The arrival of squid in Island waters is cause for optimism. Striped bass eat squid. Bluefish eat squid. Italians eat squid. Bruin's fans eat squid when it's called calamari on a bar menu. What's not to like about squid?
Squid are interesting creatures. And they are quite aggressive. I've had squid follow a lure when I was fishing for sea bass in Vineyard Sound. And last week, I was fly fishing off Menemsha Beach when a squid grabbed my sand eel fly. What was surprising is that the squid was slightly smaller than the fly.
The following piece about jigging for squid was published in The Martha's Vineyard Times and appears in my book, "Martha's Vineyard Outdoors, Fishing, Hunting and Avoiding Divorce on a Small Island."
Manhood Is On the Line When the Squid are Running
A wife casts doubt on her husband’s ability to perform.
The cowboy is towing a horse trailer up a dirt road. His truck gets stuck in the mud. The denim-clad guy gets out and hitches the horses to the truck. In a sonorous voice, the narrator says, "This is the age of knowing how to make things happen."
The not-so-subliminal message is that a real man does not let a problem keep him down. The commercial was all about being a macho man. It was not to sell trucks, but Viagra.
All men want to perform. Sunday of last week, I did not feel like a real man. I did not need Viagra. I needed a pink squid jig.
Last year about this time, I introduced my wife Norma to the fun of jigging for squid off the beach (that is not a metaphor — I really mean jigging for squid). It was so much fun that when I suggested we grab a pizza from Giordano's and go to State Beach before sunset to jig for squid she thought it was a great idea.
Squid jigs have inverted wire tines in place of the hooks one normally associates with fishing lures. In their non-fried calamari state, squid are aggressive predators. They move quite quickly and grab prey with their tentacles.
When a squid grabs a jig, the fisherman, if he is quick, gives a quick tug and impales the tentacles on the tines. Often, in its efforts to escape, the squid will move through a series of pulsating color changes — white, red, brown — and squirt water and ink.
For that reason, it is a good reason to go squidding in the clothes you would wear to clean your basement or attic. Many an inquisitive well-dressed Edgartown visitor has wandered too close to a Memorial Wharf squidder to take a look at what is going on and received a well-timed squirt of ink, much to the delight of any local kids.
You might not think so, but squid jigs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There are the small jigs weighing less than one-ounce used by Island squidders, and the "Giant Humboldt" ten-inch, 15-ounce squid jigs used in Puget Sound.
I am not very good at catching squid. I am not a "squid whisperer" like my friends Coop or Tom. I go when the occasion presents and I catch squid for fluke bait. On that particular day, I grabbed a light freshwater rod and my only two squid jigs, one yellow and one white. Norma and I stopped for pizza and headed to the picnic tables on State Beach.
There were about five guys on the beach casting squid jigs. We had not expected to find clouds of biting gnats. We enjoyed our pizza in the truck.
I walked down to the beach while Norma remained behind in the bug-free comfort of the car. I tossed my jig out and felt a subtle grab, but the squid retreated.
Squid will sometimes attack a jig; or, they will timidly swim up to it, take a quick look, maybe even reach out for a touch and retreat.
I could not catch a squid — not one. For 20 minutes I cast and retrieved, cast and retrieved. I would groan every time I thought I had one and lost it. The guys next to me were hauling squid in, one after another.
"It's gotta be pink," a sympathetic squidder said to me.
I kept at it without success. I varied my retrieve. I cursed and cajoled. I tried to pretend it was not happening but it was.
"How's it going honey?" Norma said after emerging from the car.
"Not so good," I said. "I can't catch a goddamn squid."
The guys next to me continued to drag squirting squid out of the water. If it had been humiliating before, it was doubly humiliating with my wife standing next to me and observing my pain with some degree of glee. I was determined to catch at least one squid.
I said that one of the squidders had volunteered that pink was the hot color. "They will only hit pink," I said.
"Don't you have a pink squid?" Norma asked.
"No, I don't."
"Why not?" she said. "When we went with Coop last year he had a whole box of jigs."
"Well, I don't," I said.
I continued to cast; and cast; and cast. "Let's go," I finally said.
On the ride home, Norma was sympathetic to a degree. I thought to myself, this is the age of knowing how to make things happen.
On Monday, I returned to the beach with a pink squid jig. I caught a squid on my first cast. Dennis Gough of New York state who had stood next to me the night before was back again for more squid. He and his fishing pals would catch just what they needed to go fishing that evening.
Reflecting on my previous ordeal, Dennis was sympathetic. "I hate when that happens," he said.
I could not agree more.