Author: Captain Mike Littlefield
Greg Vespe is locally know as one of the best anglers to catch squid in RI. We call him the "Squid Whisperer "
At this time, what should be a historic peak in the fall migration of large striped bass, is no longer so around Rhode Island
For many reasons, the famed fall striper run ends earlier every year, with numbers of good sized stripers dwindling at the end of October. While the vast biomass of striped bass is now moving along the coastline of New Jersey, all is not over for those who still wish to catch. The fishery that is peaking for shore-based, island anglers — skill level regardless — is squid. This is the time of year that squid build in Old Harbor, in both great numbers and very large size, and are readily accessible both day and night to properly presented squid jigs.
For those who may be unfamiliar to squid, and squid fishing techniques, yet may wish to try their hand at catching some fine table fair, here's a brief squidding primer to get you started.
As with any aspect of fishing, having an understanding of the quarry being fished is quite important. Squid are cephalopod mollusks. Being a mollusk makes it more closely related to a snail than it is to a fish. Also, squid are invertebrates, which means they lack a skeleton. They are highly predatory, and eat just about anything that moves; however, this time of year they are feeding on small baitfish — and each other. Yes, squid are remarkably cannibalistic. They are also quite intelligent, and have extremely acute eyesight.
For our purposes of targeting them, it's important to remember they often seem to have moods. At times they attack a squid jig with reckless abandon, and in numbers, being highly competitive. Other times they are hesitant and seemingly lethargic, and want the squid jig to sit motionless for multiple seconds, or ever so slowly descending. Adjust your technique so you'll catch them in numbers.
Perhaps the most unique part of squid fishing is the lure used to catch them. What generally defines the squid jig is the basket of upturned, or angled needles which impale the tentacles of an attacking squid. When a squid hits this jig and gets impaled, one simply must keep contact and steadily retrieve the squid from the water. To remove the squid, grab the jig and invert it and the squid will fall off.
As referenced in the picture, there are essentially two styles of squid jigs. On the left are what I refer to as vertical style jigs. These are presented with a lift and drop technique, often being bounced, with a few seconds rest after a period of movement. On the right of the image are what I refer to as horizontal jigs, or swimming jigs. While they may be worked with an up/down retrieve, I find them most successful when the squid want a slower horizontal retrieve, especially during the day when the squid are sitting closer to the bottom. It should be noted that most squid jigs will glow in the dark, and their effectiveness greatly increases when they are charged. To charge the jig, simply hold it for a minute or two under a white light source. The last item in the image are lead weights, also known as split shots. I just about always add a piece of shot in front of the horizontal style jigs, and sometimes to the bottom of a light, vertical-style jig. You'll be amazed at how a slightly faster falling jig with a piece of shot will often out produce the same jig without it.
While old time hand lines, of light fishing line, wrapped around a coffee can are effective, rods and reels are more common. The rod and reel should be relatively light weight, and under about 6 1/2 feet, with two to three foot ice fishing rods being appropriate for young children. As for fishing line, I prefer Bullbuster braid or monofilament fishing line in four-pound to eight-pound test suffices, however, I prefer a braided line with a short fluorocarbon leader also made by Bullbuster.
While they aren't necessary, introducing a bright light to the water will build squid around the light. Often they will be hesitant in the brightest area of the light cone, but will be highly aggressive at the edge of the light. Remember, they have the eyesight of an eagle.
This info scratches the surface of what it takes to get started squidding. If you have a rod and reel, and a squid jig or two, head down Newport or Jamestown and give it a go. Next week I'll be discussing how to process the squid for freezing and the table
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