malaysian squid fishing boats - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Malaysian fishing boats depart for a night of squid jigging

Each year from April to the end of August on the northern coast of Malaysia it is squid jigging season. Hundreds of fishermen go far out into the ocean in their boats just before dark in an attempt to catch a bunch of squid. They stay out on their boats all night long with large lights on beaming into the water that emulate the moon and attract the gelatinous creatures. However before my trip to Malaysia in April I didn’t know anything about it.

“I would like to invite you to the International Squid Jigging Fest 2014 which will be held on 12-16 of April in Terengganu, Malaysia” was how an email read, that I had found in my inbox this past March. Now for certain this was one of the most interesting emails that I had received as a travel blogger. However being an East Coast Canadian girl who grew up with a cottage on the ocean I knew what squid jigging was and my first thought was “Cool!”. However I didn’t really believe the email so I ran to Facebook and asked my friends if they to had gotten this email. A couple did and many others responded with a “What the heck is squid jigging?”. Both of those responses confirmed to me that I must go, 1. because indeed it must be for real if other friends got the same offer 2. I hadn’t been to Malaysia yet and 3. The people that don’t know about squid jigging need to know!

I flew into to Terengganu, Malaysia where I would be for a week exploring the area and nearby islands, trying new foods like Durian, learning about the culture and religion of the area, taking boating trips on beautiful lakes, releasing terrapins (turtles), visiting museums, learning about batik, and a lot more including going squid jigging twice. However we weren’t squid jigging just for the fun of it, this was a competition between 200 international media and this was serious business.

Well as serious as you can be with people who have never gone squid jigging before.

exploring white sand beaches in terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Exploring the white sand beaches of Terengganu

hand woven mat terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Learning how to hand weave mats

Lake Kenyir in Terengganu, Malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Visiting the beautiful Lake Kenyir, the largest man made lake in South East Asia

mangrove plants - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Planting mangrove trees and learning about how they protect towns from tsunamis 

releasing terrapins in terengganu, Malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Releasing terrapins into the wild to help the population grow

Squid jigging is fairly easy to do as long as you have a boat captain that knows where the squid are. Once you get to the prime squid jigging location you take your hand line (a fishing line minus the pole) which typically has at least two jiggers on it (squid jigging hooks) and you throw the hooks over board and let out as much fishing line as possible until you can feel the weighted jiggers touch the bottom.  Then you quickly tug aka jig the fishing line up and then let it go back down, then up again and back down and repeat. The rest is a waiting game until you jig a squid.

squid jigging hand lines in terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Colorful hand line jigs with pointy jiggers on them

The first night we went out squid jigging I didn’t catch a single squid however on the second night I caught two and was extremely happy about it.

my first catch squid jigging in terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

My first squid!!

Each boat had a fisheries official on board that would help you with your squid which was a good thing because I didn’t want to touch it. Sure I like to eat them but I do not want to fight with a live one trying to get it off of my hook. They weigh and measure your squid and write notes about it then put it in a bag with your name on it. That way they get to learn about the local squid population and they can also control the squid competition and not allow any cheaters.

judges measure squid at the international squid jigging festival terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

The judges measure and weigh each boat’s catch

Once we made it back to shore more judges weighed and measured our squid and then right there they were cleaned and cooked up for us to enjoy for dinner. Some kind of spice was added to them and they were grilled up on the BBQ right there on the wharf. It was literally the best and freshest calamari I have ever eaten.

squid at the international squid jigging festival in terengganu, malaysia - Learning How to Squid Jig in Malaysia

Squid waiting to be cleaned and thrown on the BBQ

Sadly none of the squid I caught or my boat caught won any prizes however we did have a lot of fun.

2014 was the first year that the International Squid Jigging Festival was open to the public and they plan on having bigger and better celebrations and competitions each year. If you have never gone squid jigging and have always wanted to visit Malaysia I definitely recommend you look into going to the 2015 International Squid Jigging Festival. I hope to be there too!

To learn more about the International Squid Jigging Festival in Terengganu, Malaysia check out my video!


Special thanks to Terengganu, Malaysia for hosting my squid jigging experience. As always all opinions and views expressed are my own.