How to go squid fishing in El Nido

Evening boat trip in El Nido
Evening boat trip in El Nido

I like Squid. But I have no idea how to catch them. I thought it was through deep sea netting. But in local cantina’s all over the Philippines there are squid for sale. So I figured that theory went out the window.

El Nido tour agency’s offer trawling tours, fishing tours and squid fishing tours. All at very high prices, unless you are with a group. Rex, it seemed, was my answer. I asked him if he ever went fishing. Turned out he didn’t. But that said, for the price of the fuel alone we went out for a night of squid fishing.

El Nido at 6pm takes on more of an orange than golden sunset glow. Our banka (pump boat) chugged along the quite waters around

A paraffin lamp used in squid fishing
A paraffin lamp used in squid fishing

the bay. Rex was his usual silent self and it all seemed pretty relaxing. It could be a long night as I wasn’t so confident that we’d catch anything.

As darkness fell over El Nido Rex brought the Banka to a halt, dropped anchor and showed me the whole process of how to catch squid.

The most important element to squid fishing is to attract the squid. This comes in the form of bait, and a source of light. In this case a pump action paraffin lamp hanging over the side of the boat. It took longer than one would think to set it up, but once working it lit up sea below.

A myriad of tiny little blue fish swam by. A huge jellyfish listed gently off our starboard side. And every now and then something would knock off the boat side.

Squid fishing bait and bucket
Squid fishing bait and bucket

I wasn’t so concerned it was a giant killer squid or anything, but the strange knocking, and splashing had me wondering.

“Flying fish,” said Rex in a lispy accent.

I stared at one of the banka’s floats for a while and then caught a glimpse of a small blue backed fish piercing the still water. Then another, only this one ricochet right off the boats wooden hull. Noise explained.

Taking out his bait bucket he showed me the 4 oblong white fish. All strapped to a line as if cowboy captives in an old western. At the tail end was an inverted umbrella of hooks. The idea is to drop the bait, the squid then come up to it, wrap their tentacles around the fish and and start munching.

You then yank the fishing line at random intervals in a hope that there is one squid latched on and in turn you spear it with the hooks.

Quite easy. Rex tied four lines to the four corners of the boat. Then we waited. Every 3 minutes he’d pull at the two lines at his end, and I would do the same.

I took only 40 minutes before he let out a shout for the first catch. A tiny little squid no bigger than a large thumb. It squirted water out and was thrown into the bucket. It seemed my own line tugging abilities were not as good.

Freshly caught squid
Freshly caught squid

We moved location after Rex was on his 4th squid catch. I was guessing it was because he was sitting beside the light. My luck changed with the new spot though. Giving one of my lines a tug I felt it drag a little more than usual. I tugged hard and then pulled up the line quickly as Rex came over with a bucket.

Sure enough there it was, even smaller than my thumb, my first catch of the night. With that I then became paranoid and began pulling the lines up more frequently, thinking they were heavier than usual. It was hard to judge, and as Rex continued to trawl in more and more little squid I calmly let my own tugging down.

Then, one more tug later I felt the heavy weight of something real. I pulled at the line quickly as Rex had said, so as not to loose the squid. The waters surface broke and out came the catch of the night. A squid the length of my forearm!

We could have gone on all night. But we already had more than enough to eat. The engines chugging we headed back to shore for a midnight BBQ.

Bucket of fresh squid
Bucket of fresh squid

I only wanted my own catch of the day, but Rex insisted on cooking all the squid. A half hour of looking for firewood later, and soon the squid were sizzling away. I wouldn’t call Rex a gourmet chef. Calamansi, and … well … that was about it. But soon enough there was a row of Squid on the table.

Strangely we were the only one’s around. In a lot of other countries the call of free food would have brought plenty out. Here, we had the feast to ourselves.

Grilling squid in El Nido
Grilling squid in El Nido

There was something new though. I thought Rex had covered several of the squid in salt as I could see the large crystals. One bite and I changed the idea to him having covered them in sugar. The squid were very sweet, and not really my thing. It turned out the salt / sugar was actually squid eggs.

The little squid were in fact females, and the eggs are a reserved delicacy. Still not my thing. At least my catch of the day squid was a male, no eggs. Just good meat.

Much like my previous entry, another surprise came the next day when Rex came back with amples of left over squid he’d made an adobo out of. No more sweetness, just good food straight from the sea.

Coming soon:

Looking for a job on an island

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4 Replies to “How to go squid fishing in El Nido”

  1. Hello Sir,
    I’ve subscribed to your website for almost 3 months now and I can see that you are enjoying your stay. If only I have the right to inform the Philippine government to allow you to stay in any Islands or City that you prefer I would do that. Thank you for keeping us posted in your experiences. Not all Filipinos have their chance to experience what you have in there. Again, thank you sooo much. Looking forward for more updates.

    1. Hi Tati, thanks for your kind words. I am very glad that you subscribed to my journey and have been following my journey along. Thanks also for your good wishes.
      I hope my journey can highlight many aspects of the philippines that not just people around the world but also locals in the philippines can see what a great place it is. Moreover how wonderful the people are!

  2. Ey homeless man seeking home (hehe),

    Am a Filipino (Cebuano) living in another country for the moment and would just like to say that very fresh squid meat is really on the sweetish side.

    Would be safe to call the whole planet your home. It’s entertaining to hear about your love-hate relationship with my wonderful country (!).

    Wish you more meaningful experiences and finding home.

    1. -JOnathan- Yes, it seems fresh squid is indeed very sweet. The eggs made it more so. Not to my taste though! Glad you enjoy the site, and thanks for your good wishes!

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