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Calamari conversations; a first timer’s success

By Callum McKendryNZ Fishing World
Calamari conversations; a first timer’s success

Standing at the water’s edge at the Tamaki Yacht club on a cold winter’s night, I was ‘Eging’ (squid fishing) for the very first time.

It reminded me of my first trout fishing experiences at a spot called Sullivans, a Dunedin dam where students spent the day fishing “between” classes. At the time the relaxed banter in calm and quiet surroundings was enjoyed as much as catching our quarry.

I did not arrive at Tamaki Yacht Club expecting to be reminded of my days at Sullivans. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I was there to learn the technical art of ‘Eging’. I had been given a heads up about specialist rods and equipment, all of which I could confidently say I did not have at my disposal. I searched through my contacts and managed to pillage a lightweight softbaiting set up from a mate.

Squid are most abundant in the colder months and are best hunted with squid jigs in clear calm conditions.

I was met by Gen Sato from Yeehaa Tackle at 8.15pm. My chosen set up of an Abu Veritas rod with a Shimano Symetre reel was approved and we approached the water. What struck me from the beginning was the technical side of squid fishing that had to be studied before throwing a lure.

First you cast out as far as possible and then place the butt of the rod above your shoulder (which ever side is your preferred casting side) with the tip facing downwards at around 45 degrees. Grip and balance the rod lightly at the handle so that as the lure sinks to the bottom it pulls the rod tip down with it. Once the line is tight give three quick jerks as you would normally strike a fish, then flick the handle and let the reel spin whilst returning the rod to its original position over your shoulder.

The Oita connection

This technique takes a while to get used to. However, once you get going it feels quite natural. Chatting to Sato I learnt he had grown up in an area of Japan called Oita (O-eta). Famous for its squid fishing, he watched elderly men with nothing but a wooden fishing pole perfecting this technique when he was young.  Since Oita was situated on the water, squid fishing had always been deeply embedded in their culture. The common squid jig s-shape that we all know is actually named after this area.

Sato’s understanding of this style of fishing was impressive. He taught me things that many would never think of. One wise tip included always carrying a toothbrush to wipe the ink off your lure from the previous catch. The next squid that stalks your lure maybe be deterred by the previous victim’s signature if it isn’t removed. The most interesting weapon he had in his arsenal was UV paint. Squid see light in the ultra-violet spectrum, by applying the paint to the area of the lure closest to the pins, you increase the chances of hooking up.

Squid perceive Ultraviolet (UV) light when they hunt their prey. Painting UV paint on the rear of your jig attracts attacks to the location of the pins that will snare your squid.

We were targeting broad fin squid, the most common species of squid that often swim in schools. This type of squid is incredibly inquisitive and confident, often following a jig all the way to the water’s edge and then sitting and waiting in ambush for it. Sometimes at this point you can just drop the jig down in front of them and drag them to the shore once they bite. On this night however we had no such luck.

An hour and a half went by of endless casting without even a tug. If I was being honest though I didn’t even notice the time. We were too busy throwing stories back and forth, competing over who had caught the biggest trout, or where the best fresh water spots were in the country. We even got into calamari recipes. I prefer chilli, sesame seeds, coriander and soy sauce. Sato chooses raw sashimi with the use of the ink to make squid ink noodles. Shifting around on to the rocks to attack the black, seemingly lifeless water from a different angle, I cast out no different to the fifty casts I had thrown earlier.

Squid attack

On this cast however I felt my line tighten. No pulling, no noise, just a very faint tug that could be mistaken for being caught on some kelp. I hesitantly announced to Sato ‘I think I’ve got one’, to which he replied with overwhelming confidence ‘are you sure?’ If you are looking for a big battle then this isn’t where you’ll find it. A few short winds and the squid was on the shore, coating the boat ramp in ink to state its arrival.

Squid will quickly discharge their ink upon landing, as Callum found out.

Sato cast into where I had hooked up and dragged in another within seconds. The theory that they travel in schools and that once you hook up you will almost certainly hook up again is true. Once you have the squid on shore, the place to iki it is between the eyes where you feel a solid bridge. Instantaneously your catch will fade from solid orange to white, it’s quite a sight the first time you see it!

We moved on to another spot of Sato’s along the waterfront and continued to cast but without success. Due to the turbulent weather the week before the water was murky, which isn’t good for squid fishing. I didn’t mind though, we both had our dinner and at 11pm decided to finish up.

My first experience of squid fishing took me back to the calm and relaxed atmosphere of my student days at Sullivans, yarning with mates and throwing around a couple of lures for the chance of a delicious dinner and beer to follow. I highly recommend Eging, thank you to Sato and the guys at Yeehaa for the great experience, I will be heading out again soon.

Recipe: Squid with Pistachio, Pork and Prawn Stuffing

Deep fried squid rings are an easy favourite however here’s another easy recipe that is tasty and blends in some extra flavours.  

INGREDIENTS

12 slim squid, about 15 cm long

Stuffing

  • 100 grams raw prawn meat, finely chopped
  • 100 grams pork mince
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped coriander
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 cup pistachio nuts
  • To finish
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup plain flour, seasoned
  • lemon wedges
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • coriander

METHOD:

Stuffing: Place all the ingredients in a bowl, season and thoroughly combine.

Squid: Pull out the tough cartilage and innards from the squid tubes and discard. Rinse thoroughly. Peel off the speckled outside skin and fins if still attached.
Loosely fill each squid with stuffing, pushing it down to the bottom of each tube. If the squid are filled too tightly, most of the stuffing will pop out when they are put in a hot pan. Leave 1 cm unfilled at the top.

To cook: Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Toss the squid in flour, shaking off the excess. Cook in batches, rolling them around until lightly golden in patches and the filling is firm, about 3-4 minutes. Take care when cooking as they can spit quite fiercely. Drain on kitchen towels. Slice in half on the diagonal and arrange on a serving platter with a bowl of sweet chilli sauce and garnish with lemon wedges and coriander. Serves 4-6 as a snack or serve with a salad as an entrée

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