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Squid great to eat great for bait

Phil Ellerton takes a look at a member of the Cephalopod family - the squid.

Tasmania has two main squid - calamari and arrowhead. The tubes of both of these are excellent fare when eaten fresh, while the tentacles can be frozen for bait. As bait there is little better to entice many saltwater species.

Over the past few weeks southern Tasmania has experienced some of the best squid fishing in many years. The reports are that from Swansea on the East Coast, down to Dover and no doubt further south, there are good numbers of squid entering most bays and estuaries. The majority of squid that are being caught are the most common arrowhead. There are also good numbers of calamari, although not as prolific as the arrowhead. When the squid are on, they really are on and can make for a fun-filled family outing, with no real tactics or strategies needed to catch a good bucket of fresh squid. The rewards of a good outing can be quite prosperous as the whole family can enjoy a succulent feast of squid rings easily prepared from the squids tube - the remaining tentacles going straight into the deep-freeze to be used at a later date as great bait.

Squid preferred habitat is around any structure that baitfish or any potential prey will congregate. Therefore jetties and wharves are always a hot spot, both because they are easy to fish from and squid like to take shelter around the large structures. NB: squid tend to be attracted to bright lights and lighted wharves often attract good congregations. Another hot spot for squid is above or around the edges of weed beds, especially when mixed with intermittent sand patches, weed beds being an ideal feeding area. Squid feed predominantly on small baitfish, having a great tendency to prefer pelagic species such as small mackerel, mullet and pilchards, all of these making for superb squid bait.

When chasing squid using bait never neglect actual squid tentacles - it makes for great bait, especially so because of it's toughness. The squid finding it difficult to steal the bait. Squid seem to have a tendency to take a bit more than once. After being focussed on the bait they will take your bait or be hooked and landed. Squid will rarely pass up the opportunity to take any manageable live fish that is struggling. This is often why weekend fisherman accidentally catch squid that have latched onto their flathead or cod on its retrieve to the surface. When squid are in huge numbers, many different techniques will catch them, even common silver lures, flathead rigs or cubes of floating fish pieces. The only disadvantage of these methods is that the squid will often come unhooked as they are lifted out of the water or are on the retrieve. When faced with this dilemma, squid jigs are the most effective solution.

A squid jig contains lots of small barbless spikes that the squid tentacles get hooked on and rarely get off. In squid jigs there are three main variations available which all work well under different conditions. For example, when the squid are in small numbers, a searching pattern is required. This is where the prawn-shaped squid jig should be used by simply casting over weed beds and jigged back in, varying the retrieve rate. When the squid are in huge numbers, and easier and cheaper alternative is just as effective - this being the standard small plastic squid jig.

The catch rate of both these squid jigs can be greatly improved by either buying the luminous variation or attaching small chemical lights. The third option is used when the squid are more finicky and cautious and when it comes to enticing them into a squid jig. This is where the long slimline squid prong is used. The prong is pushed vertically through a whole fish, whether it be mackerel, mullet, pilchards or whatever may be available at the time - mackerel seem to be the most effective.

When using the bait rig it can either be suspended under a float depth depending on the squid feeding pattern, or floated down and slowly retrieved. The tackle and rigging used for squid is far from being spectacular, specialised gear - most rod and reel combination being quite adequate. The best squid fishing combination is a rod of approximately 7-8 ft in length with a reasonably soft action to assist in the action of the squid jigs and an average sized reel suited to around a 12 lb line. Sometimes a heavier leader of 20 lb should be used if the squid are feeding particularly aggressively and also in case the squid jig is grabbed by other species such as barracouta.

Finally a couple of small tips from my own experience. Squid seem to feed on an incoming tide, peaking wen it is high tide. Squid are more active at night, especially under bright lights. Favoured squid jigs are the lures (prawn style), in pink/purple and green, also prawn style. In the standard cheaper plastic jigs, white seems to be the most effective colour. And remember - only take as much as you need. Save some for the rest of us.