As the setting sun painted the sky orange in the horizon, Philemon Foo Choong Ming, 39, lowered his squid jig into the vast South China Sea, until the sinker had reached the seabed. As an experienced angler and co-founder of The Asian Angler Magazine, a free monthly fishing lifestyle e-zine, Foo would have preferred fishing using modern gear of which includes a fishing rod, a reel, and non-stretch braided lines over traditional hand lining methods of catching squid, commonly used in the East Coast, especially in Terengganu.
Still, Foo was game to try his luck once more and was hopeful for a good catch. Two days ago, he was one of few out of the 122 participants from various local and international media publications from 28 countries who had managed to catch squid during the first round out to sea. Then, twelve diesel-powered wooden fishing boats were anchored some 10km off Redang Island in Terengganu but the sea was too rough that many had fallen victim to seasickness.
With his right hand holding on to the monofilament fishing line and slowly jigging it in an up-down motion ever so often to attract squids to bite the luminous jig, Foo explained, “Squid jigging requires loads of patience, passion, skill, knowledge, experience and luck. One needs to know which line strength to use in a particular sea condition, paying close attention to its diameter, the type and colours of jigs to use, the method to tie the jig to the line and even the optimal weight of the sinker.
“In the old days, knowledge on squid jigging was handed down from one generation to another and from trial and error. The jigging spot would usually be about five nautical miles from the shoreline. The boatman’s knowledge of the seas was extremely important to locate the sweet spot where squids schooled.
“These days, with modern technology, fishermen are aided by sonar. The fish finder shoots down a beam into the sea and detects almost everything and converts these movements onto a screen whereby the information would be deciphered by the boatman so that he would know where to set his anchor for the best catch.”
While one could go out to sea from April to October, the ideal time for squid jigging is between April and early June, from 5pm to 6am, on full moon nights because squids are attracted to light. On other nights, the high density spotlights installed to the sides of fishing boats would have to do. To trick squids to bite the jig, one can charge the squid jig with a torch light before dropping it into the sea. Squids are attracted to light and would swim near the spinning glow-in-the-dark jig and hopefully decide to grab it.
During squid jigging season, it is not uncommon for boats to return to shore with at least 100kg of squids. Some would catch up to 400kg from an overnight expedition. When out of season, the quantity of squids drops drastically.
Feeling a tug on his line, Foo quickly retrieved it, only to find that his squid jig cloth was torn. It looked like a squid just got away. Observing Foo, there is a technique to retrieve the line when we suspect there is something on our jig. Said Foo, “We need to be as fast as possible when pulling in our line but it has to be done at a constant pressure to ensure that the squid does not free itself. Also, those who are inexperienced may not be able to feel the difference when a squid has taken a jig. Look out for tugging or a sudden weight on the line.”
While Foo continued with his jigging, there were hoots on the other side of the boat. His boat mates, Thang Ngo, a Vietnamese based in Australia, and Indian couple Swati and Sammie almost simultaneously caught a squid each. It was excitement all around!
These “amateur” fishermen and women were part of the delegation of media representatives from around the world including Malaysia, who descended on the shores of Terengganu at the invitation of Tourism Terengganu to gain first hand experience in squid jigging to better promote this marine recreational sport in the state to their respective audiences. Gaya Travel Magazine was the media coordinator. The event, known as Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival, was held for the second consecutive year following the success of its inaugural edition last year.
This year saw the delegates going out to sea twice, firstly off Redang Island and subsequently off the coast of Kuala Terengganu with an average sea depth of 60 feet.
Besides jigging for squids, they were also introduced to the local culture and were taken to visit some of Terengganu’s most popular tourist attractions such as Lake Kenyir, Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village (KECV) and Islamic Heritage Park.
To experience squid jigging, contact Tourism Terengganu to arrange a squid jigging expedition. Terengganu – Beautiful State, Beautiful Culture.
Add: Terengganu State Secretary Office, 9th floor, Wisma Darul Iman, 20503 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu Darul Iman.
Tel: +609-623 1957
Facebook: Tourism Terengganu
Note: An edited version of this article [One Squid, Two Squids…..It’s all in the jig] was published on 19th June, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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