How to Catch Squid
Last Updated 19/10/2017
Squid are great. Easy to catch, good to eat, good for bait. They may not hold the same prestige as say catching a huge barra but they’re good fun nonetheless. Squid, calamari, aero squid and arrow squid are all pretty much the same stuff. This article runs through how to catch squid from a land based perspective. The techniques and hints presented here are also applicable to catching cuttlefish.
Environmental Factors – Habitat, Conditions, etc
Squid like sea grass and calm water of at least a couple of meters in depth. You aren’t going to find squid in dumping surf and you aren’t going to catch squid in the shallows of a sandy beach. Best habitat is a protected area with plenty of sea grass and reasonable depth, say off a jetty in a bay or off a rocky groin on the side protected from the open ocean.
Sticking with the idea that squid prefer calm areas, they also don’t seem to be as active when conditions are choppy, windy, the swell is up or the water is murky. Best conditions are little wind, little swell and clear water. In terms of tide, moon etc – I don’t pay much attention to that stuff. Some people have their theories but I haven’t found any correlation. Apparently they are more active when there is no moon but I can’t say for sure. I wouldn’t let the moon spoil a planned squidding session.
Squid can be caught throughout the year during all seasons. The best time of the day is early morning for a few hours from sunrise, and early evening a couple of hours before and after sunset. Squid can also be caught late into the night. The least productive time is the middle of the day when the sun is high and bright. I’ve heard that during the peak of the day you can still find squid deeper in the water. I can’t confirm this, it’s mainly applicable when you’re on a boat rather than land based where you don’t have much choice.
Squid are said to congregate around artificial lights at night time. I’ve successfully caught squid at night around artificial lights but I will always fish near a light source since it’s convenient. I can’t confirm if the squid are actually attracted to the light or if it’s the baitfish that the light attracts which then attracts squid or if it doesn’t really make any difference. In any case you can catch lots of squid near artificial lights so use them to your advantage.
I’ve caught lot’s of squid with no regard to tides or moon or whether it’s under a light at night or not. That’s why I don’t feel it’s necessary to place too much weight on those parameters. More important is fish in a reasonable habitat that’s not too choppy and the right times of the day.
Squid lures are called squid jigs. It’s because of the erratic retrieval technique – jigging. A squid jig looks like this:
Squid are also targeted using baited skewers – a skewer with spikes on the end the same as those found on a squid jig. I don’t have much experience using baited skewers. They’re more for use on boats. This article focuses on using jigs.
I use the cheapest squid jigs I can find. I’m a tightass. The squid jig which holds the record for the most squid I’ve ever caught on one jig is in the photo below:
I got this squid jig in the $2 bargain box from my local tackle store. After catching a few squid the cloth covering began to separate. I wasn’t happy with my $2 investment returning only a few squid so I fixed it with some PVC duct tape. You’ll notice the strips of duct tape look like the stripes of a prawn. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a dodgy field repair on a lure. Being a huge cheapskate means it happens every now and then, for example the photo below where I used no more gaps to fix a soft plastic lure.
I’ve since caught many squid with my duct tape repaired jig and the fluoro pink colour has badly faded from frequent use. Perhaps the strips of duct tape enhanced its squid attracting ability. Regardless, I don’t reckon expensive jigs attract squid any better than the al-cheapos. I will admit that a good quality lure will last longer and probably won’t need to be repaired with duct tape after catching a few squid and the ring on the end will be less likely to rip off under load.
My al-cheapo squid jig also glows in the dark. I think at night having a luminous jig may help to excite some squid. Charge it up by holding it under a light source for a minute or two.
I have no favourite jig colour. I’ve caught squid on all colours. Have a few different colours in your tackle box so you can switch around if you’re having no luck.
A lot of people suggest a light weight line coloured to be invisible in water is you’re best bet for squid. I’ve had pretty good results using heavy gauge high visibility braid. I haven’t noticed any difference between different line types.
Squid hang around in the cover of the sea grass so you want to get your jig as close to the bottom as possible. The way I do this is as follows:
- Time how long you take from the moment the jig hits the water after a cast to the moment you start retrieving. Just count in your head to get a rough number of seconds.
- Start off at a few seconds – say 3. With each successive cast increase the number of seconds between the impact with the water to commencement of retrieval. During the counting time leave the fishing line completely slack.
- Continue to increase the time until you feel you’re jig hits the bottom. Note you are risking loss of the jig by doing this. If you test the depth only once then the risk isn’t too bad.
- Once you know the time it takes for your jig to sink to the bottom, subtract a second or two from that time. Use this time as your sinking time. Start counting as soon as your jig hits the water and promptly start retrieving as soon as you count up to the sinking time. This will ensure you are fishing nice and close to the bottom.
Now that you’ve placed your jig close to the bottom you want to imitate the action of a prawn. Jerk the rod quickly a few times in quick succession, let the jig float motionless for a second or two, reel in the slack line and repeat. Continue until you’ve completely retrieved the jig. It’s important to let the jig be motionless several times during the retrieve. The motion attracts the attention of nearby squid but some squid will only strike when the jig isn’t moving. If quick jerks aren’t working you may want to try a slower lift and drop. Lift the rod, drop the rod and let the line be slack for a couple of seconds then reel in the slack line and repeat.
Be persistent. Sometimes squid are timid and won’t strike every time. Often you’ll see a squid chasing your lure but not striking. The only thing you can do is keep trying. Vary your retrieval method and keep trying. Squid also come in schools. So even if you’re seeing nothing and feeling nothing, keep trying. When a school comes along you’ll haul in many squid in quick succession.
Once you hook up a squid, reel in steady but not quickly. Squid tentacles are delicate and you don’t want to rip the jig spikes out. Do not allow the line to become slack otherwise the jig spikes can slip out and free the squid. Take care when landing the squid. There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly the squid will squirt ink at you. Secondly the weight of the squid out of water may be enough to rip the jig spikes out of the tentacles (use a net if you can). Lastly the squid’s beak can inflict a nasty bite. If you are going to handle the squid, grab it above the eyes on the tube and stay clear of the pointy end under the head.
Cleaning and Eating
Cleaning squid can be a bit messy but you get good at it with practise. There’s some good videos on youtube showing how to clean squid but I’ll provide a quick explanation here in case you’re with Telstra and data is too expensive to stream videos:
- Grab the head / tube above the eyes with one hand and just under the hood of the tube with the other hand. Pull apart. The guts should come out of the tube with the eyes and tentacles.
- Search inside the tube with your finger to find the hard plastic like strip and pull it out.
- Remove any remaining guts from the tube.
- Push your thumb between one of the side flaps and the tube and puncture the skin. Use this entry point and the flap to start peeling the skin off. Make your way around the top of the tube and then peel the skin down like a sock. The skin and flaps should come away from the tube in one piece.
- Peel the skin off the flaps.
- Find the hard strip of flesh in the flaps and rip it out
- There’s a rubbery membrane inside the tube that can be removed if you want your squid more tender. If you want squid rings then you can’t remove the membrane. To remove you need to cut open the tube and peel it off. If it doesn’t peel off nicely you can rub it firmly with a cloth or paper towel to work it off. Otherwise don’t worry about it.
- Cut the tentacles just below the eyes.
- Push the beak out from the tentacles.
- Discard the eyes, beak and guts.
- Cut the squid ready for cooking. Make squid rings if the tube is in tact or score diagonal lines in the flesh with a knife and cut into chunkettes.
When out in the bush I only have one way of cooking squid – shallow fry. Use high temp and fry for about a minute with garlic, salt, pepper, chilly and lemon juice. Simple and effective. Don’t overcook else it will become too chewy. Squid freezes well so if you’ve had a big haul that’s too much to eat in one session just clean it and freeze it.
Hopefully this article has given you some tips to help you catch some squid. Good luck and happy jigging!