Fishing For… Squid?!

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This angler caught a jumbo squid by accident while jigging deep for tilefish.

When we think of saltwater fishing, few of us think of squid beyond its use as a bait. That’s too bad, because yes, you can catch your own squid – and it’s not just good for bait, it tastes great, too.

angler with squid

This angler caught a jumbo squid by accident while jigging deep for tilefish.

While the squid found inshore in the Gulf are very small, usually three inches long or less, offshore fishermen may encounter them up to about a foot in length. Catch a few of these, and you have a plate full of calamari. Often they’re caught by accident, as the one shown above was, when a squid attacks a bait intended for something else and gets snagged on the hooks. However, you can also target them with squid jigs. Rather than hooks, these have little baskets of spikes on the end which are designed to entangle the squid’s wriggling arms. And fishing with them is quite simple. Just lower them to the depth the squid are at, jig it gently, and when you feel some additional weight begin reeling. If the squid’s arms get stuck in the basket when you start reeling you’ll know it, since it feels just like a fish tugging on the line.

Finding the squid is usually the tough part. If you’re offshore overnight you may see them right up at the surface, in your night fishing lights. Sometimes you’ll spot schools of squid 50 feet down, or at mid-depth under the boat at night. But during the day, squid usually stay hundreds of feet below the surface. You may figure out they’re around if you catch one by accident with your regular fishing gear, but another tell-tale sign is when you reel up a bait with small diamond-shaped bites in it. That’s a sure-fire indication that a squid was chewing on it with it’s beak, so when you see those little diamonds (about the size of a thumb-tack and often clustered close together), rig up a squid jig and try dropping it to the same depth.

Warning: squid often come up spitting ink and seawater, which can be quite messy but is also quite entertaining. And look out for that beak – yes, they do bite!

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