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Squid Tactics and Gear




In the midst of a long winter and offseason, my thoughts start to wander into the early season species, which for me, includes Tautog, Haddock, and Squid. The Squid is such a curious and interesting species, because the season for them can be so short lived. They play a vital link in the food chain and they come near shore to spawn, but they are always trying to stay one step ahead of the other species chasing them. On the South side of the Cape, it could be a two weeks season before the other predators get savvy to their presence and chase them further out and effectively disperse them.


Squid are delicious as table fare. They are also fantastic as a bait for other spring and summer bottom fishing species you may chase. Many of the squid caught end up in smaller freezer bags put away for another time and having 'native' squid as a bait can sometimes be the difference between catching and not catching those summer fluke.


SQUID FISHING OUTFITS

The simpler, the better. Anything basic that fits the description of 'light' tackle or even fresh water gear works. A 7' rod and 3000 class real is more than enough. Something with a soft tip or a parabolic action may suit you well in order to prevent the hooks of your squid jigs from pulling out of the soft flesh and tentacles of the squid. Main leader and leader can also be scaled down. Squid are known to have keen eyesight. Later in the article, there are some points about not setting the hook, but just know that the squid are not hard fighting and the chance of breakage from a strike is minimal. Of course you could get hung up, but that's a different problem.



LURES AND RIGS

Squid can be picky when it comes to size and colors of your jigs. It's important to be prepared with a variety of sizes and colors. I am still learning in this area, but in my own research and watching other I have been able to come with some general principals I try to keep in mind.


Pink is perhaps the 'best' and most popular color if you can only have one, but there are some close alternates, namely Ambers/Orange, Green, Blues, and Glow finishes. In terms of size, I would have someone fish a smaller sized jig and someone fish a larger jig and then see which produces better that day and swap over. There are those that will mix two sizes on one rig and that is ok too.




4" Squid Jig Colors offered for the 2024 season



The basic rig consists of a two dropper 'High-Low' rig. Because squid jigs are buoyant and can float up or down in current, its critical that your rig have dropper loops that take into account the length of your jig and keep the hooks of your squid jigs completely apart to prevent tangling of the jigs. I use a two dropper rig for larger squid jigs which in this case is +/- a 4" jig. There is a loop at the end of the rig for a weight or a third weighted jig.

Two Jig Tandem Rig Schematic

At any point you can cut one of the droppers to get a single dropper setup with a bottom loop if you desire. I personally T-knot these, mainly to allow the maximum buoyancy and action on the jig. I use a small clip to easily change jigs. If you tie your own rigs this is not at all necessary. Dropper loops work. This is personal preference.



Small clips on the end for quick jig exchange


I also implement a three hook, sabiki style rig that has three smaller squid jigs. For these I implement just a dropper loop. The small size jigs are 3" or less. It's very simply to tie your own and loop on your own jigs. Again just be really mindful of the distance between dropper loops.

2.75" Squid Jig in a 'Triple' Setup


FINDING SQUID ON CAPE COD

When spawning in the early spring, the biomass of squid can be quite concentrated and the congregation of a fleet of boats can easily give this away. Fishing in a fleet is perhaps a good way to start an exploration, but if you have fished for squid before and are looking for your own water, simply drifting over a known area of structure can reveal some squiggly blue lines on your sonar that may indicate their presence. The structure part is important because the squid like to spawn and lay their eggs along this structure.


Map of Hyannis Harbor; Squid come near shore to structure in the early spring to spawn. The rocky near shoreas off Hyannis offer a good environment for this to happen

A few drifts to locate the concentration of squid could lead to a decision to anchor if the drift is moderate or fast. Remember to be respectful of others that may be around you. If everyone is anchored, be careful drifting. If it seems like the vast majority of people are drifting in slower current, be mindful or move to your own area to anchor in a safe spot. It's important to be 'agile' and flexible. Be prepared to relocate or to lift an anchor and relocate. A squid bite can last long through a drift or be short lived and require a relocation.


Squid Fishing in the early season can draw a big crowd to a small area

I wonder about and am asked about tide. Like a lot of other species that we fish for, the appetites of the squid and an ability to present lures to them can be dependent on tide. At slack tide, its common that the bite completely shuts down until the water begins moving again. These situation may require a complete move or if you are determined to stay, you can try putting a single slow sinking jig on the line and cast it away from the boat as you might a bucktail and slowly work the lure up and down slowly back towards you, working the water column, but also giving the jig moving along the bottom that would normally be provided by current or drifting.


WORKING THE JIGS

Drop your rig slowly all the way to the bottom, being careful not to tangle the jigs. You want to slowly lift the rod tip and work the jigs up slowly. Remember that the squid jigs have an inherent buoyancy to them. The action of the jig in the current can often times entice the squid to explore and take the jig. You almost have to imagine that your slowly presenting the jigs horizontally in front of the squid and lifting only to tease them.

If you see or feel that the squid are off the bottom, you can slowly jig and reel in order to work the rig through the water column and get into the strike zone where the squid may be hanging. The soft tip or parabolic rods can really help with this.


The video below from Ryan Collins of MyFishingCapeCod provides a great sense of how squid attacks suspending/buoyant jigs. The video is about a minute long and you can see the squid extended two long tentacles in front of its others and attempting to grab and pull the lure towards its mouth.


When the squid takes the jig, the feeling is not the standard 'tap' or 'strike' of a fish. The jig almost feel stuck in position and you will feel some resistance in the rod tip. At this point you have to suppress the instinct to 'set' the hook. The hooks on the squid jigs are tines that the squid is 'sticking' to. There are no barbs to pierce. Slowly reel the squid up towards the surface and this point, there's the critical point of the squid and the favorite part of the whole deal, INK !!


Ink and getting your boat dirty is part of a successful day of squid fishing. It's the part of squid fishing my children love and enjoy witnessing the most. Generally, I will allow the squid to discharge the ink in the water, before I lift the squid up and put it directly into a bucket to allow any subsequent inking to happen. Many folks will simply allow the squid to discharge ink in the water and then lift and utilize the jig itself as a handle to lift the tines up and drop the squid into a bucket or cooler.


Summary

Fishing for squid can be a great entry back into your fishing and is a tremendous group activity with your kids or other friends and family. It's simple, low stress, relatively low tech. The most complicated part of your trip may be cleaning your boat afterwards. Hopefully the end result is a bucket of tasty calamari tubes for the table or for bait later in the season. Thank you for reading and I'm really looking forward to the 2024 season.


PRODUCTS REFERENCED IN THIS BLOG







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