Land-based calamari
  |  First Published: August 2004

WE ALL know that it’s possible to catch squid in Moreton Bay from a boat while casting squid jigs at various weed-beds, channels and shallow reefs. However, many anglers would be surprised to know that there are also many land-based positions from which you can score some tasty calamari. Many of the locations where anglers soak a bait for flathead, bream and other species will also produce squid if you take the right approach.


Squid belong to a group of animals called cephalopods. The word ‘cephalopod’ comes from two Greek words, head and foot, and is used to describe animals whose feet grow straight from their head. This group also includes the octopus, the cuttlefish, and the nautilus.

There are about 300 types of squid worldwide, the largest being the deep-sea giant squid, which has been recorded to 17m long. All squid possess eight ‘feet’ of roughly the same length, along with two additional longer tentacles with little suckers on them. These two tentacles are shot out to grab any unsuspecting prey that come within reach.

Knowing how a squid detects its food in the water can greatly help you catch them. Squid have abnormally large eyes for their size, which can gather enough light to let the squid see at night. Smell is detected by small pits beneath their eyes, and they touch and taste with their suckers. Squid are very fast and can easily catch baitfish by propelling themselves through the water, shooting out their tentacles and securing the prey with their suckers.


There are many key factors to look for when locating an area that will produce squid. The first criterion is the presence of food items that the squid will like. Because squid eat prawns, baitfish and even small molluscs, they are most often found in areas where these are abundant. Canal estates are prominent land-based locations to look for squid as they hold good numbers of baitfish and other food sources. Harbours, jetties and rock walls are also prime positions, as all these hold some degree of baitfish activity.


Although I do most of my squid fishing at night, they can be caught throughout the day as well. Many anglers prefer the period just before dark, but I’ve had better results at night, especially around lit areas where baitfish congregate. Local spots such as the Manly public jetty, the Wellington Point jetty and Raby Bay canals are some of my favoured locations, but there are plenty of others that are also very good. I prefer to target squid on the rising tide when the water is enriched with the various food sources, but I have also had good success in the canals at dead low tide.

Although squid are masters of camouflage and can be found in huge numbers, they can sometimes be seen in small schools of two to 10 along the rockwalls. You’ll often find them suspending, almost motionless, in the current and you can sometimes catch two or three from one school before they all spook.


Rigging up for squid doesn’t have to be complicated – it can be as simple as connecting the squid jig to your line. Squid jigs come in several sizes and styles and vary from around 5cm long to over 30cm. Surprisingly enough, large jigs will also tempt fairly small squid and you often wonder what’s going through the squid’s mind to attack something three times its size.

Squid jigs usually have two to three rows of needle-sharp points at the tail and may even have a few barbs halfway along the jig, like those marketed under the Razorback brand. When the squid grabs the jig with its two longest tentacles, the sharp needles will hopefully pierce the tentacles. When this happens, the squid can’t let go of the jig.

There are several types of jigs available. The prawn-shaped type is the most popular and they come in many colours. Like all lures, different jigs work better at different times. I haven’t established which is the best overall colour; I just change them regularly until one works, especially if things are quiet. Prawn-shaped squid jigs are usually covered with cloth, which is supposed to feel natural when the squid grabs it. They come in several sizes and each has a lead keel to allow the jig to slowly fall through the water column like a real prawn. The better quality jigs often have little feather wings, which move enticingly to make the jig mimic a live prawn. They should also sink backwards when given slack line.

The second way to catch squid is with a baited jig. The stem jig is a steel bar with several rows of razor sharp spikes at the bottom, facing upwards. The idea is to put a baitfish on it, usually a pilchard or slimy mackerel, and to cast and retrieve it over the chosen area. You can also suspend it below a float. It works well like this as the squid hold onto it longer because there’s something to eat. I often use baited stem jigs when drifting around in the bay. From a land-based perspective, baited stem jigs can be rigged a few metres below an almost neutral buoyancy float and just left in the current. When the float starts to slowly go down you just need to slowly wind it in with even and constant pressure. If everything goes well, you will have a tasty squid for dinner – or at least some fresh bait.

The last kind of squid jig is the vertical jig. These are derived from the type used by commercial fishermen and are great for areas such as piers and jetties. They are usually made with a glow-in-the-dark plastic stem with several rows of teeth on the bottom. They sink straight down, making them perfect for deeper water. Vertical jigs are usually fished off a long rod, which is slowly raised and lowered until a squid grabs it. Work different depths of water until you find the best depth.


Small chemical glow sticks can add to the attraction of a squid jig, both for night and day fishing. Some squid jigs are even designed to pull apart so that the glow stick can be inserted inside. I usually attach a glow stick a few feet up the line from the squid jig. It seems to help the squid find the jig, especially at night. Some jigs also have a luminescent stripe down the side, which needs a torch to be shone on it every few casts to keep it glowing.


The main retrieve used when targeting squid is a slow, gentle wind. Often when you feel a squid hit the jig you can just stop winding while the squid pulls itself up onto the jig. Slow gentle retrieves will usually bring the squid safely to the boat. If the squid comes off before you land it, just drop the rod tip, or freespool a few metres of line, and wait before slowly retrieving again. Often the same squid or another one will have a go at it.


I use a fine meshed landing net and leave the squid in the water for a while until it squirts out all its ink. After a while I transfer it to a fine meshed keeper bag until I’m ready to clean it. If you get any ink on you, try to clean it immediately so it won’t stain. It’s usually a good idea to wear your oldest clothes when squid fishing as it can be quite messy.

Remember to keep only what you need for a feed or bait. Even if I plan to eat the tubes I still keep the wings, head and leftover parts of the squid for bait and berley. Baiting up with fresh squid is as good as gets when you’re fishing for big snapper and other fish.


Catching squid from the shore is an enjoyable pastime that the whole family can enjoy. You can still have a few lines in the water to catch fish while you’re targeting squid with a prawn jig, or you can cast out a baited stem jig under a float while you fish with your other rods. Any squid you catch can be used for bait there and then, which will always produce a better quality catch than frozen bait will.

There are many areas around the bay where you can catch squid from a land-based position, and many of these are the same places where you now target fish. Grab a few jigs for the tacklebox next time you’re down at your local tackle store. Happy Squidding.

1) There are three style of squid jigs used today – the cloth covered prawn-style artificial (top and bottom), natural bait rigged on metal jig frame (middle) and hard plastic jig (right). All are effective at different times.

2) Here are a couple of squid from the Manly Jetty – a fairly reliable squid fishery.

3) This squid couldn’t resist the temptation to taste this prawn-style jig.

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