Strange as it may seem, squid and cuttlefish are molluscs: they have modified shells on the inside. Properly prepared, they are clean, firm-fleshed baits that stay on the hook and catch a variety of fish. They also freeze well, so it’s always worth having some in your freezer.
Two types of squid are commonly used as bait: the small Calamari and the much larger common squid.
Calamari, or Californian squid, can be bought from fishmongers and tackle shops fairly cheaply. A 0.45kg box of six to eight 15cm long Calamaris is ample for one angler for one session.
Calamaris are an excellent bait when boat fishing for predatory fish such as bass, rays, cod, conger, ling, skate, pollack and coalfish. Use them whole, or you can cut off and use just the head and tentacles.
With a whole Calamari, thread the squid up the shank of the hook so that the head is on the bend with the tentacles dangling attractively below. Use fine shirring elastic to secure the bait on the line above the eye of the hook. Otherwise the squid slips down the shank. Alternatively, use a Pennell double-hook rig.
Calamaris aren’t usually the first choice for beach fishing but they can be useful for cod in winter and bass in summer.
For cod, they are best used in a cocktail with lug. Thread the lug on to the shank of the hook then impale the head and tentacles of a Calamari on the bend below.
For bass, use a whole Calamari, mounted on the hook as described for boat fishing.
Common squid are much bigger than Calamaris, averaging 1-1.5kg, and aren’t so readily obtainable. A common squid contains a large ink sac, which you must remove intact and discard when preparing the bait. If you burst the sac, the ink discolours the squid and ruins its smell and taste, as well as staining your hands and making a mess
Using common squid
For boat fishing, small strips of squid are among the best baits for red and black bream. Larger segments and strips and the head and tentacles catch bass, rays, cod, conger, ling, skate, pollack and coalfish.
From the shore, small, thin strips and pieces of tentacle can be good for whiting, especially when used in a cocktail with lug: thread the lug up the shank of the hook and tip the bend with one or more strips or pieces of squid.
Small, thin strips of squid sometimes work well for flatfish, though strangely enough they very rarely catch flounders.
Cuttlefish are usually easily obtainable from fishmongers. Commercial fishermen may also sell them to you very cheaply. They aren’t usually stocked by tackle shops as they take up too much freezer space.
Cuttlefish make a superb bait for boat fishing, especially for big cod and conger. Use small ones whole for the bigger fish, but first slit them open and remove the bone or shell inside.
Bigger cuttlefish can be cut into strips when boat fishing for smaller fish such as pollack and coalfish. Prepare them in the same way as for common squid.