How to catch Southern calamari
Almost all of the bay’s shallow perimeter, and significant sections around Mud Island, are home to southern calamari. Whilst they do cross open water, calamari are found over weed beds, rock and reef in depths of less than a metre out to six metres. They congregate in these depths to hunt small baitfish and crustaceans, and to lay eggs. The vast majority of calamari are caught by drifting over weed and reef with customised jigs or dead baits behind the boat. They can be fished under floats or worked more actively with a rod that is held. Another method involves anchoring and using baits to draw calamari in. This can be particularly effective on bigger specimens. The key factors for calamari success are finding the best jig colour, action and running depth. They can be fussy some times, and reckless at other times, especially during certain tide phases. Calamari do not love fast currents, nor do they like dirty water. In the southern parts of the bay the best fishing is at tide changes or during smaller tides. In the middle parts of the bay and towards the north, good calamari fishing can be had right through tides. Low light periods will often see calamari behave more aggressively and it is possible to rapidly catch a bag limit once a school of calamari is located.
The most important part of the calamari fishing tackle equation is the jig. Jig sizes of 2.5, 3 or 3.5 are ideal and can be fished adequately on your snapper lure casting combo although specialised rods are better if you plan on fishing for the species often. For the most part, a soft and bendy rod is best because it can absorb the pulsing runs of a hooked calamari. Flexible rods are more forgiving and reduce the risk of the calamari tearing itself off the spikes. A correctly set drag helps too. It should allow the calamari to take some line during a pulse backwards. If you want to do more calamari fishing, an 8ft 2“ specialist egi rod is a great investment. A 2000-2500 sized spin reel and 8lb braid is perfect with a rod length of 10lb monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. If using baits, a calamari prong baited with a whole silver whiting set under a float is all you need.
Port Phillip is adorned with piers, jetties, and in some cases rock platforms where patient calamari fishing is highly productive. The nature of vertical man-made structures combined with reef or weed nearby can see great calamari captures. At night, lighting on piers often attracts small bait fish in numbers, which will in turn attract calamari. A big factor for calamari success is the stage of the tide. High tide is best when fishing from the shore or a pier. They don’t like feeding in strong currents and can disappear when the water is stirred up following a big blow.
Shore based and boat based tackle is similar, with one notable difference being you will do better from a pier with a jig that sinks faster. That’s because the elevated position of a pier can inhibit the sink rate.