Eging, or 'squid fishing' has been popularised in New Zealand over the past five years but remains a small niche in the fishing world. Always keen to try a new fishing method, Miah Dixon and Ethan Neville took to the coast to give eging a try. Miah shares what she learnt about targeting squid.
While I’d love to say I’m an eging expert, the reality is that if I were to describe Ethan and I’s combined eging prowess, it would still be ‘nil to none’. To help us get the best out of our brief foray into eging, we enlisted the help of a few squid fishing aficionados from Shimano – Johnny, Kelvin, Mark, and Sergei – to show us the ropes. The following is the summary of their expertise, imparted to us on a cool autumn evening on the shores of Auckland’s north-eastern coast.
Dinner! Kelvin with the first catch of the day on the 2.5 Orange Candy jig.
The first question on every angler’s mind is “where do I go?”, and for us it was no different. If you flip through the pages of old NZ Fishing News magazines, or search ‘eging Auckland’ online, it doesn’t take long to find a collection of mainstay spots that are frequented by egi enthusiasts – and when you compare all the locations, there are some consistent factors.
Squid make their homes in weedy/sea grassy areas with little current that are often adjacent to locations with current. This could be in close in the shallows, or in deeper water, so they can be targeted both from land and boat.
During the day, squid are often less active, preferring to bunker down and stay hidden from predators. In saying that, they will still take a jig if one is presented to them in an acceptable manner.
At night, squid become much more active, often starting to feed an hour or so before dark. Our guides for the evening noted that the best night spots tend to have fixed light sources (e.g., non-moving lights) – the likes of Auckland’s Tamaki Drive being a prime example of a good eging spot due to its multiple fixed streetlamps that cast light over the water. While some believe it’s the lights themselves that bring the squid in, others think the lights bring in baitfish, which in turn attract the squid. Either way, a fixed light is a good addition to any eging spot. You’ll notice that the squid tend to lurk on the peripheral of the illumination, their large eyes being sensitive to strong lights.
While it’s good to focus specifically around areas of foul, prospecting the whole area is important, especially if you’re using berley to try and bring the squid in. The only issue with using berley is that it can also bring in squid’s natural predators as well, adding some unneeded competition for your target species!
With all of the above in mind, our crew made the call to try fishing at the rocks around Leigh, north of Auckland, where there are solid ledges, weed beds and gentle currents. The Shimano team like fishing the last two hours of the incoming tide, especially where it coincides with dusk and settled winds/shelter, so we met at 4pm on an autumn afternoon to catch the last of the sunlight.
Unfortunately for us, a storm was pushing the remnants of a three-metre NE swell right into our spot, so we were forced to find shelter at nearby Ti Point wharf.
Often the sign of a squid spot is patches of black ink markings on the rocks or wharf where previous anglers will have landed squid and stained the ground. While our spot showed few signs of inky friends, our hopes remained high.
On arrival, the team wheeled out a full set of specific eging gear: long slim rods, incredibly light reels, and bright, colourful jigs. We were in awe – and woefully underprepared.
We quickly realised that while it’s likely that some gear from your existing kit will do the job when you first start off, specific egi gear is needed to get the best results, and it needn’t break the bank.
Specialist gear, including long rods and light leader, make the eging experience much easier.
When gearing up for eging, the pros recommend looking for the following:
Rod: Eging rods are a class all of their own. Standing tall, often over 8ft, and with a stiffer action in the top third of the blank, they offer a slower action than many similar rods, such as those used for soft-baiting. This helps to work the jig with the typical whipping action of egi fishing. Further down the blank, the rod has more of a parabolic action that absorbs the squid’s lunges and pulses during the fight. The slow action also lends itself to keeping the small hooks firmly in the squid.
Reel: Reels needn’t be hefty or have big drags – more important is having a silky-smooth drag to allow the squid to gently pull, which reduces the risk of them pulling off the barbless jigs.
Braid: Eging braid is super-fine and silky smooth, sometimes including silicon in its make-up. This results in instant transmission of any bites, and the ability to cast further and faster.
Leader: Leader should be light enough that it doesn’t affect the action of the lure but still strong enough to help you lift your jig off any foul should it get stuck. 12lb-16lb is a good place to start if you’re fishing rocky/fouled areas.
Net: A long, telescopic net is an ideal bit of additional kit. It allows the angler to keep the squid in the water, but secured with the net, while they avoid being coated in ink.
Iki: To quickly dispatch your squid, a specialist squid iki is the way to go.
Gear bag: Everything is light and small when squid fishing, so a lot of gear isn’t needed. A compact jig bag will hold a range of jigs, extra leader, pliers or scissors, a squid iki and a plastic bag to store your squid in.
Squid jigs come in a range of sizes but are generally uniform in their wavey prawn shape. Lure sizes go up in 0.5 increments, generally starting at 0.5 size. Each size has a ‘sink rate’ on the packaging to help the angler keep tabs on how deep their lure is by counting the seconds after it’s hit the water.
Choosing your lure is often done based on a combination of water depth, clarity and terrain. Egi jigs are easily snagged, so anglers need to be aware of the sink rate of their jig. Too heavy and it won’t have the right amount of ‘hang’ time in the water column and may settle into the foul quickly; too light and your lure may not make it down to where the squid are. Colour is always a personal preference, but many anglers choose to go for more natural-coloured lures on clear days with clear water, and brighter lures on darker days or when fishing murkier water.
This theory was split on our evening egi fishing. While three of our four squid were caught on a brighter ‘Orange Candy’ colour, our last squid was caught on a ‘Keimura Sardine’ colour – a much more natural and clear looking option. It is fishing after all, and sometimes the different coloured lures catch the eye of the fisherman more than they catch the fish!
The word “Keimura” features across the Shimano Clinch range – “keimura” means “U.V. reflection” in Japanese. Cast a UV torch over the lure and it lights up blue/purple showing just how reflective it really is!
As we settled into our spot for the afternoon, we watched as Johnny and Mark skilfully worked their jigs. To work the light jigs, the crew imparted a dramatic vertical whipping action with their rod. This ensures that the jig, even when cast far away, is given a suitable erratic action.
A ‘twitching’ motion more akin to soft-baiting is also an acceptable way to work the jig, especially for beginners, or when your lure is close to you. When learning the whipping action, you’ll quickly discover that it doesn’t take much to send your sharp, multi-pronged jig careening back at your face or the faces of those around you, which is not ideal if you’re on a packed wharf or boat!
Like other species, the squid will attack the jig on the drop. Avoid striking, in favour of a gentle wind down to secure the squid – keep a bend in the rod to maintain pressure as squid jigs are barbless so squid can come off easily if given slack line. If you miss a bite, drop, and work the lure again in the hopes that your squid, or one of its friends, comes back.
Take note of the depth so you can count out the sink rate of your jig and hopefully retain most of your gear. At around $20 per jig, the Sephia Clinch Flashboost egi range are an affordable option (especially given their uniqueness in the market), but you still don’t want to be losing them to the rocky bottom!
Squid generally aren’t a catch and release species given their premium table quality, which means every angler should know how to keep them in good condition for the table (or the freezer if you’re harvesting bait).
Just as with any other fish, squid should be dispatched quickly and then put on ice. Specialist squid iki spikes are available from many retailers. There are two spaces (above and below the eyes) that will ensure the squid dies quickly.
An iki spike between the eyes will dispatch a squid quickly and cleanly.
Every part of the squid except the gut is easily usable in the kitchen (although some go as far as harvesting the ink for pastas). The two main parts, the mantle and the tentacles, are Kiwi favourites and have a variety of uses. Of course, the classic way to prepare squid is by coating it in egg and panko crumbs, then deep or shallow frying in hot oil until the squid is golden and curled up.
If you find yourself without an iki spike, Mark demonstrated a swift ‘karate chop’ method, which, when directed just above the eyes, quickly dispatched one of our dinner guests.
July 2021 - Miah Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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