I’m not going to even try to pretend that any of this makes sense.
For more than a day, I went back and forth with a well-respected, veteran ship captain and tried to explain to him what Squid Game is, only for him to repeatedly ask me, “So, what does this have to do with fishing for squid?”
“Nothing,” I replied. “Squid Game is a hit show on Netflix from South Korea, where people are playing kid games for millions of dollars, but if they lose, they die. Everyone is talking about the show right now, so I thought it’d be fun to hear what squid fisherman had to say about the show.”
“Okay,” he texted back, “but I don’t understand the correlation between this and squid fishing.”
Needless to say, that interview didn’t work out. Fortunately, three other squid fishermen were willing to play along, so here are their thoughts on Squid Game (which, of course, has nothing at all to do with fishing for squid).
On Whether Squid Fishing is Anything like Squid Game
Thach Huynh, squid fisherman for 14 years in New England: No, squid fishing is nothing like Squid Game.
Chien Ong, squid fisherman for 11 years from Melbourne, Australia: Squid fishing is very similar to Squid Game. Not in the sense of the danger of losing your life, but in the sense of achieving the ultimate goal of catching a squid.
Squid fishing is an art form. It’s a totally different ball game than regular fishing where you just cast bait out and wait for a fish to come along. Squid fishing was started by the Samurai who invented “squid jigs.” Squid jigs are supposed to mimic shrimp or prawn or the bait fish that squid feed on. The art of squid fishing is how the fisherman is able to make the jig dance in the water to mimic an injured creature to entice the squid. So, the fisherman with the best skill and knowledge in the use of their jigs will tend to catch more squid then those who just cast and pray that a squid will come along to grab it.
On What the Most Dangerous Part of Actual Squid Fishing Is
Huynh: Navigating at night — that’s the most dangerous part of squid fishing because you have to account for the wind and waves, as well as floating logs and things like that.
Paul Carter, squid fisherman for 30 years from Melbourne, Australia: There’s nothing dangerous about squid fishing. Unless you’re fishing for giant squid which have tentacles that are 20 feet long. That would be dangerous, but apart from that, nah, you’re safe.
Game One: Red Light, Green Light
Carter: I used to play “Red Light, Green Light” as a child at school, but no shooting was in the game, of course.
Ong: In the first game of Squid Game, most of the players are just looking out for themselves, which is very similar to many people who fish for squid — they often have secrets about how they attract squid. It’s unfortunate that many will not share their knowledge and secrets with others. I was blessed enough to meet a professional squid fisherman by chance one day on the pier. Because of him, I’ve managed to master the art of squid fishing, but not many would lend a hand to help others in need. This is very much like the show, where everyone is dying because they just look out for themselves.
Game Two: Dalgona Candy
Huynh: That’s a pretty precise game, and I guess the closest thing to that in squid fishing is when you’re hooking the squid, you have to feel the squid latch onto the squid jig as you’re moving down. As soon as you feel that, you set the hook, but that takes a lot of getting used to and is very precise.
Game Three: Tug-of-War
Carter: I suppose that every time you catch a squid you’re in a tug-of-war with the squid. When you’re hunting little calamari-style squid, there’s no substantial fight because they only get to about 10 pounds. But if you’re hunting Humboldt squid in the Mediterranean, they can grow to 200 pounds, so there’s a fair tug-of-war with those.
Huynh: To compare tug-of-war with squidding, I would just say that, since I have good equipment, the squid never wins. But, if you pull too hard in squidding, you can pull the tentacles right off the squid — so that’s something.
Game Four: Marbles
Ong: In squid fishing, we always say, “Do not trust 100 percent of what a fisherman tells you.” This is very much like the game of marbles in Squid Game, where most of the players lie and cheat to get their opponents marbles.
Huynh: Squidding is actually a really fun, family-oriented sport, so it’s nothing like that marble game where everyone’s cheating and lying to get the marbles. The only asshole thing I do in squidding is, when I’m pulling up a squid, they tend to squirt out the ink as they come out of the water, so, if you aim that to the person next to you, they tend to catch the ink.
Game Five: Glass Bridge
Ong: In the show, the glass bridge is a game of chance with trial-and-error. This is just like squid fishing, which is a game of trial-and-error to find the squid.
Huynh: Yeah, that’s nothing like squidding.
Game Six: Squid Game
Ong: In the show, at the end of the final game, the two actors ultimately fight each other to win the cash prize. In squid fishing, a lot of times your mind plays with you if you see the fisherman next to you catching more squid. Fishing is supposed to be a relaxing sport, but it can turn into a competition for bragging rights and pride.
Carter: The only parallel you can draw there is that when you’re fighting with a squid, you fight it to the end, but in squidding, the man with the fishing rod usually wins.
On Whether or Not They’d Compete in Squid Game
Huynh: No! Absolutely not! If it was something I was good at, maybe I would compete. Like, if someone were to compete with me in squidding for $38 million or for my life, I probably would say “yes,” but I wouldn’t compete in something where I don’t know my chances of winning.
Ong: No, I wouldn’t play in Squid Game. No money is worth it for me to die for, especially knowing how many people I’d have to step over to win this blood money. The long-term mental anguish would be enough to haunt the person for the rest of their life. Not to mention, how are you going to explain to the taxman how you got so much cash?
Carter: So, in Australian dollars, the Squid Game prize money would equal $50 million, but even for $500 million, I wouldn’t bother with that. I don’t want for much. I’m pretty happy with my life and the money I make. I’ve gone squidding all over the world and that’s good enough for me.