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How to Fish for Squid


"it was a dark and rainy night"...
but, these squid aficionados were concentrating on the elusive critters in the water, not the atmosphere. This photo was taken at the public pier in Des Moines, which is a popular squidding location.

The squid calendar

During progressive time slots between late May and the following February, adult squid can be found in almost all waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. The map below shows where and when squid generally appear at various public piers.

While reasons for their migration aren’t entirely known, many experts believe the location of squid populations is likely a combination of an ocean-to-South Sound migration of adult squid and resident populations that yield new generations as site conditions become favorable.

Squid feed mainly at night and are attracted to light, which is why public piers are good locations for anglers. Hungry squid lurk in the dark fringes near patches of lighted water and then dart into the bright area in pursuit of food such as young herring and other small fishes.

Because a boat isn’t needed and jigging equipment is reasonable, squid-jigging is one of the most inexpensive ways to catch squid. Anglers should take a camping lantern or flashlight of significant size for unlit locations.

 


Squid Migration: When and where

Squid are usually first seen in Neah Bay in late May

Squid present at City Pier and surrounding area from late June to the end of August

Squid appear near Edmonds waterfront starting about September

Squid in Elliot Bay and surrounding Seattle shoreline

Squid appear in Des Moines and Tacoma in late November and December

Squid likely throughout South Puget Sound in December and January

Gear

Almost any style of rod and reel will work. Think "light and long" because it's best to have something that is sensitive and telegraphs slight changes.


Squid lures all have the "ray" of upward slanting prongs but from there it's a question of the color and shape you want to test for success.

Successful squidders use anything from six to 20-pound line but the best chances of success come with the lighter line.

The photo on this page gives an idea of the uniqueness of squid lures. It's the "hook" part that is different. Squid lures vary in length and thickness, and color and pattern, but they all have a distinctive upward slanting "ray" or two of sharp prongs.

Since the idea is to attract the attention of the squid that are watching that lighted area in the water, almost all lures are either luminous or have something embedded in them (metal, etc.) to reflect light.

Most squid jigs are made out of tinted, relatively clear plastic. Common colors are blue, pink, green, red, orange, amber and no-color (clear). Commercial jigs commonly range in size between two and four inches although some are twice as long and pencil thin.

If using an unweighted lure, anglers should buy some one-ounce lead weights to maneuver the lure down to the desired depth.

Squid generally start feeding just after dark and then often tapers off until midnight or later.

A variety of fishing methods can be used to fish for squid. These techniques include use of dipnets and forage fish jigs. However, use of squid jigs is by far the most popular productive method.


Squid fishing techniques

Important rules

Fish at night

Select a location where a strong light shines into the water

Try different depths

Try different colors

Keep your jig moving at all times

Set the hook when you feel the slightest pull on your line

Odds of catching a squid are more favorable during high tide on a cloudy or rainy night. These conditions give the nearshore water the depth that squid prefer plus a setting in which the artificial light will be most noticeable.

In many areas, a single lure works best. For example, at Edmonds, most of the successful anglers use a single lure. The tall pole lights at the Edmonds pier shine farther out into the water meaning that you need to cast your lure farther out.

In other places, multiple lures (up to four) are better. By putting lures of different sizes and colors on the line anglers can test which type is attractive to the squid at that site, that night, at that time.

Anglers should also experiment with the arrangement of the set of lures. Sometimes putting the same lures in different order on the line makes a difference.

A favorite method of setting up with three lures is to space four-inch dropper lines 16 inches apart on the main line. Then add a one-ounce weight to the end of the main line.

Jigging


Multiple lures

Single lure: If using a single lure, cast it out some distance from the dock (or boat or bulkhead) and allow it to sink to a depth where the squid may be lurking. Retrieve it with a series of steady jerks or "jigs."

Multiple lures: If using multiple lures, drop them into the lighted area of the water. Lower them down to the chosen depth (which frequently is just off bottom) then slowly raise them up and down in the water column.

Again knowing how challenging squid can be, no one style of lure is a constant winner. The specific environmental conditions dictate what is going to work or isn't.

Depth: Depth is a critical factor in the pursuit of squid. Having jigs working at different depths often spells "luck" or lack of it for side-by-side anglers.

Keep in mind that squid are congregational beings and stay gathered in schools.

How to land a squid:

Squid hole up in the darkness near lighted water areas then lunge into the brighter arena when they see something that looks edible. They don't "bite," however. They deftly wrap their tentacles around their intended prey.

The feel: Squid are those ghost-like "streaks" in the water and it's good to keep their fleetness in mind. Squids propel themselves backward by forcibly expelling water through a tiny nozzle that is part of their anatomy. They also can swim backward and forward, using their fins.

When a slight change in the behavior of your gear is felt, jerk upward to set the hooks immediately. Then keep a steady upward motion when reeling or lifting the catch to the surface. The hooks on squid jigs are barbless and most of the time the squid isn't really hooked, only entwined in the prongs so any slack in the line will lose the catch.

Two words of caution

Squid have a defense mechanism - dark ink. They shoot the ink at intruders who come too close. In the water it is an effective defense that creates a cloud behind which the squid makes a quick getaway.

Don't be overly distressed about getting squid ink on your hands and clothes, however. Not surprisingly, the ink is water soluble and washes out if you act quickly before it dries.

A second note of caution is the possibility of bites. It's good to remember that these creatures do have a parrot-like beak. Although squid are not likely to bite at a lure, they can and do bite things like food and perceived enemies who are not alert.