by Carl Hyland
We here in the Island state are fortunate in that we have exposure to some of the best squid fishing in the world. Tasmanian squid are prolific all year round and are easily caught at most locations using many different methods, but most species are caught using squid jigs or baited hooks.
The two main species of squid taken in Tasmania are southern calamari and Gould's squid (previously known as arrow squid), along with several species of octopus. All these species are capable of rapid and numerous colour changes depending on an individual’s mood and environment.
Southern calamari are very fast growing and can grow to over 2.1kg in weight and live for about 12 months. Spawning occurs in shallow coastal waters around Tasmania and is concentrated during spring to summer. The finger-like egg capsules are laid by the females in masses of 50 to several hundred. On hatching, the juveniles swim to the surface and feed amongst the plankton layers. Calamari and squid are voracious feeders eating krill, fish and other squid.
Gould's squid (arrow squid) are schooling squid inhabiting waters from 0 to 500m in depth. They can be readily distinguished from the southern calamari by the presence of two fins at the base of the tail that give the animal a characteristic arrow shape. They are similar to calamari because they have rapid growth rates and feeding behaviour and live only for about 12 months. Spawning occurs throughout the year and the eggs are probably released as free-floating masses.
The flesh of both species is white, soft and palatable providing it is cooked to a proven recipe.
Areas on Tasmania’s east coast are closed seasonally to protect spawning southern calamari when they are most vulnerable.
The closure applies to all waters south from Lemon Rock (south of Wineglass Bay) to the northern end of Marion Beach (south of Maria Island) and includes Coles Bay, Great Oyster Bay and Mercury Passage. During the closure period, take and possession of calamari and any other squid is prohibited in this area (shown in red on the map).
Calamari closure map
Jigging squid lures is the best way to get squid and this is often best done of an evening under lights off a rocky platform or jetty. Squid takes are often gentle pulls but then can be more aggressive and a word of warning if you have never squid fished before, be aware that every squid squirts ink and this is a method of self-defence. The first thing I recommend you do after hooking a squid is draw it gently into a net and allow it to discharge its ink. Some squid will discharge several times and believe me; squid ink can’t be removed from clothing or gel coat on fibreglass boats
How to clean squid.
A few of the authors favourite jigs
And finally, here’s a great recipe for squid rings…..Fried calamari is a popular appetizer at restaurants. This version of fried squid uses a simple but flavourful beer batter. If you do not have a deep-fryer, simply use a deep, heavy skillet. Serve with condiment bowls of spaghetti sauce for dipping.
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
1-1/2 cups rye flour
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cans or bottles of beer (375ml each)
5 egg whites, beaten until stiff but not dry
4 cups vegetable oil
2 bunches curly parsley
To clean squid, remove purplish skin and separate head and tentacles from the body. Separate tentacles from the head and discard the head. Remove and discard the transparent quill from the body. Wash out the interior of the squid body. Dry on paper towels. Cut squid body into 1/2-inch-wide rings; leave tentacles uncut. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, one tablespoon peanut oil, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. Whisk in beer a little at a time. Carefully fold in the egg whites.
Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 375 degrees F. Dip the squid rings and tentacles into the batter and fry in the deep fat for 2-1/2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm.
Dry the parsley very well and plunge into the deep fat for 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Arrange the squid in a ring on a large platter and top with the parsley. Serve hot.