Words & Images: Kosta Linardos
Spring signals many new fishing seasons and one that gets many Victorian anglers excited is the southern calamari spawn. I’m usually too focused on other species at this time of year to fully dedicate a session to squid but it had been a few years since I had specifically targeted the monsters that reside in the southernmost reaches of the bay and I was keen to put a big bend in the egi rods and fill the freezer with snapper baits and meals.
We heard the big squid were on so my cousin Dean and I headed down to Sorrento at the gentleman’s hours of 8am and made the trek across to Lonsdale Bay in the very southern reaches of Port Phillip Bay. The plan was to visibly look for squid sitting on their eggs but the outgoing tide was keeping visibility to a minimum. I hit up some marks I had in about 8 metres of water and hooked up rather quickly on a Yamashita Egi Oh K in 3.5 (number 010), a rainbow foil with a mottled dark green cloth. A good squid but no monster. We spent a while longer in this area where Dean hooked up to another good squid and then things went quiet. We moved into four metres and drifted rather quickly with the outgoing tide and kept repeating our drift. We were working our jigs by giving them a lot of slack line to allow them to sink to the bottom in the fast current and hopping them back up. I deployed the Minn Kota, which allowed me to control the speed of the drift, but we still weren’t catching any squid and neither were any of the other 10-15 boats.
We then had a period of slack water and as the tide started coming in, the water cleared up and I decided we should start looking for eggs. At the same I noticed a small tinny doing the same – the skipper was driving around with his head over the side looking down for eggs and then drifting over them with two large 4.0 size pink jigs on handlines and two baited jags with silver whiting on floats on another two handlines. On his second drift all four handlines went off and the crew hurriedly brought in four monster southern calamari. I moved away and kept looking for eggs and after a while I noticed them on the bottom like a group of shining pearls in about 5½ metres of water.
While the other boat’s handline technique was effective, it was archaic and agricultural and didn’t strike me as an enjoyable way to fish. I prefer rods and reels and that feeling of a big squid pulling drag and pulsing the egi rod. It’s worked for me before in the same area at the same time of year and I don’t agree with anyone who says you must use handlines or dropshot to get the big squid down south.
I put a plan in place and deployed the Minn Kota and hit Spot-Lock so my boat was just in front of the eggs and we were staying there. The new Minn Kota Ulterra is exceptional at holding the boat on a spot with its bow and stern GPS system.
After we were settled in the spot I changed the jigs over, Dean tied on a new Gan Craft Egi Jya in 3.5 in the Ghost Cut colour, a UV green with a green cloth. I passed him this jig as I knew that the Gan Craft was an excellent jig in fast water with a highly visible bulky size and a drop action that can handle faster water. He cast out and continued jigging the jig to no avail. I tied on a Yamashita Live Search 3.5 Deep in a dark green and gold foil (number B05). It’s a little heavier than a standard 3.5, which makes all the difference in getting it down. We were working the jigs as we usually would with an aggressive dart action – it wasn’t working. We noted the huge squid holding on the bottom and instead of jigging to the surface, we let it sink down and just gently hopped it along the bottom as you would a soft plastic. This allowed it to spend more time in the strike zone but it still had some action so it didn’t look unnatural and wasn’t getting pushed around by the current. This did the trick, as Dean hooked up to an absolute thumper that measured a 48cm hood length and then another straight after. I then hooked up and the squid were coming in thick and fast. Some small models came through, but they were mostly huge with an average hood length of around 35-40cm.
After about 30 minutes we had about 10 squid in the boat but we wanted our 20. It was going to be a long snapper season and we wanted the baits to last us through to December plus have some to eat. The current had really picked up and the Gan Craft wasn’t getting down and staying down and the Live Search Deep was struggling. I passed Dean a Yamashita Live Search Deep in a brown cloth with red foil (B04) and I lost my B05 so switched over to an R06 which is a bright white cloth with a holographic tape. I added a 10 gram Yamashita TR sinker to each jig. These are a lead helmet that goes over any jig and made each jig weigh a total of 32.5g. This did the trick – the squid didn’t care that they sank quickly, they got down and stayed down and we hooked up on almost every cast.
You could see huge squid all over the bottom and by the end we were trying to target specific huge models we could see – there were a few that we didn’t hook up to that possibly could have been over 50cm hoods. We had caught our 20 squid rather quickly, released countless others and decided to call it a day.
It was a great session and one that showed you need to be adaptable and change your approach to the conditions and the fish. If we had have persevered with a traditional method we would have gone home frustrated like many of the boats around us. Without doubt the Minn Kota was a huge advantage and without it we wouldn’t have caught our 20 as quickly and it wouldn’t have been as simple and enjoyable. I can’t stress enough how amazing a Minn Kota is in any form of fishing, and if you’re thinking about getting one I highly recommend doing so. It also pays to have squid jigs on board in varying weights, sizes and colours so you can adapt to the conditions.
Fishing The South
The big southern calamari should stick around until the end of November and can be caught from Sorrento and St Leonards all the way down to the Heads. They can be caught from piers such as Portsea, Queenscliff and Flinders and will fish best on a rising tide. If you’re new to fishing The Rip or the edges of it, take someone experienced with you first and read the weather – it can be a treacherous place. Also take note of the Port Phillip Heads Marine Park; I saw many boats fishing in there, which is prohibited (the marine park is marked by large yellow markers).