Squid make excellent bait for nearly every species in New England and they make for a great home cooked meal, too.
Whether you want to eat them or use them for bait, squid are always a great thing to load up on in the spring and Rhode Island’s south shore can provide the perfect place to get enough bait for almost every saltwater fish that can be found inside and outside of the Sound. And, let’s be honest, a plate of fresh calamari is also a great incentive to stick it out for a few chilly nights on the water. As soon as water temps begin to approach 50 degrees is when I start my search.
The stretch of water between Watch Hill and Point Judith loads up with huge schools of squid in the spring. Old Reef, Charlestown Breachway and Nebraska Shoal are all hotspots. But truly anywhere with depths ranging from 20 to 100 feet with a sandy bottom might hold them. Luckily, we don’t have to blindly go about covering this massive expanse of water, you can easily find them with your electronics, schools of squid typically appear as dense clouds on the screen.
There are a few other keys to finding squid along this 20-mile stretch of prime shoreline. The most important thing to pay attention to is water temperature, I have found that anywhere the water registers below 48 or even 50 degrees the squid either will not bite or just aren’t there. Clean water is also very important, after a strong blow it’s a good idea to move out deeper to where the clarity is better or just save your time and gas money for another day. Sharp contours also harbor squid, even something as small as a steep 3-foot edge (say 55 feet dropping off sharply to 58) may be loaded with them. Also bottom composition changes, like where sand changes to rock, have produced well for me in a few spots along this stretch. I’ll focus on these areas to load up on enough squid for my entire season in just two or three trips.
Even though squid can be caught at all times of the day and night I consistently have my best trips fishing from sunset into the night. I also prefer an outgoing tide, I have found that the water can be slightly warmer and has a higher yield of bait. Once you figure out a location to start dropping some jigs down you can either anchor up to stay stationary on whatever piece of structure you’re on, or if conditionals allow, drifting is also a great way to enjoy squidding. An ideal drift speed for squid ranges between 1/2 and 1-1/2 mph, anything more is likely to be too fast. These slower speeds will allow you to present your jigs straight-up-and-down to reduce the chance of getting your rig snagged on the bottom and makes it far easier to feel the light taps of squid piling on to your jig.
A light and sensitive rod and reel combo is imperative when targeting squid. Oftentimes you’ll feel a light tap followed by dead weight, which can easily be mistaken for being fouled with weeds. For a rod and reel setup I use a Tsunami Slimwave 6-foot, 6-inch heavy action matched with a Penn Squall low profile reel. This allows me to use larger lead up to 6 ounces, but still have the sensitivity required for the job. Using the low profile reel I found you have more control when dropping your rig to the bottom which also helps with keeping the rig straight up and down.
Jigs & Rigs
For the rig itself I keep it simple, two Yo Zuri squid jigs tied up with 10- to 15-pound fluorocarbon leader, it is very important with squid fishing to go light on your leader. Squid have incredible eyesight and at this time of year the water is often gin clear. There are many options available for squid jigs on the market but nothing has produced more squid for me than the Yo Zuri micro squid jigs. These are some of the smaller jigs that can easily be found in your local tackle shop and I believe that they work best.
The color options that Yo Zuri makes are pink, orange and blue. They are all in my tackle box and all have a time and place where they shine. The pink and orange I favor during the day and the blue at night. Although there are plenty of times when the squid are really on the chew they are pretty indiscriminate with regard to the color and size of your jig. The rig itself I keep the button jig about a foot above the weight and the second jig about another 18 inches above that. Keeping the dropper loops apart and short will reduce the amount of tangles you might run into. I use a light, 15- to 20-pound, braid for my main line to reduce drag allowing me to get away with the lightest weight possible to maintain bottom contact.
I tie in a small, high quality barrel swivel between the rig and main line to reduce line twist. Adding a loop on the bottom end of your rig makes it easier to change the size of your weight as conditions change, you may find the need for a range of weights between 1 and 8 ounces, depending on water depth and drift speed.
Motion in the Ocean
Start by lowering the rig to the bottom and then begin slowly raising the rod tip 3 to 4 feet and lowering it back to the bottom every few seconds, this imparts action on your jigs and also makes feeling the light bites of the squid very easy. With something so simple “Rodney the rod holder” often really shines when fishing for squid. On days where there is a bit of a swell I’ll actively fish with one rod and have another dead sticking next to me. All though when the bite gets hot, one rod is all you need.
Spotting a school of squid is easy but it is important to stay mobile and keep in mind that there is a lot of area to cover. If you find squid but they just won’t chew, don’t waste too much time, move around and look for a school that’s in a feeding mood. Keep a watchful eye on that water temperature, as this is often the key trigger to getting squid to feed. If you’re still not getting bit, try moving deeper or just heading further along the coast. Eventually you’ll find that bite and a five gallon bucket of squid is great way to fill the freezer or load up your plate.
Elevate Your Plate
Seared Stonington Squid with Green Romesco
Serves 4 – 6
4 Large Squid
4 Tbsp butter unsalted 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary.
2 poblano peppers
1/4 Cup hazelnuts raw
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 bunch cilantro (picked from stems)
8-10 Ramps (wild spring garlic) or Green onions
2 Cups baby radishes or radish cut in quarters
4 Tbsp Unsalted butter unsalted
2 limes quartered
Sprigs of cilantro
Preheat oven to 450
For the Squid: remove head and tentacles, and then remove head and eyes from the tenticles. Discard head and eyes. Clean the tube of organs, bone and ink. Do not remove wings or skin.
Score the squid through the wing side cutting only through one layer of the squid tub and leaving the bottom layer intact; make 3-4 cuts, and set aside
Toss poblano peppers in canola or vegetable oil and roast at 450 for 5-10 minutes or until skin is blistered. Allow to cool and remove stems
Place cooled poblanos, garlic, sherry vinegar, and cilantro in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle in olive oil on medium speed. Add hazelnuts and blend just until no whole hazelnuts remaining, still chunky, refrigerate.
For the Vegetables:
Remove root ends and clean the baby radishes. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Sear radish until slightly charred. Add a tablespoon of butter, garlic and thyme and cook until tender. Reserve warm.
Reheat pan and add another tablespoon of oil, season squid with salt and pepper and sear as quickly as possible on the scored side one at a time. Once brown add butter thyme and garlic and flip squid cook for another 30 seconds. Add ramps to still hot pan with 1 Tbsp butter and sear until slightly charred.
Spread a thick layer of romesco on your plate and place squid in the center, top with radish and ramps, and garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.
Special thanks to Chef David Standridge from The Shipwrights Daughter in Mystic, CT for the recipe. I know from personal experience, that eating at this amazing restaurant is an experience that will change your interpretation of food forever. You really need to try this place! –D.Anderson