Squid, octopus, and cuttlefish may seem similar, but they have distinctive characteristics that set them apart. Squid and cuttlefish possess five pairs of tentacles, with four pairs of equal length and one slightly longer pair. On the other hand, the octopus boasts eight tentacles, all of the same length.
When it comes to squid baits, one popular choice is the Californian, also known as Chinese squid or Kalamari. These smaller squids, averaging between 4″ and 6″ in length, are readily available and affordable due to their use in restaurants and kitchens. In contrast, common squid, which can grow up to 24″ in length, is not commonly used as bait in home waters.
These fascinating creatures thrive in deep offshore waters, though you may occasionally find cuttlefish and squid washed ashore or inhabiting shallow bays. The UK coast offers numerous hotspots for squid, with notable areas including the west coast of Ireland, the English Channel to North Wales, and Scotland’s west coast.
While squid can be found year-round, they are most abundant during the summer and autumn seasons. However, capturing squid as bait can be quite challenging. Although octopuses may occasionally snatch a bottom-fished fish bait, these instances are rare and unreliable for bait collection.
To improve your chances of success, you can use specially designed weighted plastic squid hooks that resemble upside-down ice cream cones with metal spikes lining the rim. By jigging these hooks up and down through a shoal of squid, you can impale the squid on the spikes and reel it in. It’s worth noting, however, that this method is not widely recognized or reliable in the UK.
When purchasing squid, it’s best to avoid supposedly fresh squid from fishmongers, as it is often previously frozen and then defrosted. Instead, opt for frozen blocks of Kalamari, available in weights of 1lb and 5lbs. For avid anglers who frequently venture out, visiting a local wholesale market early in the morning is a wise choice. Stock up on a couple of 5lb blocks for maximum savings. Remember to divide the larger block into smaller trip-sized portions by partially defrosting it and separating the squid into packets of 4 to 6 pieces. Store these portions in sealable freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
When it comes to freshness, rely on your sense of smell rather than visual cues. Squid that smells strong should be discarded, while fresh squid exhibits a mild, pleasant sea smell. While some anglers believe that pink staining is a sign of spoiled squid, it’s actually the deep pinky-red staining throughout the body that indicates repeated freezing and defrosting. Additionally, watch out for drained, stained, frozen inky water in the bag, which can signify a prolonged time lapse between the squid’s demise and freezing or frequent thawing.
Transporting squid can be tricky, especially in warmer months. Use a proper cool box with ice packs to maintain the squid’s freshness. To avoid contamination, only remove the required amount of squid from the cool box. Leaving the rest in the sun can cause the draining juices to spoil the squid flesh.
For presentation, squid can be cut into strips or used whole. To create strips, remove the squid’s head, open up the body, and scrape away the guts and clear colored backbone. Then, cut the flesh into thin strips of varying sizes depending on the target species. For smaller fish, use strips measuring 1.5″ x 0.5″, while larger fish may require strips measuring up to 6″ x 2″. For best results, nick the smaller strips once over the hook to allow movement with the tide. Alternatively, fold the larger strips over the hook point twice to create a bulkier bait.
Squid strips work well as tipping for lug and rag baits when targeting cod and whiting. Additionally, they can be used in combination with mackerel and herring when pursuing rays. Another presentation option involves leaving the rear end of the squid body closed, removing the guts, and filling the cavity with mackerel flesh, lugworm, mussel, or other enticing bait. Sew up the open end and pierce the skin a few times with a knife to release the juices. This filled body presentation works wonders for larger fish like cod, bass, rays, and huss, especially when normal baits are being chewed by crabs. The tough squid skin gives these fish a hard time, allowing the scent of the hidden bait to entice them longer.
When using whole Kalamari, a baiting needle can make the process easier. Simply slide the needle over the hook point, push the bait down the needle body, and bring the hook out between the eyes. To prevent the body from collapsing into the hook’s gape, secure it with elastic thread wound around the line above the hook.
For larger UK squid, cutting them into chunks or long strips works best. Whole cuttlefish can also serve as effective baits for conger and cod in deep water around wrecks. The presentation remains the same, but be sure to use Mustad O’Shaughnessy 10/0 hooks. Additionally, suspending a whole squid bait within 30′ of the surface can attract porbeagle and blue shark, particularly during the dusk period when squid shoals rise closer to the surface.
During the post-Christmas period, many anglers have experienced success by using a pennel rig with three Kalamari squid on 8/0 hooks. The top squid goes on the highest hook, the second squid is secured against the base of the first, and the last squid occupies the base hook. Wrap the entire package with elastic thread to keep it secure. Interestingly, squid bait can be left out longer than other baits, as fish find its scent enticing long after it has been in the water.
In addition to their use as bait, squid can also take on different colors using food colorants, such as red, gold, and yellow. This dyeing technique proves effective when tipping other baits, but that’s a topic for another article.
It’s important to note that learning about squid baits is just the beginning of your fishing journey. Practice, experimentation, and observation on the water will help you refine your techniques and increase your chances of a successful catch. So, grab your squid baits and head out to explore the fascinating world beneath the water’s surface!
To learn more about squid baits and to find quality fishing supplies, visit East Coast Paddle Sports.