May 2005
Bait 101, Squid
By Lee Kelly

A few days ago, I accompanied a coworker on a quick business trip to Washington, D.C. We didn't cherish being on the road over six hours for a two-hour meeting; however, the trip would provide the opportunity to visit one of my favorite places…the fish market! Those wonderful floating barges on Maine Avenue SE beneath the RT-395 overpass would provide me with enough fresh squid to last the year.

For about fifteen dollars, you can enjoy fresh bait that will last throughout the spring and summer, and it will out fish any frozen bait you can find. Squid is prime bait for many different fish species from flounder to big croaker and sea bass. A nice long strip attached to a bucktail will even entice a passing cobia. The weather looks like it is beginning to cooperate and I'm ready. Set yourself up with an ample supply of bait too.

Here's how:
First, find unfrozen squid. The squid I picked up at the market was fresh, which is key. Once you've located a nice supply of bait, put in on ice. Chilled squid is much easier to clean. As the bait is cooling off, stop by your local grocery store and pick up a three-pound box of coarse kosher salt. You'll need it later and it costs less than two dollars.

Bait preparation:
1. Remove the heads and set them aside. You'll want to keep these. When the water temperature rises and the flounder get more aggressive, the heads work great. Next, lay the squid out on the cutting board as shown.
2 & 3
. Remove the wings and cut these into small strips perfect for croaker. Now, slice straight down the squid to open it up as shown in the picture and scrape out the insides with your knife.

4. For the last step, cut two to three strips out of each side of the squid. (See the picture below). This will give you four to six baits per squid of varying lengths, perfect for flounder at different times of the year.

5. Now you might be wondering how you can keep all this bait fresh for such a long time. This is where the salt comes in. Take a large plastic storage container and cover the bottom with a layer of the coarse kosher salt. Lay out the strips so they cover the container bottom as illustrated, then cover them with an even layer of salt. Continue this process until all of your squid is covered in salt. Use a small container for the small pieces you'll use for croaker and another for the heads and you're set. Salting the squid draws the water out of it and toughens it up. The best part is you do not have to freeze it. The salt helps preserve the bait and it will keep just fine in your refrigerator.

When you notice that a layer of water has formed in the top of the container, drain it and add a small amount of additional salt. Your bait will last as long as you have it. When you return from a day of fishing, simply put the squid container back in the refrigerator until your next trip. Good luck and…don't catch em' all!

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