Norway's Answer to Key West
Article by TeamMustadNorway, Tore Gismervik
and Geir Sivertzen
Remi M.J. Eilertsen
Translated from an article in
the Norwegian magazine
"Jakt & Fiske"
Download original article (in Norwegian) PDF:
Part I - Part II
In January the "Lofot" cod start to appear along the outer part of the Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway . There it waits for the right conditions to go to its spawning grounds. Commercial fishermen have harvested this resource for hundreds of years, but in general sport fishermen have not taken part in this adventure.
The "Lofot" cod is more pelagic, faster and more of a fighter than ordinary coastal cod. In May and April it gathers in large schools along the coast, and it doesn't take lonf for the local fishermen to fill up their drying racks with cleaned fish, some of which will end up as Baccalao in Portugal and Spain , after having been dried for a few months.
We wanted to try out a different kind of "Lofot" fishing and headed for the island of "Å". Rain in the southern part of Norway and bright spring weather in the north didn't make things worse! The first legs of the journey went by plain via the city of Body and Svolvaer and then we rented a car to go to "Å". The alternative is a 13-hour ride in a car from Oslo and then a 3-hour ferry from Bodø to Moskenes.
Preparing the Gear
After having been accommodated in "Å Rorbuer" ( a "rorbu" is a traditional fisherman's cabin) we prepared rods and tackle for the next day. Our hosts could offer a variety of boats for sport fishing, and Thomas, an eager, young German sport fishing guide would take us out on the sea for our first day of fishing. The wind blowing from the east, we chose to the lee side of the archipelago and went out from Ramberg to fish the north-western side of Lofoten. Bringing along some food and sunscreen factor 12, we headed for the adventure.
The cod usually stay close to the bottom, but during the spawning season it will often turn pelagic. It will find layers of water with the right temperature and salinity and spawn there when the time is right.
Until then fishing had been very difficult, and experienced fishermen swore that there had hardly been any fish on the inside of Lofoten, i.e. "Vestfjorden".
We used 3-400g shiny stainless steel jigs and an assortment of rubber worms or rigs with feathers and rubber bodies as droppers. The first drop resulted in a nice coastal cod, and then a 3.6 kg and 6kg Lofot cod. This is within the standard range, but you can also catch cod ranging from 10-20kg and even bigger. After a while we were satisfied and wanted to try another spot.
Now we wanted to go for haddock with smaller hooks and natural bait. Jigging is also efficient for haddock and we landed several of those. We fished close to the bottom at a depth of 80-90 metres. The technique we use is to let the jig hit the bottom from time to time to attract attention.
A Variety of Species
One of the objectives of this trip is to test out the variety of species you can catch at this time of the year. We asked Thomas, the skipper to find a ridge at a depth of about 50 metres from where we could fish down to deeper water, preferably down to 150-200 metres. This wish was immediately granted and with the assistance from a map plotter and an echo sounder we could also "see" the topography at the bottom. Geir (Dr. Hook) was jigging carefully while feeding out line all the time in order to follow the slope as it went down into the deep. This is an efficient method of fishing halibut from a free floating boat. We rigged a trolling tackle with 2 size 14/0 circle hooks baited for wolf-fish, halibut, ling and tusk. Now we went for the Big Ones.
We fished the filet-of-haddock bait close to the bottom. Occasionally we let the sinker touch the bottom for 10-20 seconds before lifting it up with the current. Circle hooks are supposed to be fished passively and when you can feel that there's a fish on your hook you should not make a violent strike, but just tighten the line carefully to make the hook slide into the corner of the fish's mouth.
After a short while, there is fish on both rods . big ones or? Big-size tusk often fight vigorously the first few metres, but then they calm down and you can just reel in until you get it at the surface. But don't allow yourself to be fooled by its apathy, and watch your fingers when handling the fish on deck. The body is sturdy and slippery and it has small but razor sharp teeth. The tusk wriggles like an eel and it's easy to be bitten or get the hook into a finger. Don't hold it inside the gill bows, because these are also very sharp. To be safe you should kill it by a couple of hard blows on the head. It could also be a good idea to use some pliers to get the hook out of the fish mouth.
The next drop went further down and resulted in a small redfish. Not exactly a heroic feat given the fact that it only weighed about 20g more than a postage stamp and was caught on 30lbs tackle. Then Deep sea trolling for big Pollock is something else. Despite the fact that surf casting and sea fly-fishing have gained ground in recent years, Norwegians tend to be fairly conservative with regard to fishing method. Deep sea trolling as it is done in Alaska for King Salmon or trolling for salmon and sea trout around the island of Bornholm is fairly uncommon in Norway .
Our good friend Thomas has developed a special method for Deep sea trolling for Pollock with good results. He uses 20 -25 ft speed boats rigged with down rigs with up to 7 kg weights. Big wobblers down to depths of 30-60 metres entice big Pollock to bite. We have often experienced that small Pollock on the hook have been taken by cod or big Pollock. Unfortunately, we often lose those because the hook is too covered up or the big just bites in the middle of the smaller fish. However, with a big wobbler with good treble hooks and a trolling speed of 1.5-2.5 knots you avoid catching the small Pollock.
If you think this sounds interesting, the municipality of Moskenes with "Å", Reine, Ramberg or the picturesque village of Nusfjord are good places to visit.
"Moskenesstraumen" (Moskenes Stream)
The second day we had the chance of going to the Moskenes Stream with the experienced fishing skipper Oddleif Nilsen. "Saltstraumen" close to the city of Bodø is the world's strongest tidal current. The Moskenesstraumen is not as strong, but very wide with lots of shallows. It is, in fact, known from the French author Jules Verne as the place where the submarine Nautilus sank after having travelled around the world with Captain Nemo.
Upon our arrival we rigged up with jigs and bait tackle in our continued effort to investigate the variety of species in these waters. Such big tidal currents attract a large number of small fish and allows the big fish to really grow BIG.
It is not allowed to take rental boats out into the middle of the stream on your own. Even on calm days the current may create vertical walls of water more than 1.5 metres high and strong vortexes that can turn small boats over and suck them under. Don't fish there! If you can't resist then you should rent a bigger boat with a guide to assist you.
Our man, Oddleiv, guided us securely through the strongest part of the current and we passed "Hell" (an appropriate name?). Then we could test out the halibut grounds. Tore was "on a roll" and his circle hooks brought large tusks and small ling up from the deep. Catching two tusks, 5 and 6 kgs, at the same time in a strong tidal current on sport fishing tackle is a bit out of the ordinary. The 30lbs rod had to take some beating.
Right over the bottom in a steep slope, Geir's rod was suddenly pulled down, and the line rushed out. It takes some load to pull out line from a deep sea reel and the fish must be fairly big. Could it be halibut?
The fish calmed down and Geir was able to "pump" it up from the bottom. After a couple of runs a huge Pollack appeared. Whow!!! His personal record was improved from 4.5 kg to 7.5. Pollacks of that size are not common and this one was as fit as they come! Assisted by the current it put up a fight that will be remembered for a long time.
Lofoten is definitely a region worth visiting for those who enjoy fishing and who also like to experience a genuine coastal environment. In wintertime you will be spellbound by the snow-covered peaks and mountains that come straight up from the sea. It the summer the same mountains are smiling at you with verdigris slopes and walls. Experiencing the majestic Lofoten in snow, sun, rain, winter or spring can be just as impressing as the variety of fishing.