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The Art of Squid Jigging

The first time I heard the term “Squid Jigging”, I had the same reaction you are having now; “What the hell is Squid Jigging?”. Let me take a second of your time to answer that question. Trust me, it will make the rest of the post easier. Squid Jigging is a traditional way to fish for squid in Terengganu, Malaysia. In April,

I decided to give it a try myself at the first International Squid Jigging Festival.

Over a period of a couple of days, people from all over the world came to Terengganu to sail out into the beautiful ocean waters armed with only their jigs and a strong desire to become a world class squid jigglier. (I might have just coined that term)

As the sun sank deep into the horizon until only a final few rays of light were visible in the sky, we began to cast our jigs into the water and watched with anticipation for the squid to wake up from their lazy day of slumber.

Now it was a waiting game. Squid jigging was different than any fishing I had ever done. So what is a jig? A jig is an insanely long fishing line with two brightly colored anchors covered with hooks that are attached to the end.

As you can probably guess, the weight of the anchors quickly unravel the line until it is resting on the ocean floor. Once the line is on the bottom, the jigglier begins to create sharp, rhythmic hand movements while tugging on the rope. The sharp movement combined with the bright colors of the anchors at the bottom of the ocean mesmerizes and draws the squid closer.

Like a moth to the flame, the squid’s curiosity gets the best of him, and eventually he is snagged. It sounds rather easy but there is an art to this dance. First, there is no bobber to let you know you have a bite and there is no rod or reel to bring in your catch.

Since squid jigging is done simply with your hands, you only know if you have a catch by memorizing the weight of the rope and being able to feel when it is slightly heavier.

This is the trickiest part. More than once I thought I had a squid at the end of my line, only to pull the rope up with nothing. It had me repeating life is too quotes over and over again in my head.

There is a wide range of different types of squid in all shapes and sizes in the surrounding waters of Terengganu.

The large squids, which stretch from your fingertips to the top of your forearm, are heavy enough that you can easily tell when they are on the line.

However, it is more difficult to determine this with the smaller varieties. Squid jigging takes practice and patience, but the good thing is that they are so plentiful in this area, that catching them is almost guaranteed.

How did I do at squid jigging?

Well, not the best. I did not become the world class squid jigger as I hoped. In two nights of squid jigging, I only caught one.

Perhaps it was simply rotten luck or perhaps I was jigging all wrong. Who knows, but one thing is for certain; I don’t expect any job offers on a squid jigging rig. Most people caught at least three to five squids. One night a person caught 18. Yes, 18 squid!! Another boat, reportedly caught 45. But me, only one.

However even though the squid were not biting for me, I still had a blast because squid jigging was only part of my experience. I also was treated to gorgeous golden sunsets over the watery horizon courtesy of Mother Nature herself.

I was able to break the language barrier to catch a laugh with people from different cultures and walks of life; something I always enjoy doing.

I got to joke around with the local boat captains, I was starting to become a local,  and my other squid jiggers, and as we passed the night jigging, we sang songs adding the word “squid” in as many times as possible. A few of my favorites were Adel’s hit song “Never Mind I’ll Find another Squid” and the Bruno Mars classic “Just the Squid You Are”.

Actually now that I think about it, my horrific singing might have been what scared the squid away from the boat resulting in me doing so poorly.Damn this out of tune voice!!

The truth is that I may not be much of a fisherman, but I have to say it was thrilling to catch my first squid! It only wetted my appetite and even though I did not become a world class squid jigglier, I made fond memories that I will cherish for a long time.

I only saw about 30 percent of this Malaysian state on my visit, but it made quite an impression on me. I plan on returning next April to give squid jigging another shot and see more of this amazingly beautiful country that is full of adventure.

If you’re all caught up on your Malaysia Travel Tips and if the country is on your bucket list, make sure you give squid jigging a try. After all, you are promised great sunsets, lots of laughs, and no doubt, you will probably out jig me. Also check out the best way to get from Malaysia to Singapore.


2 thoughts on “The Art of Squid Jigging”

  1. Thanks for introducing me to the concept of squid jigging. It sounds like a novel and great way to fish. I think like you I’d struggle with noticing any difference in weight. Further my very limited experience of fishing has been highly unsuccessful. In 2 trips I had one bite, that was from an eel and the organiser cut my line so I never reeled it in.

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