HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Of all Washington’s fisheries, its squid fishery has never received a great deal of publicity. It is kind of a back-burner fishery that has been largely neglected by the media and overlooked by a large segment of Washington anglers.
Recreational squid fishing is a year-round fishery from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to south Puget Sound, and although squid are a popular and sought-after delicacy among Far East peoples, squid haven’t reached that level of appreciation with the majority of our saltwater fishermen.
The most common squid found in Washington waters are known as market squid. With a tapered body and triangular tail fins, these fast- moving, ten-armed mollusks are also known as calamari when prepared as food. Squid are decapods, having 10 tentacles, compared to eight arms of octopuses. They also are free-swimming creatures and exhibit schooling behavior similar to many species of fish and are believed to have a life span of approximately one year.
A variety of fishing methods can be used for squid. Those techniques include using dip nets and forage fish jigs. However, use of squid jigs are the most popular method. Squid fishing is a nighttime sport. They feed mainly at night and are attracted to light, which is why public piers are a good location for anglers. Squid will congregate in the dark edges of lighted water and then dart into the bright area in pursuit of food such as young herring and other small fish. Squid generally start feeding just after dark with the bite gradually tapering off near midnight. Almost any style of rod and reel will work, but a light, long and sensitive rod is recommended.
Since the idea is to attract the attention of squid that are watching the lighted water areas, almost all lures are either luminous or have something embedded in them (metal, etc.) to reflect light. Most jigs are made out of tinted, 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 use one-ounce weights to lower the lure down to desired depths.
Catching squid is best during high tides on cloudy, windy nights. These conditions near shore have water depths squid prefer and where artificial lighting is most effective. A single lure works best in many areas while in other areas multiple lures (up to four) are better. By putting lures of different sizes and colors on their line, anglers can test which type is attractive to the squid. A favorite method of setting up a four lure arrangement 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.
Usually, squid appear in the Des Moines and Tacoma areas in late November and December.
A note of caution: Squid have a parrotlike beak, and although squid are not likely to bite at a lure, they can and do bite things like food and perceived enemies. Also, squid have a defense mechanism — dark ink — that they will shoot at intruders who come too close. Don’t panic should squid ink get on your hands and clothes. The ink is water-soluble and will wash out if you act quickly before it dries.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has an excellent article on squid fishing at http//wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid. Some of the material contained in this article is from that site.
There is an old adage: “Nothing ventured; Nothing gained.” Who knows? Eating a gourmet meal of squid might not be too bad.