Terengganu Treasures : Sun, Sea, Squids!

Clear blue sky. Shining sun above you. Dark blue sea beneath you.

Pulau Pinang, Redang Marine Park

These were the things that made my Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015 one of my most memorable experiences this year (for the first half of the year so far, anyways). About 120 medias from 28 different countries participated in this year’s squid jigging festival – namely USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Denmark, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Russia, France, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Philippines, The Netherlands, India, Indonesia, Sweden and Malaysia.

Sun, Sea, Squids!

Terengganu is one of Malaysia’s 14 states that is blessed with beautiful sunny weather and great blue ocean. All round the year, Terengganu experiences hot and humid weather. Between February and October, there is low rainfall but the North-East monsoon starts from November to January, leading to heavy rainfall.

Terengganu has several outlying islands such as Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang (The Emerald Island of Malaysia) and Pulau Kapas which are popular with local and international tourists. There are many water activities available at these islands and one of them is, squid jigging!

What is Squid Jigging?

Squid jigging, or known in Bahasa Malaysia as candat sotong has been around in Terengganu for many generations. The traditional squid jigging uses a handline of nylon string with barbed sinker and jigs tied to the string. The jigs are slim and comes in bright colors (and some glow-in-the-dark jigs too). This is to mimic prawns, which happens to be the squids’ favorite prey. However, sometimes some fishermen also use fresh fish as baits by hooking it at the barbed sinker.

Squid jigging using handline is fairly easy. You just release the nylon string until it touches the ocean floor. Then, you yank the string about an arm’s length every few seconds or more. This is done to move the jigs in the water, which will lure the squids to your jigs. You’ll know you caught a squid when you feel a tug on your string. The bigger the squid, the stronger the tug. You have to quickly roll the string but don’t yank too hard or you might un-head your squid.

Squid jigging season starts from March to October each year, the best time to jig each month is during full moon. Fishermen goes out to sea around 5pm and only come back after dawn around 6am. We were told that the most common squids to be found in Terengganu waters are Sotong Torak (Mitre Squid), Sotong Jarum (Siboga Squid), Sotong Katak (Cuttlefish), Sotong Mengabang (Oval Squid) and Sotong Ketupat.

This year, the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015 was held on 2nd-7th June 2015.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015

Day 1

It all began at 4 in the evening, on that first day, when participants from 28 different countries gathered in front of Redang Island Resort. It was a hot day, with the sun shining on our backs since morning, sunblocks passed around to cover up our exposed skin and we were waiting for the announcement to segregate more than 100 participants to their respective boats.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

We were given the choice to take motion sickness pill or not and most of us opted for it – including me, having experienced rough waters on last year’s squid jigging festival, I don’t think it’s a good idea to puke the contents of my stomach at the side of the boat in the middle of the sea. The motion sickness pill is to be taken 20-30 minutes before setting off.

After our names were called and our boat numbers informed, we went to the jetty to the big boats before being transferred to the smaller boats. My boat consists of 7 participants including myself. Once all of the smaller boats are full, we all set out to 2 nautical miles away from Redang and Kapas Island. The journey took about 1 hour to our destination.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

The waters on Day 1 were pretty rough. Even before arriving at our destination, one of my boat member was already complaining of being dizzy. By the time we anchored, she was already looking pale and slightly disoriented. Before long, she started puking at the side of the boat, even though we tried to help by giving her some ointments. I thanked the stars (although it wasn’t out yet at the time) for popping the motion sickness pill before heading out to sea.

Did we get anything on that first day? Nope, nada.

RaW "sleep jigging"

RaW “sleep jigging”

Jig like a bawse

Jig like a bawse

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

I was disappointed. Last year I caught at least 3 squids on the first day but this year, there was nothing. By the time the clock showed 7.30pm, we were all tired and sleepy. At least the sunset was beautiful that evening but the strong wind and rocking boat did not help my sleepy state. I ended up sleeping at the back of the boat, on comfy fishnets with my hands around the handline. We headed back to Redang Island Resort at 8pm and arrived at Redang Island Resort after 9pm for dinner.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival
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Day 2

This time around, the atmosphere was different for all of us. Everyone seemed determined to catch more squids and no one wants to return home empty handed.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

There were 13 boats in total, where we departed for 2 nautical miles off Duyong Marina Resort Jetty in Kuala Terengganu at 5pm. Just like the first day, the journey took about 1 hour to our desired jigging location. Boats anchored close to each other, which was probably the reason why we became quite competitive not long after anchoring.

“We’re Americans, we’re very competitive,” Lina from Divergent Travelers said, as she sat across me.

I smiled. I don’t usually show my competitive side but when I start, it’s really hard to stop. The close distance with other boats fueled our “competitiveness”. Before long, we started hearing cheers and screams from the boats nearby, it was more like an out-of-tune symphony and it pissed us off.

“Where are all the squids? Hello squids, where are you?” Acen of Jalan Pendaki asked out loud to the open sea.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival

Boat captain

After nearly an hour of nothing but air, our boat captain decided to change to another spot and after we anchored, I sat at the front side of the boat and just can’t stop yanking the handline. The cheers from other boats fueled my determination to get at least one squid, if possible – or if not, maybe I would go home with chiseled biceps instead. I didn’t care that the sun was shining directly on my face, my competitive nature was swimming right up to the surface and I said to myself, if I didn’t get any squid soon, I might jump into the water and catch one with my own hands.

Which, when that exact thought came into my mind, I felt a tug on my handline. I quickly rolled the nylon string and voila, first squid caught!

Excuse my "burnt" skin

Excuse my “burnt” skin

The first squid got the others rolling and before long, we caught a total of 9 squids. The ladies caught the squids but the guys weren’t so lucky – sorry guys! Maybe if we had baits (in form of pieces of fish or small fish) on our jigs, we could’ve caught more but we did it the traditional way, the “cleaner” way, they say.

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival Photo by Normala

We arrived at Duyong Marina & Resort completely satisfied that night.

Squid Jigging Information

The Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival starts from March of each year until October. There are many tour operators (including boat rides) that can be found or arranged from Kuala Terengganu. For more information on squid jigging tours, contact below :

Tourism Terengganu
9F, Wisma Darul Iman, 20503 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu.
Tel : +609 626 2020
Email : info@terengganutourism.com

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TISJF This event was made possible by Tourism Terengganu and the media coordinator, Gaya Travel Magazine in conjunction with the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015.