The squid is commonly used as bait, as its distribution in the Atlantic, English Channel and North Sea means that it is plentifully available all round the coast. Cuttlefish are sometimes available but in nothing like the numbers of squid.
Advantages of squid bait
Squid is the cleanest bait to use in sea fishing as the flesh is firm, cuts cleanly and easily, and can be presented attractively in a variety of ways. Above all it keeps well, and a supply laid down in a freezer can stay perfectly fresh for two years. This applies if you follow simple rules. The squid must be thoroughly cleaned by severing the head and cutting evenly down through the centre of the body to the tail. It should then be opened and laid out flat, and the stomach removed in one easy movement. With care you can do this without bursting the ink sac which has an acid content that is irritating to human skin. Squid wings are useless as bait and can be thrown away. Finally, it needs thorough washing using two changes of fresh water, and then the bait is ready for freezing.
Squid heads make a great bait for conger, ling or any other large species, and should be frozen separately. If they are mixed in with the bodies of the squid and taken out on shore trips when small fry are the quarry, it is likely that the heads will be wasted.
All fish will take squid, and some species particularly relish it. Heading the list are red and black bream, which are caught in their thousands on very thin strips about 3in long offered on fine hooks to paternosters, or a single hook on a flowing trace.
Change a frayed bait
As the squid is so tough, it is possible to catch several bream on the same strip of bait. As soon as the edges show signs of fraying, however, it must be changed. Large numbers of conger eels to 100 lb are also taken on squid head, or a whole squid hooked through the body and ledgered close to a wreck or on rough ground. Similarly it is a great favourite with the ravenous ling.
A strip of squid about 10in long and lin wide cut to resemble a fish, makes a fine trolling bait for bass. Mounted on a longshanked hook and worked astern at about three knots, it will dart about in a realistic manner and soon find a taker.
The ideal bait
For shore fishing on storm beaches, squid is ideal bait as it stands up to long casting and can take any amount of battering from heavy surf. Many flatfish enthusiasts use it extensively as a bottom bait for turbot, plaice and dabs, although it has never been much good for flounder.
During the winter months, monster mackerel have a definite liking for a thin strip of squid, and give great sport on light tackle.
Squid caught on rod and line
Although most squid are obtained from commercial sources, they can be caught fairly easily on rod and line during the winter months when they shoal in vast numbers particularly at the western end of the English Channel. Between October and March they can be a problem in deep water as they snatch at baits put out for pollack and coalfish with a ‘take’ that is similar to those of both species. The similarity ends after the take however, as they let the bait go a few feet from the boat, even after making a number of powerful dives giving the impression that they are securely hooked. So back they go down to the depths.