The common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) – also known as the European cuttlefish – is one of the largest species of cuttlefish in the world. It is the most common species of cuttlefish found around the UK and is found on sandy and muddy seabeds in the southern North Sea, English Channel and parts of the Atlantic. Their range extends throughout the Mediterranean and along the coasts of northern Africa. In terms of a UK sea fishing bait they are generally overlooked in favour of squid, although it is are growing in popularity as a bait as it becomes more available.
They have a similar body shape to squid frilled fin running all of the way around the edge. They have eight tentacles which are shorted and stubbier than those of the squid and two much longer tentacles which terminate in clubs, although these are stored by the side of the head when not in use. Cuttlefish have no set colour and can change between a range of brown, light orange and white in order to blend in with their surroundings. They can change colour very quickly if threatened by a predator. Cuttlefish will feed on small fish but mostly consume crustaceans, molluscs and prawns. The maximum size of a common cuttlefish is around 50cm, although most are much smaller than this. More information on cuttlefish in UK waters is available here.
Buying and Using Cuttlefish as Bait
Cuttlefish can be bought in frozen form from fishing tackle shops. They are also increasingly available fresh from fishmongers and the wet fish counters of supermarkets as they are becoming more popular for human consumption. Cuttlefish are a versatile – although underused – bait for a wide range of species all around the UK. Strips of cuttlefish flesh can be used to tip off worm baits, or as a bait in itself for small species such as dab and whiting. Larger sections of cuttlefish can be used to catch codling and bass, and whole cuttlefish are a great conger bait or can be presented on large pennell hooks to tempt big bass or cod. Cuttlefish flesh is tougher than that of squid and therefore makes a better tipping bait and stands up even better than squid to casting and impact with the water.