I finally got the bug! My calamari addiction first started about five years ago. I had so much fun and knew that one day I was going to be completely fixated, fanatical and even possessed by them. That day has arrived and my infatuation is getting worse.
What's more, I notice that squid have this effect on most people and I hear that chasing them, in terms of participation and sales, is still the fastest growing area of fishing in Victoria. Port Phillip and Westernport Bays are renowned hotspots, but come with me as we explore somewhere a little different - the South Gippsland Calamari Coast.
EUREKA! THE BIG ARRIVAL
The year will go down as the year the squid arrived into Gippsland in numbers that most people say they had never before experienced. Even the good oldies, the locals who have chased them for too many years, have all said it's the most squid they have ever encountered. The number of squid was actually phenomenal and plenty of us were bagging out with our 10 squid in record speed.
I've also noticed that just about every angler I know or have talked to out on the water, or even on the street, have been having fun catching squid. Facebook and text messages have all been about squid. Some people were experiencing calamari for the first time and all the talk around boat ramps and tackle shops has been about how even new comers to the sport are all bagging out.
I think you get the idea about how the word was well and truly out and it very much imitated a gold rush scenario. Everyone had calamari fever. Now that summer has arrived, squid things have quietened down a little as the fishing focus now broadens into gummies, whiting and particularly snapper or flathead. But don't be fooled, the squid are still there and can be targeted nearly any day of the year.
I'm quite sure the real home of South Gippy squid is the vast flats and many channelled waters of Corner Inlet because, after all, this has been a calamari hotspot since day one. There must also be amazing return of squid from the Bass Strait through the near bottomless entrance of the swift running Singapore Deep. Your squid search should start at the southern end of the Lewis Channel as it passes Little Snake Island, between marker numbers 04 and 03, and cast back into the eastern shoreline across the shallow weed beds. It's actually the broken weed with sand patches you are looking for and this is typically what whiting purists would consider prime ground.
How deep? It seems to change very little on most days and if I gave you a rule of thumb, to stick to fishing in 2.5m of water, you could hardly go wrong. Of course, the state of the tide will play a big part as to where you go, but we have also found that squid will bite at any time of the tide. Most prominent squid anglers tell me that the last two hours rising to the high and the first two hours of the run-out are by far the best times. I'm not convinced, but I take notice on their wealth of knowledge.
Having spent way too much time chasing squid over the last four months, I've caught a few squid even at dead low tide, but just had to move into suitable deeper water. I will say, however, that I have always found a good run-in tide (when the water really gets moving) is the most productive. We have caught squid in just under 2m of water down to 4m deep, but not as many in shallow country like a metre.
Now I could list another dozen areas to try at Welshpool because everyone has their favourite and even a few secret ones, but really I won't need to. For starters, there will always be a few boats out there drifting and squid jigging away for you to use as a guide. Some days there are 30-40 boats barely avoiding bumping into each other. Secondly, if you do happen to turn up there on your very first trip and by some miracle no other boat is there, then start where I mentioned at that Lewis Channel mark. I have to say, the more I explore the more squid I find. Including right near the Toora boat ramp and especially around the Long Jetty right near the Welshpool boat ramp.
So, what I'm saying is, you don't have to travel far to get squid. Handy to know when the wind makes it near impossible to get around and at Welshpool, believe me, that's most days! Discovery will be your greatest reward when squid fishing.
This year the amount of squid at popular Port Albert was staggering. I'm not joking when I say that two of us drifting over prime squid water, could bag out in an hour - every cast a squid. Yes, hard to believe, but that's 20 squid landed between us, not counting the ones dropped at the boat. Ink everywhere! We got to the stage that we would release all of the smaller ones knowing that we would find bigger models later on. It was mind-blowing sport and it went on for months. There are still squid there now, just not as many.
The simple part about Port Albert squid is that they are so easy to find at the peak of the season. Just launch the boat, head down the main channel towards the entrance and stop about halfway there. Start throwing jigs around in all sorts of depths and areas and the squid will soon let you know where to concentrate and where not to try. It really is that simple. It is best, of course, if you continue watching other boats and observe their success or failure and learn heaps that way. What I can tell you is that nearly everywhere I've looked, within about 4-5km from the main boat ramp, has produced squid. And I mean from right at the boat ramp and town jetties all the way out to the main entrance.
One of the hottest tips for a bag of land-based calamari is to fish the Port Albert main jetty at night. First up, get a feed of the best and freshest battered fish in Victoria at Wharf Fish 'n' Chips. Don't forget a pineapple fritter or two. Then wait for nightfall and start casting squid jigs close to the jetty. You won't be alone as the locals spill plenty of ink over this wharf at night.