It's a little embarrassing to say this but I've never really been much of a fisher-woman. Don't get me wrong, I love to fish. I love being out on a boat or sitting at a dock, and listening to the little glugs of splashing water and hoping some fish will chomp down onto the appetizing half-frozen lump of clam I've clumsily attached to my hook. But for me, that's all it's really ever been – a hope. While those around me would be pulling up slobs left, right and center, it's always just a matter of time before I get bored, abandon my fishing pole and just resign myself to the very fun, mildly annoying and largely unfruitful Bert and Ernie method of attracting fish with song. I was almost prepared to retire my fishing pole. And then I went squid-fishing. Those who catch squid commercially do so offshore, in draggers. The Jason & Danielle fishes for squid out of Montauk all year long. The boat, which is one of the largest of its kind in the state, will travel as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as Virginia in the winter. But luckily for those of us landlubbers out on the East End, in late spring and fall, schools of squid can be found lurking near shore, often hiding under docks. That makes well-lit piers the perfect place for some amateur squid-jigging. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is about squidding– my preferred term for the activity — that's so appealing. Nocturnal outdoor activities always promise a sense of adventure and and squid, the good-time Charlies of the sea, do most of their feeding late at night. Like all good adventures, a nighttime squidding trip should include, in my opinion, the bundling up in blankets, the frantic grabbing of flashlights and making a thermos full of hot toddy. Squid, for reasons still unknown to scientists, are attracted to light. Some say it's because they think the light means food; some theories even suggest that light could have a hypnotic effect on the cephalopods, which forces them towards the brightness in some sort of squiddy trance. Whatever the reason, a high-watt bulb, strategically placed over the water attracts the tentacled mollusks out from the darkness like moths to a flame. And that's when the real fun starts. Squid are predators, carnivores that swim in packs, attacking schools of fish—or really whatever other living creature they can get their long feeding tentacles on. In fact some boaters have reported giant squid trying to latch onto their vessels, mistaking the boats for delicious baby whales. The Atlantic longfin squid that we find here is a fraction of the size of its colossal relative, but is just as fierce. So instead of waiting to feel the gentle bite of a fish, a squid makes its presence known not with a nip, or a jiggle of the often luminescent lures, but with a full blown, fearless attack on them. When a big school swims through, a lure will hardly hit the water before it's seized by a squid's two longer tentacles and thrust into the animal's parrot-like beak. On a good night, squidding off local docks can yield a full bucket of the tasty, chewy mollusks in a matter of a few hours. So if fishing leaves you more frustrated than satisfied, don't retire your rod until you've tasted the delights of squidding. Because even if the sport's temptations don't move you — huddling outside at night, watching the graceful cephalopod samba, and taking part in the bitter battle between man and squid — the calamari will.
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