If you want to catch whopping fish that hit hard and fight mean, go cod fishing in Norway, says Henry Gilbey
Cod fishing in Norway is exhilarating and addictive. UK waters may not have the big cod they used to, but Norway has more than enough to go round. If you want to fish until you collapse, fighting with the meanest and biggest fish out there, look no further than cod fishing in Norway.
Cod fishing in Norway is certainly worthy of a spot on any keen fisherman’s bucket list. See what other challenges you should test yourself with, read 5 things to add to your fishing bucket list.
COD FISHING IN NORWAY
Do you want to catch so many big, arm-wrenching fish that your whole body will cry out for a break only a couple of hours into your holiday? Hook fish of outrageous sizes that hit hard, fight mean, and make other, lesser species in European waters feel somewhat pedestrian? Would you like to be able to fish until you collapse? If you go to the right areas of Norway then you can get in among some sea-fishing, the like of which we simply don’t see any more in the UK, and some places even give you the chance to hire a boat with a few friends and do cod fishing in Norway all yourself. Big, bucket-mouth cod, crash-diving coalfish (once you’ve hooked one of these, you will forget all about pollack), and even some huge halibut, the world’s turbo-charged, oversized flatfish. Piscatorial paradise lies in cod fishing in Norway, the land of the fjords and uninterrupted summer daylight.
There is no avoiding the fact that our UK stocks of big cod are but a shadow of their former selves, and giant coalfish seem to be a distant memory. As for halibut, I can’t recall the last one I heard of caught on rod and line in UK waters. If you want rod-breaking, unsubtle, but hugely fun fishing, then the best place is to go cod fishing in Norway. The Norwegians remain outside of EU rules and regulations, which may have something to do with why they have many fish when we have few.
This magnificent country is famous for many things, including the Northern Lights, black metal rock (its largest cultural export), 24-hour daylight above the Arctic Circle during summer, a truly breathtaking coastline set with any number of deep, fish-filled fjords and, of course, some of the best Atlantic salmon fishing on earth. But just as Norway can give up huge salmon from its many rivers, its seas seem to be full of cod that are sometimes so big you will have to convince yourself it is a cod, and not some speckled yellow truck on the end of your line.
I like cod, in fact I love cod. They are like that television advert, “it does what it says on the tin”. Thump, thump, head down, eat everything. Cod can get really big if they are allowed to – they have been taken over 100lb in nets over in Norway – and when they are in the mood they will jump on the end of your line in a wonderfully honest, unsubtle way.
COD FISHING IN NORWAY: STUPIDLY POWERFUL FISH
A big coalfish is one of the best sporting fish I know of, but the problem has always been that so few anglers have ever actually hooked one. Sure, we catch plenty of decent pollack around the UK, and they are great fish when they take and crash-dive but they are like mice when compared to the stamina and power of a big coalfish. The real trick to catching the big, powerful, 25lb-plus coalfish while cod fishing in Norway is to go to the right areas, for their “problem”, if you like, is that during summer especially, some areas are literally infested with vast shoals of smaller coalfish. So what is wrong with this, you might ask. Well, there are sometimes so many of them that it can be almost impossible to get a lure through them to the bigger fish below. Therefore you need to go where the small ones do not tend to venture.
And as for halibut, I know of no other place in Europe where you run the risk of tangling with fish so stupidly powerful that various tales of their capture have gone down in angling legend. Lots of people could look at a photo of halibut and snigger at my talking them up, but then speak to somebody who has hooked a 100lb-plus supersize flatfish and you will understand exactly what I mean. I have even met skippers on the west coast of Canada who carry a handgun for dispatching a big halibut they intend to take home for eating; they will not run the risk of a hefty live halibut thrashing around on board. Halibut do not like being hooked, but Norway will give you the best possible chance of hooking a serious monster. I know of a 400lb-plus halibut landed on rod and line last year in Norway. Big enough?
COD FISHING IN NORWAY: DIY FISHING
One of the great things about going cod fishing in Norway is that there is often the option to go and do your own thing. DIY fishing grabs me. Up and down the coast there are specialist operations where you can hire a small, fast boat designed for these cold waters. Lots of the places are purpose-built fishing operations that offer accommodation, tackle, boats, local advice, and so on. Some anglers will want to hire a guide or skipper to help them out, either for the first few days or for their whole visit but, increasingly, visitors take boats out and go where they want.
If this seems somewhat gung-ho, you need to remember that Norway’s staggering coastline offers much shelter and protection by fishing within the confines of the deep fjords or tucked away behind the many islands. Indeed, it is often better fishing within rather than outside the fjords. If you have had no experience of boat-fishing, I would advise that you hire a skipper for a few days, but for those of you well versed in boat-fishing, then have a go. The bulk of the cod fishing in Norway will be on the drift, and be sure to ask your camp managers for the most likely fishing spots.
All boats I know of come with an essential fish finder/depth sounder, plus the required safety equipment, of course. Unlike a lot of our boat-fishing in the UK, another thing I love about cod fishing in Norway is that you won’t be spending your time steaming miles and miles to the fishing. There is something deeply satisfying about doing it all yourself. Some friends of mine have just come back from a DIY fishing trip to Norway that was so successful they booked a return visit before they even left: so many cod to over 50lb that they lost count, plenty of big coalfish to 30lb, and even some 150lb-plus halibut to round off their week.
There is one principal secret to sea-fishing in Norway, and it’s something that has stuck in my mind ever since I was let in on it. A Norwegian friend of mine once told me: “We let the tourists go sea-fishing in the south, while us lot go fishing in the north.” I trusted his information and never looked back, indeed my arms took a week to recover from the daft numbers of cod and coalfish we caught. You will read and digest plenty of information when it comes to planning a fishing trip to Norway, but you need to head north, and generally above the Arctic Circle to get the best cod fishing in Norway. The cold waters are perfect for thriving fish populations.
COD FISHING IN NORWAY: WHAT TO CATCH?
But now comes your next dilemma. What would you like to try and catch? Huge cod are great fun but nobody could ever accuse them of being the hardest fighting things in the sea. Some anglers want nothing more than to try and catch big cod all day long but, personally, this does not hold enough appeal to me after my arms have fallen off for the first time. I am going to let you in on another secret of cod fishing in Norway, because I lied when I said there was only one. I’ve heard plenty of rubbish about catching big coalfish in Norway, when, in fact, the guys are jumping for joy at a mere 10lb fish. This might raise eyebrows at home, but you really need to go to the one of the major areas where the biggest coalfish amass in huge shoals during the late spring and summer months. When I first heard about this I will admit to believing I was being hoodwinked. But then I went there.
You need to head for the southern Lofoten Islands, a chain of lonely rocks perched many miles from land. Regular ferry services run there from the town of Bodø, and the airport has daily flights to and from places like Oslo and Tromsø. The tiny, southernmost inhabited Lofoten island of Røst is possibly the best place in Norway to get at these huge coalfish. You can also catch all the massive cod you need to out there, and the halibut grounds are perhaps the most consistent in the country, but you will simply not believe the numbers of big coalfish that gather there during the “warmer” months.
Every season coalfish to over 40lb are taken, and I know of no other place that will give you this chance. If you have not caught big cod before, by all means fill your boots by going cod fishing in Norway, but I guarantee that you will forget them once you have caught a big coalfish. They love to crash dive when you hook them, and they keep on diving again and again. They are a sport fish in the truest sense of the word. Coalfish are not nearly as affected by pressure change as the more humble pollack, and what is really surprising about the fishing grounds around Røst is that you will not be fishing in very deep water. In fact, the biggest coalfish and halibut come from water usually less than 30 metres deep. Røst’s waters are nice and easy, but full of horribly big fish that want to pull your arms off. Norway is fishing heaven. The logical advice is to take a 30lb class boat-fishing outfit. This is great for when the water is deep or if you are targeting halibut. But I have had the most fun catching coalfish to over 35lb and cod to 40lb on powerful spinning rods and reels.
A spinning rod rated, say, 40g to 100g will do the job, and the Tenryu Bull Dog 7.6 (see www.mrfishjersey.net) will do virtually everything you need out there. Braid mainlines are vital, and 30lb works for me. Most of the cod, coalfish and even halibut are taken on big, soft plastic lures such as the ever-dependable range of Storm shads – from the “small” 5in models right through to the aptly named Storm Giant jigging shad. Other modern soft plastics such as the MegaBass Mother worm and rolling shad, fished on various sizes of jig head, also kill.
Finally, take clothing that can cope with cold conditions out at sea while cod fishing in Norway, but ask first because some places offer free use of specialist flotation suits that are perfectly suited to fishing in northern Norway when the temperatures dip.
WHERE TO GO
- Røst offers the best all round boat-fishing that I am aware of, with options for self-drive and skippered boats, regular ferries from Bodø (and Norway ferries are notably efficient), and lots of flights from Oslo.
Visit www.wildwater.se or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They sort out boats, accommodation and information. This is the place for numbers of the biggest coalfish, and also the largest halibut in Europe; lots of monster cod as well.
- Anglers World Holidays runs a package of self-drive and skippered boats, especially out of the northern port of Skjervøy. Prices from £279 per person. For details call 01246 221717 or visit www.anglersworld.tv.
- There is a good self-drive boat-fishing operation near the airport of Tromsø at Solbergfjorden. For details call 01603 407596 or visit www.sportquestholidays.com.