Squid Fishing – Theory vs Reality, by J.T.

Squid Fishing – Theory vs Reality, by J.T. 2018-05-15T22:29:01+00:00

Project Description

A lot of theory is available in regard to squid fishing should you be inclined to read it.  I’d say Mr Google would be a pretty wealthy man if he received $1 for every entered “squid” search.  A lot of what we have over here in NZ is similar to the lucrative Australian squid market where it’s big business. There are Australian anglers who target no other sea creature…just squid.  NSW, South Australia, WA and Victoria have copious quantities of them on their coastlines as well as plenty of anglers who are fixated on this growing craze.  Because of this, there are many theories still developing about squid and fishing for them being shopped around by experts in the field.  The purpose of this article is to perhaps lighten the load a little and tell you about what I’ve learned over the last ten years of seriously targeting them vs the theory of what supposedly “works”.

I’ll list my tips in point form to make it easier to digest:

1)  The season:
It’s all year round in Australia and guess what…NZ too.  Some here believe it’s just a winter thing.  In summer they go a little deeper but in all honesty, I still catch them in my shallow spots too, just fewer of them.  Whilst the bulk of the squid in April/May are small, there are still bigger ones caught so while the experts talk about throwing small jigs out in these months, don’t be afraid to throw some bigger ones round too.  They grow quite quickly but rarely reach sizes available in Australia.  If you catch one over 1kg, give yourself a pat on the back.  Generally speaking though, the bigger ones really need to be targeted between September and December, although Tony from Yeehaas Tackle Store caught a 3.6kg model in January, so don’t put your rod away too soon!

2)  Squid spots:
The most important thing I’d say here in NZ is water quality.  Having tried around marina lights and up estuaries with high boat pollution evident, these are not ideal places.  Squid do have a fussy nature to them but I can’t say I’m particularly partial to swimming in crap water either.  Theorists also say that they are fussy regarding salinity.  i.e. too much freshwater and they are out of there, e.g. rain – but, I have caught plenty of squid in the rain, so I’m not sure about this one. They do like weed though and they lay their eggs in it so if you do find a nice weedy area with good clear water around it, get a Jig down there asap.

3)  Under lights:

There most certainly is truth to this one.  Some years ago they took the lights away from the sea side of Tamaki Drive in Auckland, to make way for more pedestrian room.  This made an immediate effect on squid fishing with the numbers caught dropping significantly.  If you’re out in boats, having a light over the back of your boat can be useful but at the same time, it can spook them as well…good ol’ ’trial and error’ is the best method.

4) Daytime Squidding: 
Once that sun is up, squid are harder to catch from the shore.  They go a fraction deeper, but because their major feed periods are sunrise and sunset you can still get them off the stones. Because Squidding is new, there are a lot of theories about best time to go.  I say go when it suits you.  Try and prove everyone wrong…it is very possible that you will.  Out in the boat, you can definitely catch them all day long.  Like I say, they go a little deeper and no doubt rest up in sheltered areas prior to their major feed time at sunset.  However, an attractive jig darting past/over them can be a morsel too tempting to turn down.

5) Rod: 
In theory, the experts insist on a very lightweight graphite rod over 9ft.  This rod is made to be lengthy and whippy for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, covering the water; being able to cast your jig some distance enables you to be able to cover more water.  Whether you’re fishing from an anchored boat or the shore, this is useful.  Secondly, the whipping technique of the ‘Egi’ method is perhaps more effective in getting the jig to dart like a prawn.  Very hard to do with a softbait rod designed for snapper – it’s too stiff.  For some time now, wholesalers and retailers have been saying that you can use your softbait rod to start with.  Truth is, once you get yourself a squid rod, you’ll enjoy your fishing that much more and your sense of ‘feel’ will improve immensely.

6) Reel: 
Simply needs to have a smooth drag and be reasonably light in weight, as you’ll be casting and retrieving a lot.  Most people are using a small spinning reel.

7) Braid: 
Braid is best used for Squidding due to it’s minimal stretch and increased bite detection.  Having the ability to dig the lure straight into the squid with a short sharp lift of the rod is very important.  Squid are not very big and do not pull a lot of string, therefore you can fish with a light braid.  However, the more important factor to keep in mind is jig recovery from a snag.  Have strong enough braid so you can pull your line and cut through weeds.  Black Magic 12lb Rainbow Braid Elite is a great option and can be used for snapper fishing easily too.  Black Magic also has a reasonable new line called SSP Fibre Glide (Single Strand Polyethylene line). The beauty of this stuff is that it isn’t woven like braid, but it has the same non-stretchcharacteristics.  No weave means less ‘bumps’ along its length meaning less friction on cast and therefore more water covered.  It also means it is cheaper than braid, as no weave means no weave process.  Available in 4kg+, 6kg+ and 8kg+.  Personally I prefer the 4kg+ as fishing light always gets more hook ups.  Read more about SSP and its other features here.

8) Fluorocarbon: 
I’ve heard others say they don’t use it and it doesn’t work.  Then I’ve shared mine with the same people in trying conditions and bam…squid!  I would highly recommend using 8lb, 10lb, 12lb and even 15lb if you want, you will get more action, believe me.  Utilising 10lb or 12lb means you’ll be much more likely to get your jig back from a snag…most of the time.  A heavy weight of fluorocarbon should be used especially if you use some of the dearer jigs in town.  Losing a $25 note on a snag must be gutting.   Read more about our Fluorocarbon here.

9) Jigs: 
Invented 400 Years ago, they have come a long way.  Sparkling eyes, fancy cloths, fluttering wings, balanced keels and super sharp hooks.  The serious squid fisho has dozens of them and loses a few too.  Squid habitat is predominantly in weedy areas.  Sometimes that weed is just way to mature and no matter what you try, your Jig is lost – remember this when purchasing.  Largely I’ve found you get what you pay for.  Expensive jigs can perform better but there are middle of the road ones such as the well established Black Magic range that perform very well.  I have noticed a certain snob factor appearing in squid fishing these days…” you’re not going to do well on the squid unless you buy the Japanese Jig brands…” This is utter rubbish.  Simply perpetuated by those trying to justify their massive spending to partners and other mates.  The only thing to add here perhaps is to beware of the super cheap jig.  They don’t tend to swim so well or descend quite right and that is what the squid look at when pouncing on them.

Watch this video of Toby Munro testing the descent of a Black Magic Squid Snatcher vs a cheap squid jig he bought online.

10) Colour:
The theory behind this is massive but it can be overthought by many anglers. Personally, I’ve broken every rule in the book in terms of what colour Jig works at certain times. Theory suggests, time of day, water clarity and squid feeding patterns are determining factors in which colour Jig should be used. Our Black Magic range has a suggested user guide for each Jig. Use it as a guide only. It has been designed based on “Japanese research”.  What is imperative is this – the successful angler has a lot of jigs – colours and sizes.  In low light and discoloured water, lumo jigs are often employed, they can be further ‘glowed up’ with UV torches. However, in the best conditions, with gin clear water, long casts with more ‘natural’ coloured jigs are the go.  Squid eyesight is very good thanks to having the largest eye relative to size of anything living in the sea. In clear conditions I have seen a squid swim 15 meters to attack a jig. I have also found that certain colours work better in certain areas.  This might have something to do with the local prey the squid are feeding on.

11). Egi method:

This is the action employed to make the egi (squid jig) look like a darting prawn. Again loads of theory here. Trial and error is the best advice I can give.  I’ve caught squid doing nothing, reeling fast, reeling slow, on the surface, on the bottom, in the middle etc etc. Each time Squidding is different.  They dictate the action you should try. However, some things I’ve noted are;

i) From an anchored boat – cast long.  I’d say 50% of squid captures happen on the initial drop. Either just before it hits the bottom or as soon as it does.  Get that jig moving again by whipping it two or three times winding at the same time, then take a long pause whilst waiting for your jig to descend again, this will give you the maximum amount of drops per cast.  Watching the belly of line between rod tip and surface of water is paramount.  Any straightening of line is likely to be a squid playing with your Jig.  Simply repeat the retrieving process until your jig is within site.  Work the water all around your boat.  Target any weed clumps you can see as I’ve been in sandy bays with one little clump of weed and thrown a jig at it and caught more than one squid off the clump with repeated casts.

ii) From a drifting boat – a ledger rig set up can be employed when in deep water but in shallow water (say 5 meters depending on drift speed) the jigs can again be cast out like the above method, but use a small sinker maybe 4ft in front of the jig, just to get it down in the squid zone.  This technique is widely used in Australia.  However they have acres of weed beds in popular squid areas and we don’t, so shorter drifts will need to be employed, or the anchored boat technique.

iii) Landbased – much like an anchored boat but the first cast not so important re length. The squid are usually found close to the rocks scouring for food.  In fact, most squid caught by landbased anglers are caught within 10ft of their feet, and some directly in front of them, literally. It is vital to work all the water in front of you.  Remember also to check your jigs hook section if you do snag up. If there is one tiny piece of weed on it the squid will not go near your jig – keep them clean!

12) The Raid:
Squid eat each other.  This cannibalistic trait can be your friend.  Whilst retrieving your squid, do so slowly. This gives them time to get rid of their ink prior to landing time.  It also allows his buddies to “follow”.  If you have one or two mates there with you, more jigs can be placed in front of them. More often than not, you will catch these followers too, as they are fired up for a feed.  I also am a believer in getting a jig back into the same spot you hooked up as quickly as possible. I.e. land your squid then hit back to that same lucky spot… I have caught a lot of squid doing this.

13) Using squid for bait:

I eat the “squid tubes” in many different ways but what about the rest of the offcuts?  Quite simply they make the best snapper baits when used in particular ways.  The squid has two wings and snapper love whole wings… more so than tentacles I’ve found.  Kingfish too like these wings no doubt because they must think the fluttering wing is attached to a squid – one of their favourite foods.  Some Australians who use the tubes as bait like to cut thin strips of the tube.  This theory is tried, tested and also works really well.  However, it’s the wings I just can’t go past.

Australians use live squid a lot for kingfish fishing… Targeting kingfish with a whole freshly caught and killed squid is simple.  A two-hook streamlined rigged system in the top of the tube and the other at tubes base (not in the head section or tentacles).  Deploy with adequate sinker on running rig to bottom.  Slow retrieve back, pausing at depths your sounder indicates fish. NB: 24kg Tackle here req’d minimum.

14) Angler etiquette: 

A couple of ‘do’s and dont’s’ before I wrap this up… If you’re fishing in a popular place such as the waterfront at Tamaki Drive in Auckland, give anglers plenty of space, especially if you’re new to the sport.  Jigs will drift left, right and straight in front of you.  It is pretty irritating getting braid tangles at night with a neighbour fishing 10 ft away!  So if in doubt of your own ability, do what I did… watch and learn.  It’s amazing how much you can improve your own skills by simply watching how others do things.  Lastly, be careful with the headlights you are wearing.  Squid are skittery and moving light can spook them.  Experienced anglers are very careful with their night vision, at times they will refrain from using headlights at all.  So if you are approaching other anglers, try and keep your own light either off or at least away from the water they are working.

In summary, whilst our Japanese friends have been fishing for squid for centuries and our Australian neighbours for decades, it’s relatively new to New Zealand.  More and more people are embracing squid fishing each year for varying reasons; the thrill of the hunt, food, bait or just something to do, either way, squid fishing is really not hard and has several paybacks.  Give it a crack this year and don’t let all the theory dictate your actions. Trial and error is always the best method.

by JT