Fishing tight to the shore is highly underrated by boaties as a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the very best our coastline has to offer. Not only is it an area frequented by massive specimens of our favourite target species, such as snapper and kingfish, but it also offers a huge variety of alternative options for the table. One real treat that is becoming far more popular to focus on specifically is the humble squid.
John dory, mackerel, piper, and even fresh kahawai are all great eating and can be found in as little as one metre of water. But if you are looking for something that is a real taste sensation, fresh calamari would be hard to beat.
Change of light is commonly the best time for inshore fishing. In winter, the break from the wind that often accompanies first and last light, makes inshore fishing an even more attractive proposition.
Winter can often turn the fishing right down. Colder temperatures slow the fishes metabolism, and they can become harder to motivate to the bite.
A popular belief is that berley and bait is absolutely necessary at this time of year, and this can sometimes be the case, but is by no means always true.
The author with a nice winter pannie on a softbait
Normal lure methods, such as soft baiting, are still enormously effective with a few technique adjustments.
Simply slowing down the action of the jig, and leaving it almost stationary tickling along the seabed will often get a bite. Sometimes you need to just about drop it right on their nose.
The bite will also often be very gentle. You’ll feel a weight come on the rod tip, just leave it until it really weights up before actually striking, and that will often do the trick.
The sun has come up, and so has the wind. It’s winter, and this is the point where the snapper bite will often turn off. In a smaller boat it can get proportionally more unpleasant the further you are out to sea.
This would be a great time to head inshore, and I mean right inshore, to target squid.
Early winter is the best time to catch squid, and contrary to popular belief, this is not a species that must be targeted at night.
Squid are active and aggressively feed during the day, and you will find them around many coastlines hiding in the shelter of the weed beds.
A perfect winter's day hunting for squid in the shelter of a pleasant bay
WHERE TO FIND SQUID
Small boats are perfect to target areas where squid frequent. You will be looking for thick weed beds with good gutters and edges in two to seven metres of water. Small boats allow you to get right in close to cast, just be careful of rocks and watch your drift.
Squid don’t like swell and wash, so you are looking for the calmest and most pleasant area to target. Not a bad situation to be in on a cold winter’s day.
Drift down the weed line targeting the area where the weed drops into deeper channels, or meets the sand.
Squid are attracted to light, so this may have a bearing on the strong opinions that the full moon is NOT the best time to target squid.
TACKLE AND GEAR
A couple of nice Yamashita jigs and my home made squid 'iki'
SQUID JIGS – EGI
There are specific jigs designed to catch squid, designed in Japan, they are known as EGI. ‘Egi’ing is a term that you may hear referring to the art of squid fishing.
EGI or squid jigs, are distinctive in their form and function. They are generally shaped like a cross between a fish and a shrimp, with a nose keel, forward facing ‘feather’ fins and a formidable looking double set of barbless steel prongs. It is these prongs that impale and snare the squid by the tentacles as it attacks the jig
The jigs are available in a massive range of colours, and often have a rough material texture designed to increase surface area and slow sink rate. Some are equipped with internal rattles believed to be an additional attraction.
Good jigs will swim better, work better, and generally last longer than cheaper ones. Top brands such as Yamashita and YoZuri are great options. I’ve used a Yamashita jig for over a year without rinsing and it has not even rusted slightly.
Size and sink rate are believed to be critical.
The keel at the front of the jig is marked with a number starting around 1.5 up to 4.5. This indicates its weight and sink rate. Most commonly used would be sizes 2.5 and 3.,0, so this is a good place to start with your jig collection.
This aerial view shows a perfect spot to try for squid around the weed edges and channels
You are looking to try and keep the Egi just above the kelp, or just above the sand BESIDE the kelp, to entice a squid to pounce from its shelter.
Experiment with colours and sink rates until you find the one that seems best for your situation.
Specific EGI snaps are available that are very light and do not interfere with jig action, but enable fast and convenient lure changes.
It is also widely acknowledged that darker colours will work on darker days, and conversely lighter more natural colours on bright days. This is not set in stone, but worth considering. Squid jigs often contain a luminous feature, so occasionally ‘heating’ them up with a light is worth trying on a dark day.
Notice the lumo effect on the lower 2 jigs in low light. Squid magnets!
Another good tip, try ‘scenting’ your jig with one of the common soft bait scents available such as ‘secret sauce’.
Light PE lines and 8 – 12lb fluorocarbon trace provide the ideal combination of strength and invisibility. Squid won’t break you off, they are no great fighter. It’s a bit like dragging a plastic bag with an angry goldfish in it once you are hooked up.
You could easily fish much lighter, but the line weight is needed to prevent losing too many jigs as they foul up in the weed.
Rods and reels
Small eggbeater ‘egi-beater’ reels are best in 2000 – 2500 size. Jigs are light so these are the reels needed to cast any distance. Some of the Japanese reels designed for this method have a double handle (like smaller overhead reels) supposedly to assist with working the lure more aggressively, but a normal threadline will certainly be ok.
Rods are really important, and so naturally there are rods specifically designed to suit the job at hand. EGI rods are long (8 -10 feet) and generally slow and whippy in action. These rods cast well, and more importantly, load up with a soft arc once a squid is hooked, holding a steady tension on and preventing the barbless jig from dropping out.
Such a length is less necessary when fishing from a boat, so soft spinning rods around seven feet long will work just fine.
There is an art to working the EGI, and it helps to understand when and how the squid strikes so that you can fish accordingly.
A squid will almost always strike as the jig is sinking or as it pauses at the bottom of its journey. This is why you must watch the line carefully as your jig sinks to recognise any change that indicates your lure is being tampered with.
Count down as the lure sinks, 10 – 15 seconds in shallow water, then whip the jig a couple of fast flicks upward. Leave it to sink again and keep repeating. If 15 seconds of drop has you snagging weed, next time count 12 – 10 – 9 until you stop snagging.
When you hook up, DON’T bother with pumping and winding, just smoothly reel him in.
DISPATCHING AND CLEANING
Close to the boat you are at risk of being ‘inked’. Net your squid and leave him in the water to jet out most of his nasty little dye bag. Once lifted from the water, if he has squirted his jet and is unable to ‘reload’ with water he will also not be able to ink you as readily.
Put your squid to ‘sleep’ with an iki spike. There are specific tools available, I have fashioned one from a fondue spike that works well. You can also use a knife or fish iki. Pierce the squid above and between the eyes looking for a small hard spot. The second you hit this your squid will instantly turn bright white. If just the hood turns white keep digging until the tentacles do the same, and your squid is ready to go onto ice.
To clean and prepare for eating head to Youtube for some simple tutorials. Here’s one for starters.
Squid are one of the ocean's most plentiful biomass organisms, so maybe give the old snapper a break and opt for calamari and chips instead?
If you try something different and target squid from the get go, you might be surprised at how well you do.