SquidSquid are members of the cephalopod family (tentacled heads). Other famous members include octopus and cuttlefish. There are two types of squid that are of interest to keen Tasmanian anglers. These are Gould's squid (also known as arrow squid) and the southern calamari. Both squid live in deep water but the calamari is more likely to be found closer to the shore than the arrow squid.
The difference between the two is quite simple. The arrow squid, as its name suggests, has an arrow-like fin on the end of its hood while the calamari has lateral-running side fins that run from the tip of its hood to the head.
Arrow squid arrive with the onset of warmer currents around the end of October and feed heavily on pilchards, garfish, mackerel and whiting and usually stay for five to six months. The arrow squid is usually responsible for the stealing of flathead, more often than not down deep, but sometimes at the side of the boat when bottom fishing.
Calamari, on the other hand, prefer cooler spring and early summer water temperatures. Calamari find these temperatures ideal for spawning and usually do so in the shallows. This type of cephalopod is less frequent during the hottest months of the year, preferring to retreat into deeper, cooler water. As summer water temperatures drop the calamari will once again invade the shallows from the deep and delight keen squid fishers who thought they may have disappeared. As a rule, autumn and early winter is a great time to target calamari.
Squid not only provide exciting, often action-packed and always messy fishing that the whole family can enjoy.
During peak fishing times hordes of anglers can be seen targeting squid with all sorts of elaborate and differing fishing techniques. Live baits, jigs, baited jag, lures, floats - and yes, even fly fishing, works well on these simplest of mollusc type fish.
Nothing gets an angler's adrenalin pumping faster than the call of 'squid" on an otherwise quiet jetty or wharf. Usually all hands dive into tackle boxes, both extracting and dusting off proven jigs and rigs. Rigs are swapped in what seems like no time at all. I liken it to a mad rush and then, as if on queue, a dozen or more lures or jigs are fired out towards the unsuspecting mackerel chaser from the deep.
Baits for Squid
Arrows and calamari just love to feed on pilchards, mullet, small whiting, mackerel, couta and salmon. The best bait an angler could ever use on these bait chasers is a live sand whiting or yellowtail mackerel.
A standard baited jag rig is usually cast out and floated with a pronged yellowtail mackerel. Don't use too big a bait. A smallish baitfish is normally quite sufficient.
Berley works well on most fish and cephalopods are no exception. They just love fish pieces or the overpowering smell of tuna oil wafting through the water. At times I have had up to a dozen or more calamari lurking midwater curiously trying to find the source of the tuna oil. Berley can make all the difference on an otherwise quiet day.
Best Types of Lure
A squid lure is known as a jig and usually imitates a small baitfish or a large king prawn.
Old-style jigs were usually made from a simple hardened plastic and were usually brightly coloured. These jigs are very productive when squid are feeding well or are around in large numbers.
Newer prawn-style jigs have definitely taken over from the old types mainly because of their horizontal-type action and soft cloth-covered bodies. These jigs also come in an array of different sizes including 2.5; 3.0; 3.5 and 4.0 inch models. Some even have an extra row of tentacle-grabbing prongs halfway up their body and are known as razorbacks. Any squid that messes with a razorback is in real trouble!
Old-type squid jigs are best jigged from a boat or deepwater jetty or wharf whereas the new prawn or garfish types are ideal for spinning and jigging.
Spinning for Squid
Without a doubt spinning is the most popular method for catching squid from the shore and jetties. Anglers use any good 8-12 lb monofilament which is thin enough for them to make good casts and strong enough to land even the largest of squid, usually the calamari. Catching squid this way can be successfully achieved both during the day and also at night. During the day simply use any artificial jig (prawn-style) or baited jag and cast into any likely looking area that may contain arrow or calamari. When targeting arrow (usually in deeper water) cast out the jig or bait and the rig to slowly sink, retrieving in a fast and slow fashion. In this way arrows which prefer deeper water can be found and then teased into shallower depths. Once done, the action can be fast and furious.
At night simply attach a chemical light to the line about 40 cm in front of the jig or baited jag. Squid find these bright-coloured glow sticks irresistible and waste little time homing in for a closer look.
One of my favourite pastimes is spinning for calamari on a bright, sunny day over the weed in the coastal sand shallows. These squid can be observed, sometimes numbering eight or nine, chasing the jig. Using my Polaroid sunglasses I watch closely for a strike as I slow my prawn jig down and allow it to fall back into the group of pursuing cephalopods, striking instantly the jig is taken.
Give it a try when other types of fishing may be proving unsuccessful.
Float Fishing for Squid
Although not the most popular of methods this would have to be the deadliest.
Simply use a prawn or gar-styled jig, or a jag rigged through a yellowtail mackerel, 50 cm beneath a foam or plastic float. Cast out the entire rig and allow any wave and wind action to drift the floated rig in any water that may contain squid. For best results try and have the jig situated 1.2 m below the float. However, be prepared to adjust this as required by the conditions of the day.
When float fishing during the day the use of prism floats help to attract squid to the area. The metallic silver prism strips reflect bright, glittering silver light down through the water column which give any nearby squid the impression of a passing school of baitfish and usually respond favourably.
At night, when using the same floating rig, attach a chemical light" which will flood the entire area with an eery squid-attracting glow. The light will serve two purposes. Firstly, by grabbing the attention of nearby squid and secondly, seducing baitfish into the light which in turn attract squid. Either way the angler does not stand to lose.
Boat Fishing for Squid
Finding a school of squid in a boat is a little bit more difficult than off the shore and large schools do not usually linger too long in the one spot. If they do remain in the same spot it is usually because the feeding is particularly good. Arrow squid are the most likely of the two Tasmanian squid to be found offshore and are continually on the move chasing baitfish and other prey items at different depths. Calamari are occasionally encountered out wide but usually in smaller numbers.
Schools of arrow squid are usually located while bottom fishing (more often than not losing a few flathead to them at the side of the boat). The potential to catch both a feed of flathead and squid is great and both can be achieved by simply dropping a squid jig into the water, the rod into a rod holder, and allow any wave action and the rocking of the boat to move the jig and hook the squid. Periodically check the rod tip and if sagging pull it in as you will most probably have a squid.
To participate in a more active type of boat fishing cast in a jig or bait and allow it to sink to the depth of the school and slowly tease the hungry pack closer to the surface. Eventually you will have a savage mass of squid beneath the boat in a feeding frenzy.
Obviously in these instances large catches are the rule not the exception and it is important not to catch too many squid as these large schools are extremely vulnerable to the angler fishing from a boat. Try and take only what your immediate needs require and leave the rest for another day.
Are there squid to be caught during the early spring months?
The answer to this question is yes. In fact both the calamari and arrow squid did not leave our waters and remained with us throughout the entire winter. This was due mainly to the fact that the squid's prey items, or fish that we anglers consider spring and summer species, remained with us as well.
The combination of a strong Eastern Australian current, mild winter conditions and little or no rain saw species like whiting, Australian salmon, couta and pike in Tasmanian waters for a prolonged stay. Squid relying on these fish as a food resource stayed as well. Reports of small wintertime captures of calamari and arrow squid filtered through and those that put the time in on the water occasionally came away with a few squid.
An angler wishing to catch a few of these early (or late)-running squid will have to be prepared to hit and miss due to the unseasonably low numbers. Increase your chances as much as possible by trying recognized squid hot spots, using an array of baits and jigs. Change your techniques and persevere.