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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The thing about squid jigging is it’s a lot like fishing. And fishing is a lot of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Even though I only caught one squid in four hours I considered it a success. It’s a nice bookend to my squid story.
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.
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.