The Eging season is almost upon us! No, I’ve not missed a ‘g’ there, if you perhaps thought some early reference to the less savoury activities that take place on Halloween was being made. To the ‘uninitiated’, Eging may be as alien a word to you as it in a way sounds.
Eging is the term given to squid fishing in Japan, pioneers of the sport from where a lot of the lures, dubbed ‘Egi’ originate. From this name we also get Egi rods, in effect a lure rod designed specifically with the purpose of squid fishing in mind, and the casting of Egi, a standard style of squid fishing lure popularised by such brands as Yamashita.
The terminology can complicate what is an incredibly simple and enjoyable form of fishing that can provide great fun, with the benefit of both excellent bait or as some prefer, an excellent dinner! It is perhaps one of the more accessible routes into our sport, with piers, breakwaters and generally easy access locations proving effective spots to target the squid, often because of the illumination they offer.
Here, I intend to break down some of the more complicated terminology around Eging (squid fishing) and set those who have yet to experience this fantastic sport on their way to their very first squid!
The first thing you are going to need to know when wondering how to catch a squid, is where they are present, and when! For many areas in the UK, squid can theoretically be caught all year round, though you’d be wasting your time targeting them outside of a few set months as the density of numbers only occurs at certain times of year.
The two showings of squid are a spring run and an autumn run, though the autumn run is far more reliable and tends to produce more and better squid. There are in fact, multiple species of squid in UK waters and their arrival times differ.
Late August can and often will produce the first signs of squid, though it is the first spring tides aligned with settled weather in September that will typically bring in the numbers worth putting the hours in for. They can then hang around right into winter, although each unsettled period, which grows ever more likely as the months pass, disperses the squid, colours the water and makes capture all that more challenging, thus settled periods in September to October present you with your best opportunity whilst learning the conditions that will yield results later in the season.
During these months, squid will be present in many areas along the south coast of England, and there are also areas they will show right around the UK and Ireland with less consistency and quantity. So we’ll focus our efforts here on the regions that will produce the most likely returns. For anyone that will be on the Channel Islands throughout the autumn and winter months, you are spoilt and I am jealous! The size and quantity of the squid across Guernsey, Sark and Herm in particular are insane… but, back to that south coast of England…
Whilst boat fishing for squid opens up a few more locations, the reliable regions from the shore are Dorset through Hampshire and into Sussex. Whilst most beaches along this stretch of coastline will yield results, with many rock marks (for instance the Isle of Purbeck) holding good numbers, you will be best starting your pursuit at some more easily accessible locations where the technique can be learnt and honed.
Three reliable venues are Weymouth stone pier, Bournemouth pier and Brighton marina. Start on one of these, and the strong likelihood is there will also be others present to observe and learn from.
As briefly touched upon above, you are going to want settled conditions. Whilst it is possible to catch squid in murky turbulent water, they are above all else a sight feeder and target shoals of small bait fish and shrimp to feed upon, which equally favour calmer conditions. Look for a period of calm weather coinciding with a full moon and you should stand a good chance. Bear in mind, like with any seasonal catch, squid can arrive early or late! Sometimes the best of the fishing can occur in September before any autumn storms start messing with conditions, whilst in other years it doesn’t really pick up pace until October. Fortunately, these days, keeping an eye on social media soon gives away when catches are starting to occur on these more popular and well known venues.
The joy of squid fishing is how accessible it is! A rod, a reel, suitable line and a squid jig gets you in business. When there are larger squid about, a small drop net can also be useful when fishing from a height, but the majority of squid can be easily reeled or hand lined. A bucket to fill with water and a small bottle of liquid hand wash is also a good idea to take with you… squid can get messy! Hand towels should be used just for drying your hands after washing, they are futile against ink! The ink is much easier to clean off if done straight away.
A small plastic wipe clean cooler with an ice block if conditions are still warm is best for retaining your catch (wipe clean being the critical factor), which will keep it in prime condition for either eating or using as bait. For the conscientious angler, any suitable blunt instrument struck to the back of the squids head will lead to a quick dispatch – you’ll know it has worked when the squid almost instantly turns white.
Back to the core tackle. There are now the aforementioned dedicated Egi or Eging rods on the market. Though you may well already have suitable tackle with which to target squid if you already do other forms of fishing. I have experimented with a range of lure rods over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that whilst an ultra light LRF outfit is ultra fun… the tips just do not set the spikes in the jigs into the smaller squid. The weight of a larger squid will do it itself, but I encountered a terrible strike rate with the smaller ones.
The optimum rods I settled on were fast action 20-30g rods. The fast action (that’s where the tip starts to bend in the upper third) ensures a quick setting of the spikes when connecting with a squid. However, even heavier rated spinning rods up to 60g ratings will handle the job. I did find it all a little boring when experimenting with a 80-100g rated lure rod, aside from some mammoth sized squid in the Channel Islands.
Squid are not going to go on line busting runs. They physically cannot do so. Each ‘lunge’ as they propel water can be cushioned by the rod if you are prepared for it. At most, a larger squid may take a few feet of line against the drag of the reel before it can be recovered as the squid once again prepares to propel through expelling a jet of water. In short, this means that you can get away with a very small reel, and I’d suggest something in the 2-3000 size to balance the rod being used. It needn’t be expensive either; you don’t need ridiculous rated drags, massive casting capabilities, waterproof resistance for standing in the surf or many of the other features that drive the cost of a reel up. That money is going to be much better invested in jigs than the rod and reel…
In so far as line is concerned, I’ve had equal success with mono and braid, though prefer braid for feeling the takes in deeper water where I am not fishing by sight. However, a mono or fluorocarbon leader can be beneficial not for any abrasion resistance, as you will generally be fishing up in the water, but for easier hand-lining or larger specimens. I tend to use a 12lb braid, though you can comfortably go lighter still, coupled with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader of appropriate length for the height I am fishing from.
This moves us onto the jigs. This is where it can start to get a little bit technical in understanding a lot of the terminology used, sizings, weights and other squid jig features. Don’t worry though, we’ll break it down below and if in doubt, just contact Tom Bagnall at Christchurch Angling Centre, explain where and when you will be fishing, and he’ll pick out the perfect jigs for you.
The first thing to understand is that whilst cheap jigs can and do catch, quality jigs time and time again produce better results and are generally better made and longer lasting. Jigs are rarely lost, so consider them a long term investment as you build up a collection to suit a variety of conditions. I would sooner invest in jigs than in any luxury rod or reel for squid fishing.
The stand out market leaders are the Yamashita jigs, with their ‘warm jacket’ technology. The effect of the ‘warm jacket’ is to keep the jig insulated and a fraction warmer than the surrounding water. The way a squid sees and senses, this difference in temperature mimics the squids natural prey, causing the squid to home in on it.
The key details to look out for in a squid jig are size, weight and sink rate (which is usually a by-product of the first two). Primarily squid jigs are sold in a number format, such as #2.5. The bigger this number, the bigger the jig. Usually a #4.0 would be heavier than a #2.5, though you can get slow and vast sink varieties within each size, so it pays to take attention of all of the detail on the pack.
A squid jig is given its number based on the measurement from the eye to just before the prongs start, in inches. Thus a #2.5 squid jig is 2.5 inches plus the length of the prongs. I have yet to find any reason to step up to bigger jigs aside from requiring a quicker sink rate. One could be led to believe that a bigger jig may pick out the bigger squid, but you’ll soon get used to sight fishing, going after a large specimen, and some tiny excuse of a kraken bursting in on the scene at the last minute, happy to attack a squid the same size as itself!
A heavier jig is, by and large, going to sink faster. However, think of the weight more in terms of casting ability. If you are opting to fish from a beach, rather than a pier or jetty, you may opt for a heavier jig to get a bit more distance and thus work a bit more water on the retrieve.
The sink rate is key to digest, as a smaller jig with the equivalent weight of a larger one will sink faster, so it isn’t all down to the weight alone but the combination of factors. A quicker sink rate is generally required for deeper water or faster currents. If the tide is pushing through at one stage, you may choose to up to a higher sink rate jig, which could mean a larger jig, or a jig of the same size with a larger weight.
You want to go for a sink rate that can be controlled in the tide, but is going to fall as slowly to the bottom as possible. Most squid take the jig on the drop, or when slowly lifted and re-settled to the bottom. It pays to start light, say a 12g #2.5 with a 2.8m/s drop, then have a couple of heavier jigs on stand by if the tide picks up, or you’re in deeper water and need to drop to deep holding squid quicker.
One final detail you may see given on a squid jig is the HZ – this is the frequency at which any internal rattle vibrates. Apparently, theres some solid science (no doubt from some squid mad individuals in Japan) that state 600hz is the optimum rattle frequency to attract squid… Rattles certainly help, but whether it needs fine tuning to a precise frequency seems a stretch too far.
This is where building up a selection really comes into play. Many people will tell you that certain colours work for them in certain conditions, but equally all of this has been flipped on its head on occasion too. It’s very common for one colour, on a given day, to out fish all others though, so you daren’t be short of this in your bag! The glow options, that can be charged very effectively with a UV torch, do seem to hold an edge quite frequently.
The key colours you will want to have are browns, blues, pinks and greens, preferably with luminous abilities too. I tend to start with browns in slightly disturbed water, and blues in clear water, and if they don’t work, reach for the pinks and greens. Others will be straight on to pinks, which seem very popular. There are of course many more colours, but these four will cover most bases.
Not If you are fishing from an already illuminated pier or jetty. The light attracts the baitfish which in turn attracts the squid. Check out this past feature for how a squid light was put to good effect from the rocks to mimic the lights on a pier:
For additional background reading on fishing for squid in Dorset in particular, check out:
As touched on a bit above, the squid often take on the drop, or following short movements on the bottom. Eging from a pier can often allow a jig to be suspended just off the bottom, fluttering in the tide, and can be left to fish itself this way. In fact some will even fish a squid jig below a float and just leave it there!
I much prefer working the jig though! However, it is with much slower movements than with any other form of lure fishing. The closest method I have done is shad fishing from the shore for cod in Norway. The idea is to cast out, and let the jig gently settle down. The jigs used keeled weights, so they sit perfectly on the bottom still looking like the squids prey… don’t be afraid to leave them stationary for a short while between movements… especially if a cuttlefish might interest you!
Sometimes, if you know the squid are there, a few quick twitches to agitate the jig on the bottom is all that is needed – especially when sight fishing and you can see squid close to the jig. Alternatively, just a little little lift of the rod followed by a couple of slow turns on the reel to recover slack as the jig re-settle is the most that is needed. This isn’t mackerel fishing… no pump and wind, just really subtle movements.
More often than not, you won’t feel a squid take if it hits it on the bottom. However, as you go to move the lure, you will feel like there’s a dead weight on the end. Give a slightly sharper lift of the rod, but not a full on strike, to set the prongs of the jig into he squid. You should then feel the first tell tale sign of the squid propelling itself, when you can allow the rod to cushion, before retrieving in between these desperate lunges.
Most importantly… have fun! Squid fishing can be a great social activity, especially when sight fishing. A final tip to add here is that squid are surprisingly attracted to other hooked squid! If fishing as a group and one angler has a squid on, it is worth leaving it suspended in the water whilst others drop their jigs around it. Multiple hook ups doing this are very common.