Words & Images: Kosta Linardos
Winter can be one of the most challenging times to catch squid, which is why we have traditionally released our Egi Special in that season. Winter is when you most need solid information on catching squid and while it may be challenging, it’s also one of the most popular times to target squid. Most of the public holiday long weekends have come to an end, the wind is low and stable with glass-calm days on offer. For some anglers, target species start to slow but for others they fire up and squid becomes a valuable source of fresh bait. For many it’s the culinary aspect; a feed of fresh squid on a cold winter’s night is welcomed by all. Regardless of the reasons, there is no shortage of anglers on piers, rock ledges and out in boats targeting squid all around the country during winter.
In bays and waterways that experience limited tidal movement from offshore waters, the heavier rains of winter can make squid fishing challenging. Squid don’t like dirty water and they certainly don’t like fresh water; they are one species that just can’t deal with it as they don’t have gills and are biologically quite different from fish. The drought has largely broken and all this fresh water that rains over a system and continues to flow into it via storm water can prompt squid to move away into areas with higher salinity. This will mean they’ll move further away from a coastline and its run-off, into deeper waters and closer to the ocean.
A great example of this is in Victoria, where fishing was banned for almost three months due to Covid-19 and squid weren’t targeted or harassed by recreational or commercial fishermen. As soon as the ban lifted there was an expectation that the squid fishing would be sensational, but many anglers struggled – both land-based and in the boat.
Tide is another big factor in winter. Both winter and summer are the more challenging seasons for squid fishing (note I say more challenging, not challenging) due to the fact we experience the biggest tides variances of high and low. Squid don’t like the low tide and they’ll move out to deeper water and hang lower in the water column. This is more extreme in winter, especially for land-based anglers. Combine low tide and a high influx of rain and squid can be quite challenging.
Tackling Winter Land-based
So, to find squid and not spend all day trying to get your bag of 10 you need to be where they will be. If land-based, move with the tide. Don’t just sit on a pier all day waiting and wondering why you’re not catching fish. If you’re land-based, work the high tide, two hours before and the two hours after, with the hour each side being most productive. As an example, take Port Phillip Bay here in Victoria: Portsea Pier is the southernmost pier, closest to the heads, so if high tide at Portsea is at 5pm, 15km up the road high tide at Rye Pier is at 6.50pm. That means you can fish prime time at Portsea from 3-5pm then move to Rye and fish from 5.30-7pm or later, maximising the high tide across two locations. You’ll get longer periods of slack in winter so wait for the water to run and the squid should feed better. The tidal stream will make working your jig a little harder due to the flow, so you need a variety of jig weights on hand to deal with it, but I’ll get into that a little more later.
Tides can be extreme like that in Port Phillip Bay; where you fish may be different but focus on that higher tide and if you can move with it or just move somewhere else when things are slow, I recommend it. Pack light, don’t set up camp, be ready to get back in the car and move. Squid don’t necessarily visit the same spots every day and they’re constantly moving – so should you.
Tackling Winter By Boat
Being in a boat you have the freedom of chasing tides, moving into deeper water and moving further out towards where the ocean meets the system or bay you’re fishing in. These areas will hold larger numbers of actively feeding squid. In winter the squid will hold deeper and stay deeper, with fewer occasions where several squid race in after a jig or up to the surface. It still happens, but far less often and when it does it usually coincides with a tide change. The big tides will cause them to feed less aggressively and be more finicky. Moving into deeper water of 6-8 metres and moving further out where rain run-off isn’t as much of an issue, or closer to an ocean opening, makes a huge difference in the number of squid you’ll encounter and their size.
Jigs and Technique
We had super-clear water, albeit with a green tinge, through large parts of the eight-week testing period of jigs for this issue. In order to properly ascertain their features and benefits I would use my Minn Kota to spot-lock over sand patches within weed grounds and watch the jigs sink. I spent a lot of time just watching the various sinking actions and taking note of how the squid reacted to them on the sink and retrieve. I consistently noticed that the squid would sit within the weed and slowly approach the jig as it came down to within a metre of the bottom – any unnatural movement caused the squid to back away.
I’ve been doing this quite a while – this is the fifth squid special we’ve done – but I learned something new that I never noticed before. As a jig is sinking in free spool it falls with the current on a 45-degree angle (or thereabouts) as naturally as the jig allows. As soon as even the slightest bit of tension is applied to the line, the jig will turn or even slowly spin, which the squid do not like at all. I have always been a big proponent of clicking off the bail arm and letting a jig sink naturally to the bottom and I realised even more so how important that is. The only tension affecting the jig was coming from line getting slightly caught on the spool for a split second, and the jig would slightly spin or move left or right, causing the squid to instantly back away. Once I gave the jig an applied action they would re-engage. So, a big factor that improved catch rate from this point was to strip line off the spool by hand to ensure the jig sank as naturally as possible.
An aggressive jig action is more important in winter than at any other time, and I witnessed on multiple occasions how an aggressive jigging technique fired up the squid and brought in larger squid. One day my friend Trent, who uses a subtle, almost soft plastic hop-type technique, was catching a few more squid than me but they were all small and I was consistently catching much larger models.
Jig Size and Weight
Again, when times are more challenging using the appropriate weight for depth and tidal flow is imperative. Whether you’re land-based or in a boat you need to have a variety of jig weights and sizes on hand. If land-based, you need everything from a 1.8 through to 3.5 and if in a boat everything from 3.0 through to heavy tip-run models. If you’re not getting to the bottom, you’re not catching squid but if you’re sinking too fast, you’re not catching squid either. You want to present your jig so it sinks with stability and quite slowly in relation to depth and tide.
On a pier where small baitfish congregate, the smaller squid that inhabit these areas will be fixated on smaller prey. This will generally be in areas that don’t experience fast tidal flow, so you may need to match the baitfish profile as anything else is just too unusual. You therefore may need to go to a 1.8 and 2.5, but on piers with faster current flow, larger prey and therefore larger squid will inhabit these areas so 3.0-3.5 is fine.
Remember, all jig brands pretty much adhere to the same length, but the weights will vary, so take note and look for jigs that offer deep and shallow models. And just to confuse you a little more, just because a jig weighs less or more than another brand, that doesn’t mean it sinks faster or slower. Its body shape plays a factor so look for its sink rate on the back of the packet – most brands offer this, and read our jig reviews for more detailed content.
Colour is one of the most fun parts of buying and choosing squid jigs. It’s what makes egi anglers so enthusiastic about jigs and what makes them fun to collect, but the end goal should be that a colour helps you catch more squid. There is no doubt that certain colours work better in certain conditions and I have gained many years of practical knowledge through general squid fishing and through carrying out many tests via Hooked Up over the past eight years. Many Japanese companies have colour charts that show you when a certain colour should be used to best effect but I have my own principles that slightly differ for our southern calamari and Australian conditions, which do differ from the squid they catch in Japan and their largely land-based fishery.
I’ve written about this before and discussed it in our online videos but each year it continues to prove itself as a sound principle – and that’s to match jig cloth colour to water colour and bottom colour. At the moment where I am in Victoria the water is quite clear but (as usual for winter) quite green – more a turquoise green than a darker ocean green. With green water I use green jigs to match, and it has without doubt been the most effective colour over the past eight weeks. On the eastern side where the weed beds are broken up with sand patches, lime green cloths with bright yellow bellies and gold, UV and glow bases consistently prove to be dynamite. In water where the water is a darker green and the bottom has thick dark weed, I use dark green jigs with red or rainbow foils.
The other colours that do very well in these conditions are dark purple cloths with red or purple foils and black cloths with red or glow foils, or deep red with red foils. However, it’s hard to go past green jigs for green water, they just out-fish other colours.
If you’re in an area we’re there is clean blue water, the same principle applies, blue jigs work an absolute treat.
When in clear and shallow water and you’re over broken rocky ground, natural covered cloths of brown, red and sandy orange patterns with red, rainbow and gold foils can’t be beaten.
It’s rare I will cast bright orange and pink jigs through winter but in spring and summer pink and orange jigs with gold and rainbow foils are my go-to and the greens don’t get much of a run.
White jigs work at pretty much any time, but they need to have a glow or UV base. I have found white jigs with solid foil bases to be far less effective in any conditions.
Squid, cuttlefish and southern calamari are not hard species to catch, but following these steps greatly increases your chances of catching them consistently and in larger quantities.