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Once I Was a Squid

Mad keen egi-head ADAM ROYTER has an out-of-body experience by turning himself – and you! – into a squid, in the process learning vital clues about catching these mysterious creatures.

IT’S time you all started thinking like squid. Sounds mental but if you want to catch squid you gotta think like a squid. To do this properly, you need to hover around the lounge room with your arms and finger wiggling out in front of you while making squirting noises. To fully understand what the squid is seeing, feeling, tasting  and smelling you really need to put yourself in their shoes (well, their tentacles, but you get my drift).

Ok, so now you’re a squid. Feels kinda good, doesn’t it? Anyway, there you are moving up to a reef complex with nine of your brothers and sisters. You’re all pretty much mass murderers – it’s what you do for a living. Travelling from reef to reef, killing and plundering. When you live for less than 300 days, you make the most of your time.

You all hate one another because all your siblings do is steal your food and become bigger than you so they can push you around – sound familiar? Given half a chance they would eat you, too. But in the big scheme of things, that’s just the way it is when you’re a squid. So suck it up and get on with it.

As you near the reef, the fish that normally live there, deep in crevasses and under weeds, are out and about taking advantage of the lack of predators. Eventually, one of them cops an eye full of your squadron approaching and trips the alarm bells. In the case of the small fish, an excreted pheromone and electrically emitted response signal is sent out into the water and quickly alerts the reef dwellers of the impending danger. But as you’re a squid and have evolved over millions of years, you’re ready for this exact result and have adapted your strike response and motion towards the fleeing fish. You push forward with your two club tentacles (two longer grabbing tentacles) slightly out in front of the rest, working them through the water as you pick up on the pheromone berley trail that’s left by the fleeing fish. Using these two unique and accurate smelling devices you race right up to the little red mullet that’s doing its best miming impression of some weed and bottom structure – and eat him. Yum!

Squid have very advanced smell and taste receptors. They use them to locate food and to check whether the food they have selected is indeed edible. The smelling issue, as described in my December 2009 squid article, is done with the club tentacles but the tasting is done, for the most part, by the mouth. Because of your (you being the squid) lightning quick strike response on that poor red mullet, you might have picked up some weed or other foreign objects that are not desirable. So having a sense of taste will help you decipher the stuff you don’t want, while not letting go of the stuff you do want. Also, having your eyes and mouth obstructed by your 10 legs is not ideal but, hey, you’re only a squid!

The sense of smell on a squid is awesome and almost everything they eat leaves a scent trail, so why the hell wouldn’t you scent your jigs?

It’s probably the single most important thing to help you catch more squid.

There are plenty of squid scents on the market these days. Let’s run through them all so you know what’s on the market.

Fish League Egimax and Glowmax: These are without doubt the best of all the squid jig scents. Consistently increases catch rates after application. Egimax has UV enhancing particles which makes your jig stand out more in daylight and Glowmax, as the name suggests, makes your jig glow in the dark. They both have the same scent.  

Hayabusa Scent Pens: These have been around for a while now and are still an asset to your squid fishing days. What I like about the pen is the control in which you can apply the scent. Squid have such a good sense of smell that sometimes too much is bad. So controlling the amount and where it’s placed on the jig can be vital.

Gulp Spray: It’s no secret that squid like Gulp. Squid can be the most annoying things when you’re having a snapper plastic session; always grabbing your plastic and chewing it to bits. So it would make sense to spray a little of this gear around. I prefer the Shrimp flavour.

UV Make UP: Apart from the very weird name, this stuff is awesome. It has one of the highest concentrations of UV particle-isation per weight and smells like a bag of prawn crackers. How the hell can you go wrong?

You only need to apply a little scent. One squirt, stripe or spray is enough. Too much scent and when the squid is moving in or indeed grabs your jig you’ll “burn” its sensors . I would consider re-applying every 30 to 40 casts.

Sight is the squid’s main avenue through which it feeds. As I mentioned in my last article, squid have a very similar eye to ours (cornea, lens and retina). The only real difference is that the squid has very few colour receptor cones in its retina, making it colour blind. Seeing mono-chromatically (black/white and all shades of grey) does have its advantages if you’re a squid. The squid’s heightened sense of vision comes in the form of the ability to see a much higher level of ultraviolet light than most other animals. This helps the squid to see reflected light better and to see movement at depth. In the underwater world, light penetration is a very strange thing. Check out the pictures opposite and you’ll get an idea of what the squid’s up against when it comes to seeing things like jigs in the water in different conditions.

So, get back into your squiddy little bodies and sit yourself back on top of that reef – it’s now time to eat some more. Now that you’ve both eaten and spooked everything off the reef it’s time to do some chameleon style camouflaging and wait for food to come to you! After all, you can’t go running around after food all the time if you’re going to grow real big real fast. Lying right on top of a mottled patch of weed and rock, you’re able to, with the help of your advanced electric system and a few billion chromatophores in your skin, instantly match the colour of the reef down to the last grain of sand. You’re a clever little squid because now the bait fish can’t see you. They start coming back out of their hidey holes, making their way back out onto the reef’s topside. You, the squid, wait for just the right opportunity to strike.

Let’s put a squid jig in the mix and see what happens. You’re lying there looking at all the food swim around you, not wanting to break your cover just yet, because nothing really worthy has come along. Then the jig comes into view. Oh, it’s beautiful. Pinging off its head with UV, and all shrimpy looking. Ooh, it’s got red shiny stuff on it and you don’t even know what red is, except for the fact that it means dead or dying. It’s like a sensory overload. Like eight cans of Red Bull and a bag of lolly snakes all rolled into one. You make the decision that this is the biggest item of food in the immediate area and launch off the reef straight up behind lunch. As you get into the water trail of the jig, your smell sensors pick up tell-tale signs of distress/food and you immediately take aim at the most vulnerable part of the jig.

Does anyone know where the most vulnerable part of the jig is? The head – but the spikes are at the back. How do we change this? Well, you can wait until your jig has a few bite marks in the cloth and the squid will continuously strike and bite this point, because it’s considered by the squid to be a weak or injured point of the prey. This will in most cases be at the rear of the jig where the hump is. You, the squid, want to get to the good bits first so you take out the fattest bit first. It’s also where the meat is.

So you can wait until your jig gets ripped up or you can (my preferred way) apply some “hit markers”. Hit markers are pieces of coloured abalone shell with an adhesive on the back. You simply peel them off and stick them on your jig. This gives the squid a point of reference to strike the jig full force and should be applied at the rear of the jig near the spikes. For best results put some top and bottom. About 80 per cent of my jigs have this on them and it makes a huge difference in discoloured water.

You, as the squid, are as dumb as a stump and you ate the jig. You’re hooked up and really peed off. You squirt your ink all over the place but it does no good. The slow winding of the reel and parabolic action of the specialist egi rod is all too much.

Sorry, but it was always going to end this way. You as tasty squid rings, and me as the narrator. This is only a small part of a squid’s day and an understanding of what they do. Looking back a little we’ve seen that squid need their unique set of sensors to work effectively. Sight, smell, taste and feel – hang on – we never did feel. Oh well, I better get back on the pen and start on article number three.

Good luck squidding and may all the ink land on your mates and none on you!

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