Words & Images: Oli Wood
Late winter and early spring means only one thing for me here in South Australia, and that is big southern calamari and loads of them. It’s these cooler water temperatures where big squid congregate in the shallower waters to breed. In order to catch more squid, it’s important to understand their behaviour during this time of the year, their spawning grounds and where they congregate.
During the main winter spawning season, they are often found in the shallow coastal weed beds from two to six metres of water. If there is a decent tide, these larger squid tend to feed in the shallower waters from two to three metres. If the tides are slower, then targeting them out deeper is the best bet.
The technique for the larger southern calamari doesn’t shift too far from the standard egi technique. Focus on casting your squid jig out along an area of nice weedy bottom and let it sink to the bottom (you know it has hit the bottom when you see your line go slack). Reel in the slack line and perform two to six whips of your rod, depending on the depth you are fishing (the deeper the water, the more whips). This will enact a darting motion on your egi, replicating a fleeing prawn or baitfish. After you perform these whips, let that jig sink back down to the bottom. It is important to let your jig sink for as long as possible and hit the bottom, as squid will find a jig swimming up off the bottom highly appealing. You may get snagged and potentially lose a jig, but that’s part of squid fishing, so don’t be disheartened.
Once you perfect your technique, you will be onto your first southern calamari in no time, and this is where learning how to fight the squid correctly is massively important. Setting your drag correctly is the first stage. If your drag is too loose, you won’t perform the ideal darting action, nor will you set the hooks deep enough in the squid and you may find that you are losing the squid you do hook. If your drag is too tight, you may find that you are ripping tentacles out altogether. My ideal drag setting is, when I whip the rod up I hear a couple clicks of drag – tight enough that I am creating the correct action yet loose enough that squid can pulsate back without pulling tentacles. Letting bigger squid run when they want to will also increase your chances of landing these bigger models, so be patient.
The next-most important part of fighting a big southern calamari is a dedicated squid rod. The parabolic bend of a good squidding rod will only be fully utilised if it is kept around forty-five degrees from the water.
I have never found one squid jig that does it all. Rather, a wide spread of good-quality, reliable jigs are more beneficial to a squid angler due to the variation in the conditions that anyone can face. For the larger squid, I have found that throwing jigs with a larger profile to be the most effective. Size 3.5 are my favourite as they have a fantastic sink rate for fishing depths of around four metres, as well as a large profile to entice the bite of larger squid. If you find you aren’t catching on larger jigs, don’t be afraid to throw a smaller size jig – it could be the catalyst and puts further importance on having more than one jig in your box.
Tackle and Gear
As mentioned previously, a good squidding rod with a parabolic action that absorbs the pulsating nature of fighting larger squid is the first and most important part of your outfit. These rods come into their own when fighting larger squid, with plenty of power in the mid part of the blank. A longer rod is more desirable for land-based anglers as it allows you to fish a wider area through greater casting distance. I highly recommend a good-quality reel with a smooth drag and decent line uptake as you are often dealing with a lot of slack line when fishing for squid. Choose a reliable, smooth, good-quality braid, and I believe a sinking-style braid to be ideal as it creates less resistance on your jig as it is steadily sinking in the strike zone. I recommend anything in the Gosen range of 8 ply braided lines as they encompass all these ideal characteristics.
No tackle talk about extra-large squid would be complete without mentioning landing tools. The first and most simple option is a crab net with some rope. I have seen this method work many times and it is quite simple; it involves manoeuvring your squid above a crab net, then swiftly lifting the net with the squid inside, and works well when you are fishing with more than one person. Another great option is a telescopic squid gaff or telescopic net and these items are well worth the expense – a must-have when targeting these larger calamari.
The first spot that you will hear many South Aussie locals say when they think ‘mega southern calamari’ is Marion Bay Jetty. Located right down the bottom of the vast, rugged Yorke Peninsula is the quiet country town of Marion Bay. The gateway to the Innes National Park, this location has a reputation unrivalled by any other jetty on the Fleurieu or Yorke peninsulas when it comes to large squid. During the late winter and spring months, these large, battle-hardened cephalopods come right into the bay with one thing on their mind: spawning. During these months squid anglers all over will make the three-hour drive from Adelaide for a chance to connect with one of these giants.
Like everything, nothing is guaranteed, but I can assure you that if you make this journey, you will have a great shot at landing a very large southern calamari.
Squid can be targeted pretty much the whole way down the jetty on a decent high tide, with plenty of large specimens landed around the first few light poles. However, half the jetty at low tide becomes nearly impossible to fish due to the dense weed and lack of water. As with any new location, I recommend looking for fresh ink on the jetty as an indicator of good squidding grounds.
My favourite squid jig colours at this location are a lot of white cloths with silver underfoils as well as red underfoils in the early hours of the morning. Be sure to try those larger profiles to attract the bite from the larger models as well.
It would be a severe disservice to not mention the Bluff Jetty on a list of hotspots for mega cephalopods. This jetty, however, is the most heavily fished jetty on the list due to its convenient location near South Australia’s tourist hot spot Victor Harbour. What compounds its popularity is its small size, only stretching a few metres wide and around 20m long. The early bird gets the spots at this location, often filling out before 8am.
Having said this, The Bluff continuously produces massive squid, with diehard anglers landing monster squid every winter. I believe that the rough and rugged grounds are perfect for large breeding squid to lay eggs in, reinforcing its spot on this list. Size 3.5 squid jigs are perfect for this location but be cautious that a lapse in concentration can cause you to lose a few jigs to the reefy grounds that are spread across this area.
The steep drop-offs of this location suit a larger jig but be wary as the grounds in close do tend to be very shallow. I have found darker colourations work really well at this location when the water is clearer, as well as red underfoils during sunrise and sunset.
On its day, Kingscote Jetty is the best jetty to fish in the entire state of South Australia for southern calamari. Recently refurbished, Kingscote Jetty has a special place in my heart as it is in those waters where I managed to land my personal best southern calamari. Unfortunately, I had to do it off my kayak around 100m away due to the closure of the jetty back in 2022. Due to its remote location, in the off-season this jetty is rarely fished hard and can hold incredible amounts of large squid, with the big ones coming into town in May through to September. Due to its length and depth, the whole jetty is fishable, with my personal favourite spots being among the cork weed in the shallows and towards the end. Fishing a wide variety of depths on this jetty can be a great way to find large schools or pairs of spawning krakens.
The deeper waters at the end of the jetty are perfectly suited for bigger jigs while I have had fantastic success with smaller jigs in the shallows, even on the bigger squid. One example of this was on the smaller jetty alongside the main jetty, where I managed to land a 37cm hood on a 2.5-size jig.
Most of my success at this jetty has come from the Egi Bancho range of squid jigs made by Ever Green, especially those with a clear, UV-style body with subtle glow accents.
Last, but certainly not least is Cape Jervis. This jetty visually screams big squid, deep drop-offs, reefy dense grounds, big current and cool water. Located on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Cape Jervis is home to the Ferry Terminal to Kangaroo Island and is a hotspot for large cephalopods. This jetty is at its finest in clear water conditions with dense cloud overhead, and I have also found tidal movement to be essential for fishing this location. Without the occasional ferry departure, this jetty is usually pretty quiet and there are days where I haven’t seen another person fishing here.
The best squid grounds are located along the steep, dredged drop-offs where bait often congregates, and large looming southern calamari can hunt successfully. Another bonus to this location is its surprisingly close proximity to Adelaide, posing a brief 1½-hour excursion with some other amazing squid zones such as Rapid Bay and Second Valley only a stone’s throw away.
If you are fishing the deep drop-offs, a larger profile jig with baitfish patterns will be your best bet due to the large amounts of sheltering baitfish present in these waters.
One interesting pattern that I have picked up is that my usual hot spots for big squid are often in the cool, tidal locations towards the southern reaches of our peninsulas during the cooler months, but as the temperatures start to become warmer. This is why now is the perfect time to make the trip to your local jetty and connect with one of these ultra-large spawning squid. One big squid and you will be hooked for life.