Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Squid Jigging (but were afraid to ask)

Posted by - August 18, 2014 | Category: The Yard

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

When I was but a young lad growing up in eastern Canada, my folks would drop my brothers and me off at our grandmother’s house for the summer. The entire summer. I’m not saying it was child abandonment, but I’m not saying it wasn’t either.

My grandma lived on a small fishery-dependent island called St. Brendan’s in Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. I’m not sure what my folks did during those kid-free summers. I’m not really sure what we did for those three long months either. There was intermittent electricity, no running water, and no paved roads — only my grandmother’s spookily empty two-story and an outhouse prone to flooding. Besides that obvious smell, there was one other that permeated the island during those long summer months – the smell of drying, salted squid.


Traditionally squid was salted then laid out to dry in the sun and wind before export. And it stank. At least pre-teen me thought it did. It would be years before I would dare to try calamari. It’s hard to develop a taste for something that your neighbours leave out on racks in the yard.

Did I mention the flies? Yeah. They were a bit overwhelming too. 

So you see I have a bit of history with the squid. But that never made me any more knowledgeable on the subject.

As a youngster I never knew the ins and outs of squid jiggery (that’s a word right?) I never took the time to learn how to properly jig a squid (we’d help my great uncle on his boat from time-to-time) and other than a type of lively dance, I wasn’t even really too certain what a jig was either. 

That would all change when I was invited to attend the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival earlier this year.

Yep, squid jigging. There’s a festival for that.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Welcome Dinner

Terengganu is a state in the eastern part of peninsular Malaysia. The capital Kuala Terengganu acts as a jumping off point of sorts for travellers heading to beach resorts on Redang Island and the Perhentian Islands. And while it is possible to partake in squid jigging on the islands, it’s not quite the same when it’s the resort’s boat that’s taking you out. It seems a little…well, manufactured is the word that comes to mind.

Terengganu, Malaysia Squid Jigging Festival April 2014 how to squid jig

In an effort to keep tourists in and around Kuala Terengganu, the relatively new-ish Terengganu Squid Jigging Festival offers folks the opportunity to jig for squid in a more traditional manner. Local boats, local fisherman, and getting schooled on how to squid jig like a champ. This my friends, is the real deal.

1-Terengganu, Malaysia Squid Jigging Festival April 2014-178

This was a pretty colossal endeavour — a flotilla of 250 or so international media converging upon the high seas in the hunt for squid and squid related stories. 

Malaysia --Terengganu Squid Jigging Festival April 2014 squid fishing boat

Armed with intel about best squid jigging practices gleaned from the opening dinner speech, coupled with expert guidance from our captain, I was eager to get my jig on.

Squid Jigging boats -- Terengganu Squid Jigging Festival April 2014, Malaysi

The thing about squid jigging is it’s a lot like fishing. And fishing is a lot of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Young boy on squid jigging boat in Kuala Terengganu Malaysia

 But determination…

Raymond Walsh Man on the Lam in Malaysia Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

 Pays off. 

Catching a squid at Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Raymond Walsh man on the lam

Even though I only caught one squid in four hours I considered it a success. It’s a nice bookend to my squid story.

dried squid in plastic at Terenggannu market Malaysia

Things I learned about squid jigging:

  • Technically, it’s called squid jigging, not squid fishing. That’s because of the type or lure that’s used and the jerking motion involved. Hence one does not fish for squid, one jigs for it.
  • Squid jigging during the festival in Terengganu is done the old school way – by hand, off the side of the boat. There is no fishing rod or reel, just a fishing line with a squid jig attached.
  • Squid are attracted to light, so the best time to catch a squid is early evening, using a light from the boat to attract them.
  • Squid like to chill at the bottom along the sea bed. They like to hang out together too, so where there’s one, there’s plenty more.
  • You can’t just let the line sit there — tugging the line in a jerking motion is key to nabbing a squid.
  • Squid don’t bite. Well, at least not the lure. They wrap their tentacles around their prey, so they do the same for the lure. They can bite YOU though, so beware.
  • Sunsets like this make it all worth it.

1-Terengganu, Malaysia Squid Jigging Festival April 2014-248

What are your thoughts on the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival?  Would you try your hand at squid jigging? Let me know in the comments section below.


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10 comments - add one
  1. If I recall it correctly, you were the only one among us on the boat who managed to catch a squid during the first trip, right? I managed to catch 2 during the 2nd trip but not before experiencing some sea sickness, haha!

    P.S.: Terengganu in on the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia 😀

  2. I saw the words “Squid Jiggling” and knew I had to read about this…not to say I knew anything about it but because it sounded so wild!

    Looks like a lot of fun actually. Outside of the festival, can you do squid jiggling with the fishermen there?

  3. I love most seafood, but calamari is not my favorite. I don’t like the squid and probably equate it with a spider or something. Plus, most cooks don’t cook it correctly, so it just comes out tasting like rubber rings with a fishy aftertaste. Having grown up in a sea town, I had no idea how squid were caught.

    Great blog.

  4. Do you know when the 2015 Terengganu Squid Jigging Festival is? I can’t find any info on Facebook or the Tourism Malaysia website.


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