ambush by hovering over seagrass or kelp beds. With tentacles close together and tapering to a point, squid take on the shape of a geologist’s pick. This attitude can change in an instant. Upon seeing potential prey, a squid sneaks up on its intended victim and uses its two longer tentacles to grasp small fish. It then retracts the tentacles bringing the fish in towards the centre of the circle of eight arms where its parrot-like beak is located.
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Another fine squid being led to the boat. Sometimes squid can be only just hooked so take care and ensure a gentle action when reeling them in.

  In water squid are magnificent but lift one out of the water and it becomes a limp sack of ink. Tentacles that just a few minutes before were long, straight and grasping at a jig now dangle uselessly. Even though the soft-fleshed creature attempts to move its flaps as you hold it, there is little change other than the occasional attempted wave.

Masters of disguise

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Squid can change colour right in front of your eyes! These changes are a great way of disguising themselves and matching their immediate surrounds.

Healthy living squid use chromatophores in their skin to change colour and match their surrounds. However in death, squid change colour and the light brown mottling that exists when you land one fades away into white in the main body to translucent along the thinner musculature of the flaps. In the early days of squid fishing the only people who wanted to eat them were of southern Mediterranean extraction. Squid meat rated well as bait however it wasn’t the dominant seafood it is today. Most squid were caught from piers, usually under lights at night and baited jigs were the go. Squidding has evolved since those early days when squid fishing was dominated by Italian, Greek and Spanish migrants and their testosterone-fuelled battles with multi-legged creatures from the deep. Nowadays, squid fishing has come in from the cold. It has been legitimised and is now regarded as a worthwhile pursuit. It hasn’t made sport fishing status yet, but give it time. Squid fishing is evolving, the latest innovations being purpose built Egi rods, and attempts have even been made to start squid fishing tournaments.

Going the raw prawn

Some days squid prefer bright coloured jigs; on others the opposite is the case.

Some days squid prefer bright coloured jigs; on others the opposite is the case.

Modern prawn style jigs only came into vogue during the 1980s with the introduction of Yo-Zuri brands jigs by Jarvis Walker. The name has stuck, and many anglers still refer to imitation jigs as Yo-Zuris. Prawn jigs are sized to an industry standard that is a slight extension of the old Imperial measure. Jigs range from 2.5 inches to 4 in. (50mm to 150mm). Colour and size is a suck and see equation, it’s not necessarily an exercise in matching the hatch. As if the buyer isn’t confused enough spare a moment’s thought for the poor squid. Here they are swimming about in temperate waters when they’re suddenly faced with a psychedelic tropical prawn look-a-like.

Colour and size matter

Some days, small squid jigs work better than bigger jigs. A tip is to always take a variety of sizes and colours as well as this can be a major factor in terms of results. In shallow water, or where the squid are in mid-water, bright colours work best for me. Jigs vary in their lead keels, in shape and weight but overall most are similar in appearance.
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Herbie Glacken shows off a nice pair of squid caught at Marion Bay in South Australia

Presentation comes in different ways. From the shore, the jig is cast and retrieved with a stop start pull, remembering that the depth of retrieve is adjusted by the amount of time the jig is allowed to sink. When it is being retrieved, the head of the jig will dip slightly at the end of each pull. The Japanese use extreme techniques, twirling their rods and retrieving their jigs in an erratic presentation. In a boat, it is easy enough to drift over holding areas such as seagrass beds. If the drift is slow then work the jig as you would from shore. When the drift is fast, you can sometimes leave the rod in the holder and watch. Squid will also take jigs suspended under a float, especially when fishing for another species like whiting using a berley trail.

Another option for deeper water

An alternative to the prawn jig, bait jigs often work much better in deep and cloudy waters. A bait jig consists of a 200mm long x 4mm diameter shaft with a set of pins set in a circumference at one end. The shaft is threaded through a fish fillet or pilchard and the jig retrieved the same as a prawn jig, the bait though gives the angler the added advantage of the scent of the bait. Even anglers who refuse to use the old fashioned bait jigs often tie a piece of fish to a line and allow it to trail behind the boat, some even use a berley trail to raise the squid from their lairs in the kelp and seagrass.
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Terry Hayden shows off a good average squid caught in the Lonsdale Bight in Port Phillip Bay.

Big squid lurk in deeper waters and the most effective way to get a jig to run to this zone is to use a running paternoster rig. About a metre above the jig put a swivel in the line and then place another swivel on the main line. Run a snood from this free running swivel and tie on an appropriate sinker. When you put the jig in the water, allow the sinker to hit the bottom. As long as you can feel it bouncing on the seabed, you know your jig is down in the weed where the action is. In areas of strong current you have to be prepared to use heavy leads to get your jig down. If you don’t feel the bottom then use a heavier lead.

It’s all in the hook set

Gus Storer with a big squid caught at Wedge Island in South Australia.

Gus Storer with a big squid caught at Wedge Island in South Australia.

 Calamari squid are a popular seafood dish.

Calamari squid are a popular seafood dish.

In the majority of hookups squid attack jigs from the side, wrapping their tentacles around it before trying to draw it in for the kill. When this happens the angler strikes and the pins sink home. If you don’t strike, the chances are you will miss plenty of squid. Once hooked there aren’t too many that get away. There is no fight as such, just a steady pull, although, if you walk down a pier at night where the guys are working jigs under lights, you will at times see what appear to be struggles of Titanic proportions, man versus squid.            
Steve Cooper

About Steve Cooper

Cooper is now a freelance travel and fishing writer with no fixed abode - his home being his cleverly appointed Jayco caravan which is packed to the pop-top with fishing gear. He has has towed the rig the length and breadth of Australia behind his diesel-powered Toyota Landcruiser which of course is topped with a small, flexible fishing boat.

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