Squid Jigging – Catching My Own Dinner

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What is the first thing you think about when you hear the words – Squid Jigging? Honestly? I thought it was a special dance that people did to summon the squid to the surface in order to catch them. When it comes to fishing I have quite a sheltered life. When I was asked to visit the Squid Jigging festival in Kuala Terengganu, Northern Malaysia I had to do quite a bit of research to – (a) find out what it meant, and (b) whether it was something that I would enjoy. It’s easy to say ‘yes’to a lot of things as a blogger, but in this case it was 100% the right answer.

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Kuala Terengganu hosts the Squid Jigging festival annually around May/June time at the peak time for a good catch. On my week in this northern state we had two opportunities to ‘Jig the Squid’ and embarked on fishing trips of up to five hours  just off the coast. The small boats of around six people head out one by one and I loved the fact that they were all different colours – such a pretty sight on the water!

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Once the anchor was lowered we were given what actually looks like a crabbing line, something that I’ve used down on the Dorset coast many times. The round handle unravels so that the line swiftly drops all the way to the bottom of the ocean – a rather scary reminder of just how deep it was out there. With two hooks (Jigs) on the end you use one hand to ‘jerk’ or pull the line up and down constantly for as long as it takes. The jig looks like bait and lures in the Squid for a closer look – hopefully just enough to make a catch.

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Tip 1 – Its a great arm work out, set a pace, don’t wear yourself out too quickly.

Tip 2 – Change arms, you don’t want to look like Popeye on just one side!

Every now and then the captain shouted something in Malay and we all madly reeled in our lines as quickly as possible while they were pulling up anchor and getting ready to move to a new spot. As it gets darker it supposedly gets a little easier with more opportunity to catch Squid. Our boat managed to get its first just as the sun had set.

Tip 3 – Take a camera, I saw one of the best sunsets whilst fishing and the jigging was put on hold whilst I snapped away for a good 30 minutes, trying to capture the red sky.

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Our first night of Squid Jigging was seriously rocky and many were unwell, but again, when the sea is slightly rougher and the night that little bit stormier then you should have a much better yield. That being said, the second Squid Jigging trip was a lot calmer and the catch just as good if not better – so that theory isn’t always consistent.

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Tip 4 – Take Sea-sick tablets 1 hour before (I thought I could handle it and I was WRONG) I am never unwell but I would urge everyone to take them whether you think you should or not.

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When you catch that first one you can’t help but erupt in cheer as the whole boat stops what they’re doing to observe. It was amazing to hear this cheering all over the sea as one by one each boat caught another one. We carried on a few more hours into the night, and some say that off the East Coast of Malaysia groups of squid can be seen shimmering on the surface – some have been mistaken in the past for mermaid sightings.

Tip 5 – It can get a little cooler at night so be prepared with a warmer top – equally it can feel just as muggy as the daytime so have multiple options.

My favourite part of the whole experience is returning with the catch to enjoy the freshest dinner you’ll ever eat. BBQ grilled squid was phenomenal and we were enjoying it less than an hour after catching it. It makes the dinner that much more worthwhile when you have caught it yourself. The chefs did an amazing job at preparing the lovely food on the beach when we returned.

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Another incredible dining experience came from our afternoon of clam digging. We were taken out on even smaller boats this time from Muara Kuala Baru, Mangkuk Village. Once at the mouth of the estuary we jumped ship one by one, standing in sandy/muddy water up to our thighs. With my little pink shopping basket I shuffled my feet along the river bed feeling the whole time for something – I had no idea what. We were pretty much told – ‘You’ll feel it!’. I definitely felt something but when my hand emerged with lumps of hard clay and empty shells I felt somewhat disappointed.

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Even the locals started feeling sorry for me, which was when I knew I was pretty bad at this, they started finding them for me and putting them in my basket. I considered taking the credit but in the end I realised I wasn’t a five year old! Then finally, I found one! Just one. Yet that was enough for me to feel like I’d joined in and got us all something to eat. A teeny, tiny, little clam.

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Again that evening our wonderful chefs cooked up a feast using all of the clams we had caught that afternoon. They were so delicious I can’t even describe it in words – just know that I ate upwards of 50 clams…..just for my starter. You get the message, they were yummy. I would absolutely recommend this as an inexpensive yet rewarding activity to do when in Malaysia and more so in Terengganu.

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This post shows just some of the amazing food that Terengganu has to offer. It is definitely the place for fresh seafood and I would urge you to make the most of that luxury. If you didn’t eat Squid or Clams before, three words – You. Will. Now. #heavenly

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If anyone has been Squid Jigging before I’d love to hear about it! Please comment below and let me know how you found it…

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