Baitfish Profiles: Squid Basics

Seriously, is there any offshore game fishing roaming our waters that won’t readily eat a squid? Whether it’s pelagic predators hunting the upper reaches of the water column or deep-water bottom dwellers, squid face predation from all angles. Anglers can catch a variety of different targets by simply heading offshore with a few boxes full of these slimy cephalopods. However, the tactics you choose to employ and the manner in which these baits are presented will have the greatest influence on the outcome of your efforts.

Many seasoned salts will tell you that live bait is the name of the game in offshore fishing, particularly in southeast Florida where the seasonal sailfish action essentially requires live bait. While we’ll never discount the effectiveness of live bait, we believe that it’s also important to consider the alternatives. The reality is that live bait is pricey when purchased and can be difficult for anglers to procure on their own. Dead bait, however, is easily purchased at a local tackle shop and while it’s very different than a livewell full of frisky enticements, it’s effective in its own right

squid baits

When it comes to the many dead bait options lining the freezers of tackle shops statewide, squid is perhaps the most versatile offshore offering. Moreover, there are plenty of pursuits where live bait isn’t even a viable option, yet dead squid excels. Take deep dropping, for example. Deep dropping may very well be the most popular use for squid across our fisheries. Many of the deep-water species anglers target, including grouper, snapper, tilefish and barrelfish, all keep squid in their regular diets, making it the first choice for anglers baiting their multi-hook rigs destined for the dark depths. Besides the fact that these fish naturally prey on squid, another advantage is that squid remains securely pinned to your hooks throughout the duration of each drop. Deep droppers know that few things are more frustrating than dropping down only to not have any bites because their baits came off on the way down.

In addition to demersal game fish inhabiting the seafloor, pelagic predators rely on squid as a staple form of food. For example, when anglers head offshore in search of dolphin, squid is an important bait option to have on board. Live bait is still likely going to be your best bet when you encounter dolphin offshore, but a whole squid fished near the surface is a strong alternate when livies are unattainable. Additionally, we’ve picked off many dolphin cruising through stretches of open blue water by simply flat-lining a whole squid pinned to a 5/0 live bait hook on a light spinner while we deep drop. All of the deep drop grounds we fish off the southeast Florida coast are in the Gulf Stream, situated among prime dolphin territory.

Another venue and application where fresh squid continues to prove its worth is deep in the Gulf of Mexico. As many of our readers know, visiting Pulley Ridge and nearby fertile fishing grounds aboard the Yankee Capts is an annual tradition for us. While anglers trust a variety of offerings on these trips from slow pitch and bucktail jigs to goggle eye, false albacore and ballyhoo, squid remains a top choice trip after trip. Both the demersal and pelagic predators frequently caught on these excursions feed regularly on squid, making it a logical addition to any bait cooler. On these trips where anglers fish around the clock, it soon becomes evident why squid are such popular baits. Shortly after the sun sinks below the horizon and darkness sets in, the bright lights aboard the legendary head boat shine down toward the water’s surface, attracting all sorts of marine organisms like moths to a porch lamp. Among them, squid are perhaps the most abundant as small flashes of pink and purple dart through the shadows.

Savage Gear 3D Swim Squid
Natural squid is tough to beat, but Savage Gear’s 3D Swim Squid is incredibly lifelike and wildly effective.

Here, the most resourceful anglers leave their frozen goggle eye and ballyhoo on ice and briefly swap their fishing rods with long nets to capitalize on the fresh bait below. Once they’ve procured a few squid, it’s game on as the fresh baits tend to out-fi sh anything else on board. Additionally, some anglers save their fresh caught bait for daylight hours and deeper venues, where trophy queen snapper, snowy grouper and more will surely pounce on a properly presented squid. Lure manufacturers across the industry continue to innovate and create lifelike fakes that accurately mimic a variety of forage species, including squid. Among the dizzying array of options available, Savage Gear’s ( 3D Swim Squid is perhaps the closest thing to the real deal. Based on the scan of a real squid, the 3D Swim Squid can be rigged to swim forward or backward and comes in a variety of colors and sizes.

Bait is one of the most important factors in any fishery. It can be extremely difficult not only to acquire the right bait for your specific pursuits, but also fish it correctly and coerce your targets into committing to your offerings. However, armed with the knowledge that there really aren’t many offshore predators that won’t eat a squid, anglers should always keep a box or two on board.