Catching Squid with a Rod and Line

Just a few years ago it was pretty much unheard of for anglers to go fishing for squid with a rod and line. However, this type of fishing is increasing in popularity around parts of the UK where squid are at their most common, and many anglers are intrigued to see if they can catch a creature which is a little different to the more common fish species that make up the majority of catches.

Squid Species and Location

The two main species of squid found in the waters around the UK are the common squid (Alloteuthis subulata) and the European squid (Loligo vulgaris). Both of these species of squid can be found all around the UK, but are far more common in the warmer waters around the south and south west regions of England and parts of Wales and Ireland, especially in the summer and early autumn months when the sea temperature is at its warmest. The common squid is the smaller of the two species as the mantle (body) length rarely reaches more than 20cm. The European squid can grow to much larger sizes, reaching a mantle length of over 50cm, although squid of this size are relatively rare and the average mantle length is around 30cm.

European Squid

A European squid with a small bream caught in its arms.

Squid are much more common around the south and south west of the UK it is anglers in these areas who catch squid on anything approaching a regular basis. However, there may well be squid to be caught on rod and line elsewhere in the UK, with the lack of anglers targeting this species explaining why they are rarely caught. Furthermore, warming seas mean that squid are extending their range into colder British waters, with a report by government scientists from Cefas even stating that species such as squid could replace cod and haddock as the main species caught in British waters. More information on the squid and cuttlefish species found in UK waters can be found by following the links on this page.

Equipment

Squid jig.

Squid jigs.

Squid prey on smaller fish which they catch by reaching out with their arms and tentacles and entangling their prey before pulling it in towards their sharp beak. Squid are therefore not caught using conventional hooks and spinners but with by using a special type of lure called a squid jig. This consists of a body (which is designed to resemble a fish in more expensive models) and a row or two of upwards facing points, with some squid lures also having additional points along the edges. When a squid attacks the lure its tentacles become caught up in the many sharp points of the jig and allow it to be reeled in by the angler. In this way a multi-pointed squid jig is much more likely to catch and hold a squid than the three points of a treble hook that are fitted to most lures. Indeed, anglers fishing with spinners in areas where squid are present may well get squid attacking their lures but will fail to catch this species due to the fact that actually connecting with a squid using traditional hooks is unlikely.

Most anglers targeting squid in the UK use a rod and reel designed for spinning. A rod which is capable of casting weights up to 1oz (28g) – such as these available from Amazon – is the best choice as this will offer enough casting distance and allow a range of different weights of squid jigs to be used, while also having enough strength to reel in a decent sized squid. Some anglers use LRF gear to target squid, but with some squid weighing well over a pound a light LRF rod can lack the power to successfully land a squid.

Methods and Techniques to Catch Squid

It is possible to catch squid by casting a retrieving the squid jig in the same manner as a spinner. This is generally done from places such as piers, breakwaters, harbour walls and jetties which offer a good depth of water to cast into. Finding an area where squid are present is a matter of trial and error, or using the local knowledge of people who have already done the hard work and found an area where squid can be caught.

Another way of catching squid is to suspend the squid jig underneath a float in the way displayed below.

Squid Float Fishing RigSimple float fishing techniques the same as those used to catch summer species such as wrasse and mackerel can be used. As squid feed in midwater most anglers present the squid jig at depths of around 5 – 10 feet below the surface, or slightly below this if they are fishing in deep water. Once the jig has been cast out many anglers find that the movement of the tide is sufficient to move the float and jig in a way which gets the squid to attack. However, if the water is very still it may be necessary to reel the float in a few turns every so often to impart some movement into the jig. Squid bites are usually fairly strong as the squid engulfs the jig in its arms and tentacles. On seeing the float dip under the surface the angler should resist the temptation to strike. This is because the arms and two tentacles of the squid are actually fairly weak and delicate and if the squid is only attached to the jig by one or two arms/tentacles then the strike may well detach the squid from the jig. Instead of striking the angler should quickly but smoothly raise the rod and reel in quickly. A strong but smooth retrieve is essential as the points of the jig are unbarbed and therefore constant pressure is needed to stop the squid swimming off the jig.

Cuttlefish caught on a squid jig

Cuttlefish caught on a squid jig. Cuttlefish are found around the UK and can be caught by anglers targeting squid, but do not appear to show up in anglers’ catches as often as squid do.

Landing squid can be difficult as the weak arms and tentacles of squid are liable to snap off, especially if the squid is hauled up to a raised fishing area. Therefore it is always best to have a drop net or landing net to hand to land squid. Some anglers report that squid detach from the jig when they reach the surface of the water, either because the squid lets go of the jig or the force of breaking the surface detaches the squid from the jig. Whatever is the cause many anglers find that successfully landing squid can be more difficult than hooking them in the first place.

Does Light Attract Squid?

Lights of Squid Boats

Lights of commercial squid fishing boats off the coast of Hakodate, Hokkaido prefecture, Japan.

There is the belief that squid are attracted to light and some anglers seek out fishing marks next streetlights or other sources of artificial light, whereas others attach a chemical light stick or other form of artificial light to the lures they are using. Indeed, some squid jigs are glow in the dark and others even have a small light contained within them. There is no conclusive evidence that adding light to a lure increases catches, but as many commercial operations successfully use artificial lights to attract squid to their jig hooks it stands to reason that a similar technique would work for anglers.

Uses for Squid

Squid are of course a great bait with the vast majority of fish species around the UK being caught on a squid bait on one time or another. Squid is also delicious to eat with squid coated in breadcrumbs and shallow fried being particularly nice. This page shows how to gut squid for bait, but squid being prepared for human consumption can be gutted in exactly the same way.

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