It’s time to go squid jigging again on the beautiful waters of Terengganu, Malaysia! I had an incredible time catching squid during the first squid jigging festival last year that I was looking forward to this year’s event (Read about my first squid jigging experience last year.) The Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015 (Pesta Candat Sotong Antarabangsa Terengganu 2015) was held from June 2 to 7, 2015 and was attended by more than 120 journalists and bloggers from 28 countries. To promote tourism in the Malaysian state with the theme “Beautiful State, Beautiful Culture”, the festival takes its participants on traditional squid jigging excursions and eye-opening tours around the natural and historical attractions in Kuala Terengganu, Setiu and Hulu Terengganu districts.
What is Squid Jigging?
Practiced by Terengganu fisherfolk for generations, squid jigging – known in Bahasa Malaysia as candat sotong – is a type of handline fishing that involves catching squid from deep waters with a barbed sinker and jigs (lures) to a nylon string. The needle-sharp jigs are slender-shaped and colorful – some of them are glow-in-the-dark – to mimic prawns, the favorite prey of cephalopods like squid and cuttlefish. Thrown overboard, the fishing line is unspooled and sent to the bottom of the ocean floor with the weight of the metal sinker. The handline is occasionally yanked, so that the lures move underwater, consequently attracting squid to capture the bait.
In Terengganu, squid jigging season runs from March and November, coinciding with the spawning season of these marine creatures. Squid jigging is done between dusk and dawn. Fishing boats in Terengganu head out at least five nautical miles from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, catching squid between 5:00 PM and 6:00 AM. According to the briefing on the first day of the festival, there are five commercially important sotong or squid species that thrive in the waters of Terengganu, namely, sotong torak or mitre squid (Loligo chinensis), sotong ketupat (Loligo duvaucelli), sotong jarum or siboga squid (Loligo sibogae), sotong mengabang or big-fin reef squid/oval squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana), and sotong katak or cuttlefish (Sepia spp.).
Squid Jigging Experience
There were two squid jigging trips during the six-day festival. Each trip lasted from 5:00 and 9:00 PM with two hours of travel time. In between the fishing excursions, the participants explored the main tourist attractions in the state and participated in ongoing celebrations such as the Kenyir Festival in Lake Kenyir, Hulu Terengganu and Terengganu Peranakan Festival in Kampung Cina (Chinatown), Kuala Terengganu.
The first trip departed from Redang Island (Pulau Redang) with participants divided in groups of ten. After an hour of travel, we finally reached open waters. As the sun sank in the horizon, big waves started to pick up and rock our boat violently, causing seasickness among half the people on our boat. Despite of our discomfort, our first boat trip yielded no catch. Our fishing lines failed to snag any squid, and only a few other boats did.
On the final day of the festival, the second trip departed from Duyong Marina & Resort (formerly Ri-Yaz Heritage Resort & Spa), a sprawling resort located on the mouth of the Terengganu River. Optimism was in the air; everyone seemed determined to catch more squid this time. Persistence was paid even before night fall. Boats began hauling in squid one after the other in half an hour after anchoring. We could hear the other participants cheering with every catch.
While others were starting to catch squid, our jigs returned empty. Just when our boat captain decided to move to another spot, our boat finally got its first catch, courtesy of Izzati, a travel and lifestyle blogger at Kisah Tatie. She managed to catch a big sotong torak which measure measured more than a foot long! Soon, others on the boat began hauling in more sotong torak. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to catch any squid this year, but I was delighted to watch others experience their first catch. Danish blogger Ekaterina of Travellers Planet and her sister were particularly excited to finally catch one.
Unlike other fishing practices like trawling, squid jigging is a selective fishing method. There is often no by-catch. But on rare occasions, you can find other things captured at the end of the line. Curiously, a French journalist on our boat was able to catch a small fish, which the boat captain identified as ikan kuning or yellowstripe scad. Other boats even caught a couple of small crabs! Those lures must look extremely appetizing to these marine critters. Our fishing boat, Boat No. 11, ended up catching seven sotong torak, plus a small ikan kuning!
Overall, I think squid jigging is an extremely enjoyable and rewarding activity, especially if you’re traveling to Terengganu with family or a group of friends who loves the outdoors. Those who are prone to seasickness, however, may have second thoughts as the waters off Terengganu can be rough when the tides shift. Nonetheless, the sunset views over the Terengganu mainland and offshore islands are stunning, and make these squid jigging trips a scenic way to experience local culture. Without a doubt, this unique experience deepened my admiration for hardworking and persevering fishermen like the ones we met on our squid jigging excursions who make a living putting seafood on the table.
Squid Jigging Tours
Do you want to experience squid fishing in Terengganu? Squid jigging tours can be arranged by tour agencies and resorts in Kuala Terengganu. A squid jigging trip costs approximately MYR 220 per person for a minimum group of six, inclusive of fishing boat, jetty transfers, driver-cum-guide, and squid jigging gear. If you are prone to seasickness, take medication and bring a sickness bag, as the waters off Terengganu can be rough.
For more information on squid jigging tours in Terengganu, please contact Tourism Terengganu at 9F Wisma Darul Iman, Kuala Terengganu 20503; Tel. no. +60 96262020; Fax no. +60 96262022; Email : email@example.com.
This blog post was made possible through the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015, a media event held last June 2 to 7, 2015 in Terengganu, Malaysia. The event was organized by Tourism Terengganu and media coordinator, Gaya Travel Magazine.