Beginner’s guide to land-based squid in winter

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NZ Fishing World
Video sourced from YouTube via the Muddy Feet channel

As the winter and early spring months roll through and the shallows are less productive than in warmer months, have you ever thought about chasing squid from the shore?

It’s a surprisingly low-stress way to bag a top-notch feed when most other options are ‘off the table’.

With that in mind, here’s our beginner’s guide to land-based squid fishing, or 'egi-ing', during winter here in Aotearoa.

Looking for good squid spots:

While they might not be as immediately apparent as small inshore snapper or kahawai, squid are definitely around in winter.

They favour weedy spots with gutters and edges in water between two to seven metres deep. Squid are usually hiding out in the shelter of weed beds along the coast.

Choose a spot that's sheltered from the wind and strong currents, without too much swell, and ideally an incoming tide. Think calm and protected - sounds nice on a cold winter's day, right?

Choosing Your Gear

The Japanese have squid fishing down to a fine art and have designed specific jigs, called EGI, for catching these critters.

These jigs are a cross between a fish and a shrimp lookalike, with a nose keel and front-facing feather fins, as well as a double set of barbless steel prongs. These are designed to snag the squid by the tentacles as it attacks the jig.

Modern squid fishing gear sure is pretty

EGIs are available in a range of colours and often have a rough texture. This slows down their sink rate. Some even come with internal rattles for extra attraction.

When choosing an EGI, you'll notice a number ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 on the keel - this is its weight and sink rate. A good place to start is with sizes 2.5 and 3.0.

As for your line, go for a light PE with an 8 – 12lb fluorocarbon trace. Squid aren't the biggest fighters, so you won't need anything too heavy duty. But having a slightly stronger line will help you avoid losing too many jigs in the weed.

When it comes to reels, small eggbeater 'egi-beater' reels in the 2000 – 2500 size range are best. As for rods, something around seven feet long will do the trick, and soft spinning rods work well.

How to Fish for Squid

Squid are most likely to strike as your jig is sinking or when it pauses at the bottom. This means you'll need to watch your line like a hawk as your jig sinks to spot any changes indicating a squid is getting curious.

Count down as the jig sinks - start with 10 – 15 seconds in shallow water, then give your jig a couple of quick flicks upward. Let it sink again and repeat the process. If you keep snagging weed, reduce your count until you stop.

Once you've got a squid on the line, don't fuss with pumping and winding. Just reel them in smoothly.

The Fun Part: Landing Your Squid

Keep your squid in the water until they have unloaded all their ink!

When your squid is close to the shore, you might be at risk of being inked. But don't stress. Keep your squid in the water and it'll most likely jet out most of its ink. When you lift the squid out of the water, it won't be able to 'reload' with water, which means it won't be able to ink you as readily.

To dispatch your squid, use an iki spike. Once you've pierced it correctly, it'll turn bright white. When both the hood and the tentacles have changed colour, you know your squid is ready to go on ice.

There you have it - squid fishing or 'egi-ing' is a great way to switch things up and still enjoy a day's fishing in the cooler months. Plus, fresh calamari? Yes, please. So why not give the old snapper a break and have a go at land-based squid fishing this winter. Tight lines!

NOTE: The article was adapted from a more advanced winter inshore fishing and squid story in NZ Fishing World from 2018. You can read that story and watch the video here.

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