In my opinion squid is the single best all-round bait along the South African coast. It is eaten by all sharks and rays and most edible fish if presented properly.’
Squid ("Loligo vulgaris reynaudii") or chokka, as it is commonly known, occurs mainly in the colder waters from just past East London on the Border coast to Cape Town in the Western Cape. There are a few other varieties of squid that occur along the South African coast, ranging from the smaller Natal bay squid to the slightly bigger Tugela squid, occurring further north. There are over 300 species of squid worldwide. The bay squid is probably the most sought after and rare as it is not commercially caught except for a few seine netters that still have a licence to net these rare bait fish.
If I had to choose a single bait to fish with anywhere along the coast and for any species of fish, it would be squid. You can slide or cast them whole for big sharks and rays, especially bull rays (duckbill), black rays, raggies, smooth hound, gully sharks and bronzies. They are also a favorite food for kob, steenbras, shad, blacktail, zebra, bronze bream and even the timid baardman won’t turn his nose up at the chance of a good piece of well-presented squid. Even garrick that prefers live bait has been landed on squid bait.
There are a variety of ways to present this all-round bait, and each method will produce a different result. Most fish prefer it smashed into a pulp or tenderized, using a Chokka hammer or meat tenderiser. When smashing the squid you break through the hard outside membrane, releasing the natural oils and protein smells contained within the white flesh of the squid. By doing this you also produce soft bait that is easy to cotton on using a thin latex or bait cotton.
HEADER>How to prepare the bait
<BOX BODY>Cut a strip of foam rubber the size of your small finger and, using bait scissors or your knife, shape it, tapering from thick to thin. Using latex or bait cotton, tie the foam onto your hook. I prefer the red Daiichi as they are chemically sharpened so keep a good point they don’t rust like most other hooks and can be used more than once.
Remove the outer skin, exposing the white flesh of the squid. Then cut down the center of the clear backbone and remove and discard this hard plastic-looking bone.
<BOX BODY><BOLD>Do not throw away the Chokka guts, especially the oil sac found inside – this is the most important part of the squid<UNBOLD>. The sac contains all the good smell and flavour and must be added to your bait when smashing the squid.
Cut some strips of squid according to the hook size you will be using and smash them off the outside membrane side, then turn them over and repeat the process until the squid is pulpy and soft. Break the oil sac and squeeze the oil over the already-pulped squid and hammer a little more to put more flavour and smell into the bait.
<BOX UNDERHEADER>Step 3
<BOX BODY>One by one, cotton the strips onto the hook around the foam.
<BOX UNDERHEADER>Step 4
<BOX BODY>Cut some thinner strips and tenderise them, then also cotton them on, one by one, until you have an octopus-looking bait .
<LABEL BODY>Never ever dip your bait in the water before casting – most of the smell that will attract the fish to bite quicker will be washed off the bait.