Catching squid from a sea kayak

Eaten by rich and poor the world over and plentiful in the seas around western Scotland, squid’s easy to catch by sea kayak and requires a slightly different technique in its fishing.

Statistically Brits rarely step beyond a comfort zone of eating three types of fish – salmon, tuna and cod, most of which is imported. All the while our wide variety of fish caught in Scotland is exported to Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Squid is largely shunned, probably because it doesn’t come breaded with a Birdseye logo, but there may be change in the air.

Squids in

Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall and Heston Blumenthal have joined forces in a campaign promoting other fish types such as gurnard, dab and of course squid which we export in droves to the continent.

So important is the issue of diversifying the nation’s pallet with regards to fish sustainability the three chefs said it would be irresponsible for the British to carry on eating the fish we do.

Kayak squid jigging

From September to November Octane ventures by kayak to areas at sea previously spotted from cliff tops – reef areas of rocky weed interspersed with sandy beds.

Squid like to hide in the weed, camouflaged and safe, waiting for passing prey on whom they can pounce. Dropping a line over the sand can tempt the squid out to ambush the passing lure and, by drifting in the current or wind, it is possible to cover good ground.

In the great and ever ongoing underwater arms race squid are years in advance of all other fish in the sea.

They have thousands of chromatophores evenly covering their skin, a biological equivalent to digital LEDs, enabling squid to project ‘images’ as does the screen of an iPhone. As such, Squid can near perfectly replicate the differing colours, hues, saturations and brightnesses of its surroundings making them ‘invisible’.

In 400BC Aristotle said this of octopus which posess the same system and ability:
“The octopus… seeks its prey by so changing its colour as to render it like the colour of the stones adjacent to it”

The USAF is only just mastering such cloaking technology now. The squid is a trailblazing titan.

But even more akin to USAF strike fighter technology is a squid’s vectored thrust propulsion capability. A squid not only expells enough water under pressure to create lightening–like forward underwater motion of its mass, it can also vector–direct the jet thrust water to control its pitch and elevation.

Where a fish must furiously paddle to ‘hovver’ in midstream currents, a squid can remain absolutefly still, powered by its invisible and constant jet propelled water stream.

The squid is the USAF Raptor fast jet interceptor and invisibility cloaked flagship in one — something US arms research is unlikely to achieve for a while yet.

My lure is part if the same arms race. An imposter. An assassin in sheep’s clothing. A 3½-foot trace and two Yosuri crystal lures in a Pater Noster rig. The lure is designed to swim realistically in the water with a gentle jig of the rod tip, passing at various depths until it is seen by a squid which calculates its risk in attack.

If the lure passes close enough to the squid’s hidden ambush point the predator will quickly increase the rate of expulsion all water from its siphon and, with a lightening burst of flight, cover the distance across exposed and dangerous open water, to grab its prey.

If I remember to take GPS with me on the day, I’ll take a reading when a squid is on the line so that I can return to drift over the area again and again.

Squid lure

Unlike catching fish, a squid lure does not have a hook with barbs. Instead it has an array of backwards facing spikes that catch on the squid’s tentacles when the animal snatches the lure.

It is not necessary to strike as you would a fish to set the hook. Indeed, a strike would risk tearing tentacles and losing the delicate catch. The line should instead be slowly and gently brought in and, when the squid is alongside, it should be caught in a landing net and brought on board. You will be a target for inking.

The squid should be dispatched swiftly – if the fish is allowed to stress hormones will be secreted into the meat affecting the flavour. Insert two fingers behind the head and squeeze, the animal will die instantly and may change colour in the process.

Commercial jigging

This method of fishing for squid can also be carried out by inshore fishermen working from small boats or by large-scale distant water vessels using mechanised jigs catching squid in industrial numbers.

Fishermen often work at night using downward facing lights on their boats, which attract nocturnal squid towards the jigs they have below the boat. In the Gulf of Thailand, there are so many nighttime squid fishing vessels that the lights are visible from space.

Low impact fishing

Catching squid with lights and jigs is a fishing method with a very low-impact on the environment as no heavy nets or machinery is dragged over the seabed and, as only squid attack the jigs, the method has a low bye-catch rate.

Bottom trawling for squid is harmful as so much bye-catch is thrown away and because of the damage the mechanised gear does to the seabed.


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