Destination North Norway
Expert guide to the best angling holidays.
There is little doubt that Norway is now the number one overseas destination for British sea anglers. Ever since Sea Angler magazine first reported on the truly outstanding fishing opportunities available in this most beautiful of countries almost 20 years ago, the quality of the fishing here has frequently surpassed the unbelievable.
Stretched out, the Norwegian coastline exceeds that of the United States – that’s both the east and west coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska.
It would take a book of not inconsiderable size to detail exactly what is available to the visiting angler in Norway, so for the purposes of this series I have divided Norway into three sectors, Northern, Central and Southern, and each of these regions offers its own unique fishing opportunities.
Here, we are going to look at Northern Norway, more specifically the Troms and Finmark regions that are located within the Arctic Circle.
Cod is the one species that most anglers want to catch when they first visit Norway. When I began reporting on Norway at the end of the 1990s, the prospects for any British sea angler adding a 20-30lb cod to their personal best list was minimal. Today, though, such fish are considered barely average in northern Norway, where it takes a 40lb, or even a 50lb fish to turn heads, and specimens of 60lb and larger are caught every season.
In recent years, several enormous fish nudging 100lb have been caught, and in April 2013 a German sea angler caught the first rod-and-line cod in excess of 100lb, a monster of 103lb 10oz.
Halibut is another hugely popular target species. Throughout Northern Norway, fish from 20-80lb are common, and 100lb specimens are caught most weeks.
The coalfish is one of the hardest-fighting species of fish an angler can hook in cold water. Now rarely caught in the UK, doublefigure coalfish are common in Norway, where fish weighing over 20lb, and even 30lb, are regularly caught. Other species commonly caught in Northern Norway include haddock, torsk, redfish, plaice, dabs and wolffish, along with occasional angler fish, six-gilled shark, and other unusual species.
WHERE AND WHEN
There is good fishing in the far north of Norway throughout the year, where the majority of camps open from April through until early October.
In recent years, many anglers have travelled to fish earlier in the year to focus upon the tremendous run of ‘skrei.’ These are huge cod that migrate inshore from the Barents Sea to spawn between February and April, and if you specifically want to catch a monster
cod, let’s say a fish in excess of 60lb, then this is the time to travel. Be warned, though, the weather can be nothing short of brutal.
Most camps in Norway offer self-drive boats, with only a few having the option for fishing aboard a skippered charter boat. Operating your own boat is not as daunting a prospect as you might imagine, and many anglers later report that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
If you do not have much boat handling experience I suggest, for your first trip, you select a camp located well within a fjord, as this will give you the opportunity to fish in very calm and sheltered waters. It is worth noting that excellent fishing is regularly found many miles from the open coastline within the inner reaches of the fjords.
A 20/30lb-class boat rod is the ideal all-round rod for Norway. For many years, I have used the excellent Shimano Exage 20-30lb fourpiece travel rods, with which I have caught a great many sizeable fish. If you are specifically targeting huge halibut, you might want to consider using the heavier 30-50lb class version.
I like to use a high-speed retrieve reel in Norway, where I often fish depths in excess of 300ft. I use and recommend a Shimano Torium 16 or 20, fully loaded with around 40-50lb braid.
For many years I used pirks in Norway, but I cannot remember the last time I actually clipped one on my line. These days, I concentrate on fishing large and very large weighted shads, lures such as the Storm Giant Swimming Shad. These are large enough to prevent catching a continual succession of small fish, while the single hook almost invariably results in a solid hook-hold in the corner of the fish’s jaw, facilitating a quick and easy release.
Medium to medium-heavy spinning rods, used to fish smaller weighted shads, provide tremendous sport, especially with big coalfish. Use a 6000 size fixed-spool reel loaded with around 20lb braid, drop the lure all the way down to the bottom and retrieve it at a steady pace through the entire water column until you locate the fish – and you had better make sure your clutch is correctly set.
Finally, livebaiting is illegal in Norway.
ABOVE: Huge halibut are caught during most weeks
Left: The majority of camps open from April through until early October
Most anglers want to catch big cod when they first visit Norway
A 20/30lb-class boat rod is the ideal choice
Haddock are common in Northern Norway
A pair of Storm Giant Swimming Shads