Squid are a highly sought after target species in many parts of Australia as they make excellent bait and also taste great. They can be caught year round, however most areas have a seasonal influx of squid and a giveaway that there are squid being caught is the ink found on jetties, pontoons, rock walls and other structure, along with the explosion of squid pics across social media.
Like many species, prime times to target squid include a few hours around sunrise and sunset, when the squid hunt more actively. However squid can be caught throughout the day, where in some areas they will move close to structure in deeper water, commonly up to 20' during the daylight hours, requiring weights on your squid jigs or paternoster rigging of your squid jig to fish them effectively, while in other areas they will hold in shallower water, again holding close to structure, such as weed beds, shoals, rocks, depressions and ledges in the bottom, and jetties. The key here is structure. Structure where the squid can ambush prey, take shelter from predators and lay their eggs.
Whether in a vessel on the water or fishing land based, focussing your efforts around structure such as weed beds, rock bars and rock walls, shoals, headlands and jetties provides you with your best chance of landing a few. At times fishing for squid can be very visual and they can be sight cast, however during the brighter periods of the day you will often need to get your jig down deeper and close to structure as the squid retreat back to shelter.
During lower light conditions artificial light found around jetties, pontoons, bridges and boat ramps, along with street lights close to the water, can attract squid. This light attracts prawns and baitfish and in turn attracts squid that are hunting for a meal. At times squid can be spotted and sight cast to, while at other times you need to focus your casts around structure, while also targeting the edge of the shadow line where the artificial light fades to darkness. Squid will often hunt along this shadow line and you will see the disturbance as they attack bait from the cover of darkness.
When it comes to gearing up for squid fishing, light spinning rods and reels are the preferred option, loaded with light braided line, such as Platypus P8 or Platinum Plus around 10lb, finished with a rod length of 8-12lb Stealth Fluorocarbon leader. A 20-30 size reel with a smooth drag will hold plenty of line and control the surges of the squid while minimising the chances of tearing jigs from hooked squid.
When fishing land based a longer rod gives you additional casting distance, along with control and leverage around rocks and other structure. When fishing from a boat rod length is less important, however a rod designed for squid fishing is still a good option as they are designed with a balanced action for casting squid jigs, have plenty of power in the bottom half of the rod, and a tip section that is responsive enough to cast and work your jigs effectively, while still being soft enough to manage the surges of large squid, while minimising the chances of tearing the jigs from the hooked squid.
Here's a few squid combo options to get you started -
Squid jigs come in a range of sizes, commonly 2.5-4.0, with a size 3.0 seemingly a good starting point in most areas. They can be attached directly to your leader with a knot, or some anglers prefer to use a clip, making it quick and easy to change colours or sizes. Other accessories that anglers use include glow sticks, placed above the jig to attract squid and floats (A-Just-A Bubble) to attach a squid jig to and leave it suspended above structure to attract squid.
Some anglers will fish with one jig actively and have a second jig suspended under a float to attract squid that follow a hooked squid as well as squid actively hunting in the area. Boat and kayak anglers can have a float line drifting out the back while they fan casts ahead of the drift. This drift line may be a smaller / lighter squid jig to minimise snagging or may be suspended under a float, depending on the depth and drift speed. Most squid however are hooked on the line being actively fished to cover water.
When it comes to squid jig selection there are a stack of options out there ranging from a few dollars to $30+ for a single squid jig and when selecting a few colours this can add up. Cheap / bottom end squid jigs generally perform as you would expect, with loose cloth that is quickly destroyed by squid, tow points that fail, heavy and blunt hooks and most importantly poor actions both on the retrieve and the sink. If the jig is sinking and performing unnaturally, squid are smart and it is unlikely that they will strike it, or strikes will be much fewer and less committed. Most mid-range squid jigs will catch more effectively and last longer.
Fish Inc. Lures do a range of squid jigs called Egilicious that are around $12 and have been designed to overcome the short comings of these cheaper jigs, without blowing out to crazy prices. Their cloth is tight and outlasts many jigs above their price point, the colour range is comprehensive (with many new releases and a fast sink version arriving in the second half of 2019), and they feature realistic 3D eyes and feathers, a tested and proven sink and action, including a buoyant tail and tail angle that is a few degrees higher so that it rides up naturally when sinking and at rest on the bottom, attracting strikes and reducing fouling and snagging. Egilicious are fitted with fine wire, Japanese Owner squid hooks that maximise the hook set and if snagged these hooks can be pulled straight to free the squid jig and then straightened to fish again.
There are a variety of storage solutions for squid jigs, as you often carry a selection of sizes and colours, and these include the Moncross Mega Box 130 and 145 which are double sided boxes with separate compartments for each jig. When you get home give your jigs a wash in freshwater, allow them to dry and then stow them ready for your next session.
When it comes to colour, just like fish, squid can be finicky, so it pays to carry a few different colours in a couple of different sizes. I am a big believer in the light/natural, dark and fluoro colour theory, as mentioned in previous articles. The light / natural colours can excel in clear water and on bright days, the darker colours in murky water and low light and the fluoro can trigger strikes when the other colours may not. The key is to have a few different colours to show the squid if they are not interested in one particular colour.
Here's a few options in the Fish Inc. Egilicious Squid Jig colours that have proven effective - Light / Natural - Leopard Shrimp, Salty Shrimp, Flash Back and Rainbow Reaper. Darker - Blue Banana, Blue Reaper, Green Joker and Fried Shrimp.
Like with many species, adding scent when the bite is tough can make a difference and I know anglers that swear by scenting their squid jigs. We have had success scenting our squid jigs with Pro-Cure Super Gel Scent, with go-to flavours including Shrimp, Mullet and Pilchard / Sardine.
Pro-Cure is a super-sticky gel based scent, so it stays on longer and it is loaded with a combination of real ground bait and laboratory tech, including powerful amino acids, bite stimulants and UV enhancement.
Wander down to the local jetty where they catch squid and you will see a whole lot of different retrieves going on, from slow lifts and pauses, to Jedi like lightsabre work that will have you ducking and weaving as you walk along the jetty. A great way to learn what works is to watch others that are catching squid and try and use a similar retrieve. In most areas a simple cast, allow the squid jig to sink to the bottom or the desired depth and then a slow lift, followed by a winding up the slack line as you drop the rod tip and allow the squid jig to fall naturally again, then repeat, will get some bites.
From here you can vary the retrieve with several hops of the rod tip (like fishing a soft plastic) that should see the jig dart from side to side and then a pause to allow it to sink, again while lowering the rod tip and retrieving the slack line. Erratic and more aggressive whipping retrieves, consisting of 3-4 sharp rips and a pause, can often attract the interest of squid and then on the pause they will move into position and strike. Working the jig where you can see it allows you to learn how it responds to movements of the rod tip and winding of the reel, allowing you to have a better idea of what the jig is doing on longer casts and in deeper water. Like with any lure fishing, mix it up until you find a retrieve that suits the mood of the squid in that area or during that session.
When targeting squid land based the hardest thing is often finding where to target them. The internet and social media platforms are great places to research squid fishing in your local area, along with a visit to your local tackle store.
Google Earth is also another good starting point, with a search for likely structure, including jetties, rock walls, weed beds, broken reef and headlands, along with areas that have some form or artificial lighting in close proximity to structure. As you explore some of these areas in person, the ink stains left by landed squid is often a giveaway that the area is productive.
Squid will often school, so land based or from a vessel, cover plenty of water until you find a patch and then concentrate your efforts in that area. When land based, fan your casts to cover the area and move along targeting key structure. The key is to be putting your squid jig around likely looking structure, giving it time to sink down close to that structure and mixing up your retrieve until you find what works. It may take a few sessions at the start, however you will soon build up a collection of productive spots that you can visit when the conditions are right, while crossing off a bunch of spots that don't require a return visit. Another bonus of hunting squid land based is that you will often discover a stack of other spots that are worth a visit for a bait or lure fish for other species, as well as meeting a bunch of other keen anglers and sharing information with each other.
Once hooked maintain steady pressure and a smooth drag to reduce the chances of tearing the jig free. A balanced egi specific rod can also assist with this, rather than a stiffer / shorter lure casting rod. As the squid gets closer to the boat or bank, keep an eye out in case other squid are following the hooked squid and if so your mate can cast another jig in to the following squid, or you can steer the hooked squid toward a second jig that you may have suspended in the water, either under a float or at a fixed depth from the rod. Ensure this second rod is secure so that it won't be pulled into the water and also make sure the drag setting is loose enough that the squid can surge and pull drag, rather than tear the jig free.
A landing net is ideal for landing and handling squid, allowing you to hold the squid over the water with the head pointing away from you so that they can finish ejecting ink, before being dispatched and stored in a cool environment, or into a bucket of water where they can purge any remaining ink. Caution is required as many squid anglers have worn a blast of ink in the face. You can handle the squid by the hood and try to avoid letting them get a hold of you with their tentacles.
Squid fishing can be very productive, fun and visual, and it is also a favourite for kids as they learn more about this interesting creature. It is also a very affordable style of fishing, where you can get away with a single combo and a handful of squid jigs, while bringing home a tasty feed for the family.
All the best with the fishing…
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