One of the truly remarkable things about the fishing in New England is the variety of species that pass through and are available to anglers in a relatively small area. As the winter transitions to spring and the waters slowly warm, many species come inshore in shallower waters to spawn. The options increase seemingly each passing week.
After a long winter, I am eager to get outside and also plan activities with my young children. The objectives are simple. Get away from a pixelated screen, get some fresh air, and spend some time together. In the midst of spring sports and after school activities, one the things I try to carefully plan is an early season fishing trip.
Enter the Squid. Squid fishing checks off a lot of boxes for fishing with young children. Fishing for squid can be technical. It can be challenging for anglers of all levels. For novice anglers, children in particular, it can be a great introduction to fishing and to the marine environment. It can be a great early season half day trip, low key and hopefully low stress, all while pursuing these unusual creatures that are so vital to the food chain in our waters.
Below are my notes as to why I enjoy and would recommend squid fishing to anyone as an activity with children.
DURATION: A trip chasing squid can be a relatively short adventure compared to other fishing trips taken later in the season.
ENTERTAINMENT: Squid fishing can be fast paced and attention grabbing. During the height of the squid centric part of the season, boats are generally fishing closer together and the action all around can be very entertaining.
SQUID BIOLOGY: I don't know many children, or adults for that matter, who don't find squid fun and interesting. Everything from, the tentacles, to the eyes, to the changing coloration, and of course the ink, are fascinating and educational.
LOW KEY/LOW STRESS: As far as objectives and expectations are concerned, a trip for squid is low stakes, Filling a bucket or cooler with squid can be satisfying without being stressful or competitive while doing it.
Chances are you already have rods and reels for your children. If you fish freshwater ponds with your kids, the thin, light action rods they use for trout will serve them perfectly. The long, thin rods will allow you to feel the movement of your offering to the squid and feel when they wrap their tentacles around the hooks.
What you may not have and have to likely acquire from your tackle shop is a squid jig and/or a rid that allows you to present more than one jig in a high low set up. The jigs are somewhat oddly shaped. They are either buoyant or weighted to allow them sink and each have their uses.
The weighted jigs can be fished alone and cast away from the angler or fished directly in front straight down. The benefit of this type of jig is that the angler has control over its movements and it can made to move and react in a variety of ways.
The buoyant style of jig, the bottom two examples in the illustration below, can be rigged in tandem or even more to create a sabiki style rig. The fish the bottom or a set depth, a third weighted jig or a small sinker needs to be added. This style jig slowly floats horizontally and presents itself in a very enticing way to the squid.
Getting back to bringing children fishing, this style of jig in a tandem rig, gives a child multiple opportunities to attract and hook a squid and simplifies the movements to present it. As long as the children are instructed to keep the rod movements slow and subtle, the rigs should catch fish. An illustration of a simple high low rig is below.
The rigs can be tied with dropper loops and be effective. I prefer using a single branch line coming off and either tied to the jig or a clip. I find that it presents the jig better and the squid with their very keen eyesight can be wary at times.
FINDING THE SQUID
In New England, we are fortunate to have a couple of areas that bring squid close to shore in the daytime. If I am planning atrip with my children in the spring, its more than likely going to be a daytime trip. A twilight or nighttime trip with lights and a flotilla of boats lit with lamps and lights can be very entertaining, but for young children on their first trip of the season, I'm going to keep it to daytime.
Off the south side of Cape Cod during the last week of April or early May, the squid come into the near shore areas of Hyannis near Collier's Ledge or similar areas in approximately 20-25 feet of water to spawn. Other areas on the southside of Cape Cod to target squid include Vineyard Sound and Popponessett. A small fleet kayaks and boats gather over the squid grounds.
The 'gathering' as it were, consists of everything from charter boats, to recreational enthusiasts and everything in between. Some folks in the mix will be anchored and it's best to be respectful of them. If your preference is to anchor, keep a good distance. If your preference is to drift, try to find a group of other boats that are making short drifts. Drifting for squid will generally only be effective in locating a group of squid or if the conditions allow for a slow drift consistently for a long period of time, you may find that doing a series of slow drifts will be quite productive. You want ot avoid slack tide when squid fishing.
On sonar, the squid will appear as light blue fuzz along the bottom or just off the bottom. They are boneless and don't possess a swim bladder so their appearance on sonar will not have the traditional red or boomerang like shape. Seeing the blue dots or blue haze along the bottom is likely a good place to begin. Remember that the squid are primarily in these areas to spawn. Look for rocky bottom or structure where the squid can lay their eggs. Remember that you don't have to be in the midst of the fleet to be successful. It pays off sometimes to venture away from the group.
SQUID FISHING TECHNIQUE AND 'THE BITE'
Drop jig to bottom and slowly lift and mix up your presentation by slowly retrieving your rig to the surface and then letting it back down. It's very likely that the squid are congregated on the bottom, but you may find yourself fishing a wider vertical portion of the water column.
Try To Avoid setting the hook!!! there are no barbs and the squid has very soft tissue.
Once being hooked up, bring squid to surface, keep tension and let it ink out.
Once the squid has squirted its ink out in one or two shots, swing the squid into your boat, kayak, or area keeping squid pointed away from face. If you end up lifting the squid without it relesing its ink, I will drop the squid into an empty buckt and allow it to release its ink into the bucket before I reach in and retrieve my jig.
Flip jig drop squid into holding bucket.
The bite is not so much of a bite as it is a pull. Hooking a squid will feel initially as though your rig and jig are stuck. The squid has wrapped its tentacle(s) around your jig and is looking to pull it down or to pull away from the rig.
It is very easy to tear away the jig tines from the tentacles so care should be taken not to pull too hard or to reel too quickly. Getting the squid to the surface requires steady pressure and a moderate to slow reel up.
Squid are an essential link in the food chain. Many predators chase these squid and the arrival of these squid near shore usually means that these predators such as scup, seabass, striped bass, bluefish, etc. are not far behind.
The squid bite in New England near shore is short lived and it's start and duration can change from year to year. It's a unique opportunity to target these species and a special trip with children. I have enjoyed my time pursuing the squid bite. There truly is nothing else like it.
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