As winter’s darkness descends, a hearty group of anglers head for their favorite Puget Sound fishing pier.
These people are hoping to take advantage of the squid’s pangs of love or hunger to bring home a bucket full of calamari to be.
On piers from Edmonds to Steilacoom, squid fishermen will shine a light into the inky depths of the Sound hoping to attract the squid. Then they cast out a jig, hoping a squid will mistake it for a potential mate or meal.
“The squid are trying to mate,” said Art Tachell at Point Defiance Boathouse. “The spawn mass in the squid glows. So when they hit the jig, they think they are going to mate.”
Hungry squid also will lurk on the edges of the lighted water, then dart into the bright area in pursuit of food such as young herring and other small fish.
While the season typically runs from mid October to late January, the action has been at its peak the last couple of weeks.
The most common species found in Puget Sound waters is the market squid. Adutls average about 8 inches long, but can reach 12 inches. They travel in schools, looking for food sources attracted by dockside lights.
The action is best in the first hours of the evening, but can last through most of the night. When it comes to tides, the action seems to be best an hour or so before and after a high or low tide.
Simple gear setup
Jigging for squid doesn’t take a lot of specialty equipment. Most people use a light spincast rod, 7-8 feet long, loaded with 6- to 12-pound test line because there’s not weght to the squid themselves.
While regulations allow people to use as many as four jigs at a time, many people opt for a pair of jigs to avoid them tangling.
The jigs each weigh 1/2-1 ounce. Most are simple in design, with a rounded body and two sets of barbless prongs at the bottom. The most popular models these days have a body color that glows, to help attract the squid.
Randy Anderson at Sportco will place a heavier jig on the bottom and a lighter on the top, spaced about 12 inches apart. He will cast them out, let them sink to the bottom and then being a fairly slow retrieve.
“You don’t jerk them. You just lift your rod tip up and down,” Anderson said. “You can raise up a full lift and then down, then reel up a couple of cranks. They’ll hit it on the way up. It’s a light bite.”
Where people get creative is their light setup. Some will tote small generators onto the dock to power their lights, while others use battery-powered lights.
“Bright white lights works best, better than an orangish light,” Tachell said. “Most people will hang them over the water. They’ll plug them in or run them off a generator and aim the light right into the water.”
Anglers also use the light to charge their luminous jigs.
Then it’s a matter of waiting for that light tap on your line. Tachell and Anderson said th squid really don’t bite the jig but become entangled in the prongs. So keeping your line tight as you reel in will help keep the squid on the jig.
A word of caution
Anglers need to remember that squid have a defense mechanism, squirting ink, Tachell said.
“I let them squirt before I bring them to toward me. A lot of times, if you bring them up to soon, you get squirted,” he said.
But Tachell goes one step further.
“I put them in a bucket of fresh water. They don’t like that so they squirt. That cleans them out a bit more,” he said.
If you do get ink on you or your clothes, don’t panic. Since it is water soluble, the ink will come out if you can wash the items before the ink dries.
A squid also might try to bite you with its parrot-like beak if you are not alert.
While some people will use squid, or their tentacles, as bait when salmon or steelhead fishing, most people are eager to cook up their catch.
“I’ll cut them in ringlets, dip in a batter and deep fry them,” Tachell said. “It takes just a quick dip in the oil to cook them. They are pretty thin so they cook really quick.”
Like other seafood, squid are a versatile menu item. You can stuff and bake them, they can be sauteed, simmered, stir-fried or pickled. Depending on the recipe, they can be used in small pieces, strips, rings, as a tube with stuffing or in flat filets.
State squid fishing rules
Fishing allowed year round, except Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) is closed to squid fishing.
No minimum size.
Daily limits is 5 quarts or 10 pounds, plus up to five Humboldt squid.
Legal gear is a forage fish jig with a maximum of four squid lures, forage fish dip net or a hand dip net.
Each person must have their own container to hold caught squid..
All squid anglers 15 years or older must carry a current Washington fishing license. Options range from an annual shellfish/seaweed license to combination fishing licenses.
Try these locations
-- Silver Cloud Inn pier
-- Les Davis Pier
-- Point Defiance Boathouse pier
Dash Point State Park pier
Des Moines Pier
Fox Island Pier
Clyde Davidson Peir in Steilacoom
Joemma State Park pier
The market squid
Other names: Loligo opalecens, California market squid, opal squid, opalescent inshore squid, common Pacific squid.
Description: Colors vary from white, mottled gold to red, depending on the mood of the creature or background behind it. The body of a year-old adult ranges from 6-8 inches, not including the tentacles, with an average weight of .5-2.5 ounces. The squid has one pair of tentacles 2/3 the length of the mantle, and four other pairs are 1/2 length of mantle.
Range: They can found from the waters of southern Alaska to Bahia Asunction and Baja in Mexico.
Habitat: They prefer the shallow coastal regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean. They often can be found feeding on the fringes of kelp beds, and can be found at depths ranging from 30 feet to mid oceanic.
Life history: This species can live up to three years, but the average life span is 1-1 1/2 years, ending after spawning. Spawning mostly occurs between December and August. Mature squid will migrate to sheltered waters, over mud or sand bottom, in water depths of 10-130 feet. A female can produce 100-300 eggs that hatch in three-five weeks.
Natural history: This species is a predatory carnivore. It feeds primarily on small fish, but also on molluscs, crustaceans (crabs and shrimp), worms, plankton, mysids, ephausids and smaller squid. Predators of include fishes (salmonids, flatfish, sharks), marine mammals (sea lions, seals, dolphins), sea birds and humans.
Source: The Evergreen State College
Cleaning and preparing squid
Depending on the recipe you are using, there are two ways of cleaning squid.
This method is the faster of the two. Use this method if your recipe calls for cutlets or strips
Step 1: Slip knife inside mantle and slit lengthwise along underside, or belly. Open mantle and scrape away viscera and pen (the transparent backbone).
Step 2: To remove tentacles, cut in front of eyes. Squeeze the tentacles near the cut end to pop out hard, chitinous beak. Discard beak, pen, head and viscera. Save the mantle and tentacles.
Step 3: Make cut in mantle about 1/4-inch from tail end. Holding the membrane near the cut, pull mantle away from membrane. Discard the membrane. Rinse the mantle with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Use mantle whole or cut into strips widthwise. Use the tentacles in recipe, or fry and serve as an appetizer.
Use this method if the recipe calls for whole mantles or rings.
Step 1: Holding the mantle in one hand, pinch the pen with index finger and thumb of the opposite hand, separating the pen from mantle.
Step 2: Gently pull pen out of mantle, easing viscera out along with pen. Cut away tentacles as in Step 2 of Method A.
Step 3: Scrape the membrane to loosen it from the mantle. Peel away the membrane and discard. Rinse the mantle thoroughly with cold water to remove any remaining viscera. Pat dry with paper towels.
Step 4: Use the mantle whole or cut into rings. Use tentacles in recipe, or fry and serve as an appetizer.
Additional information: For drawings, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/clean_prepare.html.
For those who haven't cooked squid before, this recipe for pan-fried squid is an easy way to start.
Cleaned squid cut into 1-inch rings
2/3 cup bread crumbs, mixed with
1 /3 cup Parmesan cheese
Milk or egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Your choice of oil (olive, peanut, vegetable, etc.)
Dredge squid rings in flour, dip in milk (or egg mixture), roll in crumb mixture. Allow to rest a few minutes to set crumbs. Fry quickly in oil until golden (about 1 minute on medium heat).
3 pounds whole squid mantles, cleaned
1/2 cup sour cream
1 /2 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces chopped pimiento
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt to taste
Cook mantles in boiling, salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Chop squid into small pieces. Mix squid, sour cream, mayonnaise, and pimientos. Add lemon juice, dill weed and salt. Serve chilled with crackers or assorted vegetables.