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Catching squid The basics

Brett Spinks

With summer fast approaching and many anglers, both serious ones and those seeking some family fun chasing the bread and butter species, its worth considering trying your luck catching something a little different, so why not squid. Catching squid can provide great fun for the family, doesn't require a boat, or expensive tackle, and provides the added bonus of being a delectable table fish.

Tasmanian waters are home to two main species of squid, the Southern calamari (calamari), and arrow squid. Anglers can take both species, however the calamari is more commonly captured as it's found in the shallower inshore waters. Calamari have a life span of around 12 months, but are voracious feeders and some specimens can obtain weights in excess of 2 kilograms. On light tackle, a squid of this size can put up an entertaining fight.
Arrow squid (arrows) tend to school in large numbers and can be found in waters up to 500 metres deep. They are easily differentiated from calamari in that instead of two long wings down the side of the hood, they have two short triangular fins near their tail that form a distinctive arrow shape. Recreational anglers often capture arrows whilst targeting other species. I have caught good specimens while chasing flathead in waters up to 60 metres deep. Arrows tend to be very aggressive predators and will often take lures or baits intended for other species. However, this article is focused on the capture of calamari, as they are more frequently encountered in inshore waters.
Here are some of the basics that should increase your chances of angling success with this interesting mollusc.

Locating potential hot spots
Calamari are frequently encountered in the vicinity of seagrass beds or broken bottom. They are most abundant around these habitats through the summer months however, with a little planning, can still be captured all year round.
They will often be found around sheltered rocky bays, or inshore along beaches where patches of seagrass can be found. They can be caught in water as shallow as 2-3 metres, although a depth of 5-10 metres is better. Many jetties and piers also seem to attract calamari - perhaps due to the shelter and protection offered to the schools of baitfish upon which the squid feed. Whilst a boat is not a necessity, it can provide access to a wider range of potential hot spots. Contrary to common belief, squid are as easily caught during the day as at night, although dusk remains popular with the experienced angler.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, but both my fishing companions and I have had regular success in the following locations:
?    The beaches of Great Oyster Bay and Mercury Passage;
?    Skeleton Bay, near Binalong Bay;
?    Most southern and south eastern jetties with broken bottom or seagrass in the vicinity, for example, Pirates Bay, Woodbridge, Dover, or Dunnalley just to name a few;
?    Sheltered bays and beaches of Bruny Island, with Dennes Point a favourite of mine;
?    The Hobart wharves, particularly from dusk onwards.

These are a just a few of the many spots you may find squid. It's just a matter of thinking about the location.

Tackle
In terms of necessary tackle, there are no special requirements.  Any medium sized spinning rod in the range of five to seven feet with a reasonable amount of tip action, combined with a threadline or baitcaster reel spooled with line in the vicinity of 10 pound breaking strain, should be sufficient.  It's beneficial to be able to cast the jig a reasonable distance. A squid jig does not have normal hooks, instead it has a number of very sharp barbs grouped tightly together at the base of the jig that do the same job.
Tying the jig directly onto the line is the simplest way to go.  I am a big supporter of the idea that the less swivels, "quick-changes', etc the better, as this provides fewer distractions for the fish. Most jigs on the market are already weighted correctly to achieve a mid-water floating action as you retrieve, so there is no need to add any sinkers to your rig. No bait either, so what could be simpler!
In terms of brand, I believe you cannot go past the Yo-Zuri range of jigs. They are a bit more expensive, but when the squid are not striking consistently or being a little cagey, you will have a far better chance if your tackle box contains at least one Yo-Zuri. Priced between $15 and $17, those Yo-Zuri jigs with a smooth finish, white with a red head, or white with a pink or green back, in the size range 2.5 to 3.5 (this indicates the length in inches) have an excellent strike rate.  
There are many other good quality jigs available for $10 or less. The majority of these are finished in a cloth like material, in a range of colours. Sure Catch, Jarvis Walker, Razorback and Alpha are some of the better-known brands. When the squid are hot on the bite however, they will pretty much take whatever is presented.
An effective, but rarely used alternative is to use a bare jig, (a metal spike with barbs at the base), threaded with bait chunks and cast and retrieved in the usual manner. Soaking the bait in tuna oil can enhance this method even further, and its good option if the action is a little quiet.  

Technique
Catching squid isn't difficult, and requires a technique similar to working a soft plastic lure. A cast followed by a slow retrieve, using the rod tip to impart the odd sharper action, will normally do the trick. If your jig is coming in across or close to the surface, you are definitely retrieving too fast.
A squid will take the lure with a solid pulling motion, and you may be mistaken for thinking you have struck weed. Once hooked, it becomes very much a tug-of-war style of fight and a good test of skill.  If you are too aggressive, it is easy to lose the squid, as it may only be connected to the jig by one or two tentacles.
When a squid is first hooked, (more often than not) there may be others close by, so it is well worth a mate directing a cast to the same area. Other squid may also follow the hooked quarry in close to the boat, presenting additional opportunities for further hookups. Being able to see the squid you are trying to hook makes for exciting fishing, and can be a lot of fun for kids.
As with many species of fish, berley can also assist in attracting squid to within striking distance.
If conditions are quite windy, a running barrel sinker above a swivel positioned around 30 to 40 cm above the jig, will assist casting and lessen wind drift as you retrieve, allowing the jig to remain at a better depth in the water column.
The only downside to squid is their ability to release jet-black ink when hooked. For the unsuspecting angler this can make quite a mess of the boat, or worse, you, as they have a tendency to save their final spurt for landing.  The ink stain can be difficult to remove from clothing and lifejackets, although a good soak prior to washing really helps. The best advice to avoid this is to use a landing net wherever possible, and always keep the head of the squid parallel to your boat as you lift the net from the water. It also pays to shake the net a few times on top of the water before lifting as this will often force the squid to harmlessly release the last of its ink. If you're fishing from a jetty that's too high to use a landing net, just try and swing the squid up onto the jetty, in preference to winding it straight up towards you.

Cleaning
Cleaning a squid is not a difficult or dangerous task, although it is a messy one.  The best eating is the hood, or body. Thus, it's necessary to remove everything that is attached to this part of the fish, including the wings, head and tentacles. Some people enjoy eating the tentacles, but I prefer to keep both these and the head for bait. Squid bait is excellent for most species with the added benefit of staying on the hook for long periods of time.  
Once the hood has been isolated, all that remains is to remove the quill, a clear plastic like backbone located down the inside of the hood. By digging a thumbnail or knife under the top of the quill, it should peel easily away.  If you turn the hood inside out, this allows for easy removal of the remaining squid gut.  If you find this difficult, it's just as easy to slice the hood up one side and then scrape the remaining skin and ink away with a knife.  All this means is that you will have to dine on calamari strips rather than rings - I guarantee it will be equally as tasty!

Regulations
It's important to be aware that there are regulations surrounding the capture of squid.  A possession limit of 15 of each species is the maximum that an angler can be in possession of at any time. This possession limit applies everywhere, including those kept in the home freezer. Whilst there is no legal minimum size for squid, the small ones are better released to try for again later.
A closed season exists for the capture of both species of squid in some east coast waters from 15 September 2005 to 14 December 2005 inclusive. The closed area runs from the northern end of Marion Bay Beach as far north as Coles Bay, including Mercury Passage and all of Great Oyster Bay, and extends east to the outer limit of State waters.  This is essentially to protect the squid as they mass in great numbers for breeding, and since its introduction, has been to the benefit of all amateur anglers.

Further detail of the regulations can be found on the Government website www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au.
Brett Spinks