Until recently, squid were an occasional or nuisance catch for most Kiwi anglers. But not anymore!
On nights when squid are running and the weather’s reasonable, you can find squid fishers on virtually every accessible headland, jetty and rocky shoreline around Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Many of them are Asian, but an increasing number is not.
The explosive growth of interest in squid, or egi, fishing is part of a worldwide trend that began in Japan. Squid is valued as food throughout the Asian region and recreational fishers in Japan adapted commercial squid fishing techniques many years ago. These have been refined into egi fishing as practised today – is Japanese for squid.
Squid are usually targeted on weighted, prawn-shaped lures with double or triple rows of sharp upward-facing tines. The tines snag the squid’s tentacles when it attacks the lure.
There are dozens of squid lure patterns, some of them luminescent and many of them covered in ‘fish skin’, a usually synthetic material that is highly attractive to squid. Years ago we used to catch squid on simple plastic ‘squid lures’; often ones we found washed up on the beach that had been lost from Japanese squid boats that once fished New Zealand’s inshore waters at night. These were far simpler than today’s lures, but still caught squid, though modern lures are undoubtedly more effective and can be fished day or night.
It pays to have a selection of squid lures in different colours, sizes and weights. The best ones are $20-plus, so it’s a fair investment, but there are cheaper models around. Many anglers add scent to their squid jigs – Stimulate gel or Secret Sauce are good.
Rods, reels and lines
You can buy specialist rods and reels for squid fishing. The rods are generally light, with soft tip-actions and guides optimised for superbraid lines. These rods cast lure weights of between 2.0 and 5.0 grams, and there are times and places where casting a good distance is important for success.
The light tip action not only allows anglers to cast lightweight lures, it also cushions against the struggles of hooked squid. Squid don’t fight hard, but it’s easy to tear the fine tines out of a tentacle, or even break a tentacle off, if you are too heavy-handed.
That said, you can fish for squid with softbait tackle or a light spinning outfit you might use for trout.
Specialist squid reels are lightweight with shallow spools that don’t hold much line. Spinning reels are usual. Line used can be either light superbraid or nylon (2-3kg) – special multi-coloured, low-stretch nylon squid lines are available. Fluorocarbon trace is usual – 4-5kg maximum because squid have excellent eyesight.
Cast squid lures from the shore or out of a boat. A weight in the lure’s belly acts as a keel, keeping the ‘prawn’ the right way up and sinking it headfirst to the bottom. Different weights are used in different sea conditions and water depths.
Squid fishing is popular at night. Squid come in close to rocky shorelines after dark, where they can be targeted by shore-based anglers. They are also attracted to lights – on boats and on the shore – preying on the baitfish and other small creatures drawn to the light. Anglers also incorporate small light sticks and/or luminescent squid jigs for night fishing.
Cast lure and allow it to sink, perhaps giving it a couple of jerks as it sinks. Once it’s at or near the bottom, (this is often a bit of guesswork because you don’t want to snag your expensive jig on the bottom) a couple or three sharp lifts with the rod will make the jig dart up and down. Take up the slack and repeat, gradually retrieving the lure.
Depth control is important, so choosing the right weight of jig is vital – too heavy and you’ll lose too many jigs; too light and you won’t get anywhere near the bottom. Squid generally hold in mid-water, especially at night, looking up and down for prey.
At night, try luminescent jigs and add a light stick – some jigs have cavities in their bodies to accept lightsticks. If you have no success after a few casts, change lures because particular patterns/colours work better than others on a given day.
Another popular technique is to fish squid jigs suspended under a float. If using two, one is fished off short dropper and the other, heavier lure tied to the bottom of the rig. The float is adjusted for depth using a stopper on the mainline. The rig is cast out and allowed to bob around in the waves; the wave action imparting action to the squid jigs. At night, it can pay to add a light stick to the rig somewhere near the jigs. The best floats for night fishing are equipped with lights, too, so you can see bites.
Day time too
Squid fishing is also possible during the day. A lightly weighted squid jig trailing behind a drifting boat while softbait fishing for snapper often turns up a feed of squid. You can actively fish for squid in reefy, weedy areas and off the shore during the day, too. It’s generally not as productive as night fishing, especially under lights, but often produces a feed and it’s certainly entertaining. Try deeper water than you would normally fish at night.
A hooked squid feels like a sudden increase in weight on the end of the line, usually followed by pulsing surges. Play the hooked squid gently and allow the reel to give line if surges particularly strongly. Don’t give any slack. Most squid are lost when anglers lift them from the water – better to use a net.
Beware squid ink, it’s difficult to get out of clothes and can stain boats and equipment. Let the squid vent its ink in the water before landing it
•The inshore squid commonly caught in New Zealand waters is the broad squid (Sepioteuthis australis). Broad squid live for only 12-18 months, moving inshore around July to spawn. They are available until around February. Squid die after spawning but feed aggressively until then.
•Broad squid are more common in northern parts of New Zealand.
•Broad squid vary in size, with larger ones more common later in the season. Broad squid grow up to a metre long.
•Anglers fishing from boats offshore under lights at night may also catch two species of arrow squid (Nototodarus sloanii, N. gouldi).
•Broad and arrow squids are delicious eating.
Species:Snapper Squid Trout