by Bob Thornton •
Ask anyone in Sydney or Melbourne for the nearest squidding spot, and they’ll usually point you toward a local pier or harbour, where you’ll find other squidders trying their luck. Ask anyone the same question anywhere along the Queensland coast however, and you’ll get weird looks.
This isn’t because we don’t have a squid fishery in Queensland – our squid fishery can be pretty special at certain times. Rather, it’s more a product of there being far more fish species to target here than in southern waters. This has created a culture in Queensland where squid fishing tactics and hotspots aren’t handed down, and squid fishing products aren’t sold in great numbers.
The reality is that we have a fantastic squid fishery all along the Queensland Coast that rarely gets fished, let alone over-exploited, and anglers can have a lot of fun while spending very little. The squidding experience is very different to down south. Our bigfin reef squid, or tiger squid, aren’t the same as their southern counterparts. They’re heavier and thicker through the body, fight harder, and don’t mind getting up in less then a foot of water.
People fish for different reasons, but squid fishing my local waters in southern Moreton Bay is my relaxation time. Each year I set myself challenges and spend many fishless hours on the water targeting reclusive species, using a variety of methods. There’s no certainty in all this madness, so I always look forward to when spring rolls around and I can chase a few squid.
I can head down to my local foreshore or canal, quite confident I’ll catch squid, and head home with the unlucky ones destined for the pan! It really is that simple, and with a few key pieces of knowledge, you too can catch squid along any part of the Queensland Coast.
Before you can start tangling with tentacles, you need a few little bits of kit.
Rods and reels can be kept simple – a 2-5kg spin rod and matching 2000-2500 spinning reel are comfortable. There are purpose-built squid rods, reels, and even lines, but I still use my bream and flathead gear. It hasn’t let me down.
For mainline, I like to use braid because of its castability, and anything from 4-10lb will do the trick. Leaders are essential, and fluorocarbon is definitely the best option for stealth. Squidders will often swear by extremely light leaders, sometimes down to 4lb. I like a heavier leader up to 15lb, because it allows me to wrench my jig off the reef when it gets snagged.
The best advice I can give for jigs is that you get what you pay for. Spending those few extra dollars will definitely save you dollars in the long-term, and ultimately catch you more squid! As my squid fishing is so varied, I carry a selection of jigs.
Jig size is universally measured in inches, and I find that size 2.5 is a great all-rounder. On shutdown bites, I’ll often resort to a 2.2 or even a 2.0 size. When the bite is hot, and it often is, I find 3.0 and 3.5 size jigs will select out those bigger models.
Squid jigs come in different buoyancies. Shallow water models will sink slowly, and as the name suggests, these are intended for shallow water use and can be invaluable at night. Deeper water models will sink quickly and are useful when the squid are holding deeper, which is usually during the day.
All these jig types and sizes have a place in my box, and the more you have, the greater your options are.
By far, the most important aspect to squidding is to find the right water to do it. As I’ve mentioned, there are great locations all up and down the coast, but a few small tips will help to narrow your search.
Generally speaking, the cleaner the water, the better your chances. When beginning your search for squid, always focus on areas close to the ocean, such as bays, river mouths, harbours and headlands. For the sea-going anglers out there, you can also find some fantastic squidding opportunities offshore.
The next most important thing is structure. Our tiger squid need a reason to be there, and that reason is food. Their quarry, which usually takes the form of crabs, prawns and fish, like to use structure to hide in. The squid will use this cover to ambush tasty morsels, and also hide themselves from predators. The classic structure for squid is broken ground and rubble. Weed, seagrass, jetty pylons and retaining walls will all hold their share of squid if the water is clear enough.
Optimal water depth depends largely on the location, but anything up to a few metres deep can hold squid, you just need to find where they are on the day by covering water.
I find that the water is at its clearest during the high tide, and this is when the squid will get right up into the skinny stuff to feed. High tide will often see squid swimming up onto shallow flats of broken ground, and this makes for some exciting fishing.
If I can, I fish the high tide, because it suits land-based anglers like myself, and because the fishing is often visual. When the tide drops, the squid still feed, but they will usually retreat to deeper holes, and they can be tougher to find. Most of my fishing is done during the day. I like to have the sun up so I can see what I’m casting into, and when I do hook into a squid, I can see if other squid are following.
Night fishing can be productive, and squid will move into the shallows to hunt under the cover of darkness. This is where the spotlighting technique comes into its own. With a good spotlight, you can find cruising squid, before dimming the light and then trying to tempt them.
How you work the jig can be the difference between a great day and a pretty ordinary one. After casting out, I usually let my jig fall until it gets close to or hits the bottom. Then I commence my retrieve. In most environments, I like to employ a few rips to get it up in the water column, before allowing it to fall. It’s important to allow the jig time to sink.
Most squid will take the jig as it falls slowly through the water column, and hook-ups usually occur when the angler goes to work the jig again. A hook-up will initially feel like you’ve hooked some weed or a plastic bag. When this happena, I wait a few seconds for the tell-tale pulses through the rod tip, before declaring I’ve hooked the kraken.
Playing a squid requires soft hands and loose drags. If you go too hard on a squid, you’ll tear through the soft flesh. As I bring one squid in, I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for more squid, as they love to travel in little groups. Even if you can’t see any, a cast back to the same area often results in another hook-up. If I have someone with me, I always ask them to cast in behind my hooked squid.
If you can see other squid, make sure you don’t bomb the jig on their heads, as this will only spook them. Casting past or near them, and imparting the slightest of movements should draw their interest. Once they close their tentacles around the jig, I’ll wait for 1-2 seconds before pulling tight to the squid.
Landing a squid is best done with a net, and gently scooping them up from behind is the easiest way. If you go from the front, they’ll see you coming and let out a shower of ink. Lifting them with the rod out of the water and onto the boat or land may work, but bigger squid may have to be lifted by hand if you don’t have a net. Watch out for the tentacles and beak, and don’t be in the firing line when they ink.
From about June to November is peak squid time in South East Queensland, as this is when they school up over shallow reefs to breed. These cephalopods will only live for 1-2 years, so each year should see a new recruitment of uneducated squid. This is the perfect scenario for anglers.
There’s no reason people in Queensland shouldn’t be fishing for squid. They’re widely available, easy to catch, and they taste fantastic. As a bonus, the kids will love getting involved in all aspects of squid fishing, right down to when it comes time to clean the squid. We have a world-class squid fishery right on our doorstep – get out and experience it at its best!