Allan finally managed to visit Northern Norway at the end of June this year, after covid restrictions prevented travel to Norway in 2020 and 2021. Read on to find out all about his trip, along with top tips and tackle advice!
I’ve always enjoyed travelling to Norway, the country feels safe, welcoming and is very scenic. Norwegian people are friendly and all seem to speak perfect English, this is a blessing as I find their language way beyond the scope of my pathetic linguistic skills.
Norway Fishing Trip for Halibut
Travel to Norway
So on the 19th June I met my travel companions Steve and Keith at Heathrow ready to embark on our first post covid international fishing trip.
On the first leg of the trip we were joined on the plane by comedian Michael McIntyre and F1 legend Mark Webber, Michael had a gig in Oslo that evening (plenty of English speaking punters). I had a brief chat with Mark - he is a true F1 hero and a top bloke.
Our second flight was from Oslo to Alta - this is the far North of Norway. Travel was relatively uneventful although we did lose a couple of bags along the way - we were reunited with these the following day.
Accommodation in Norway
Our final destination was Seiland Island, a large island designated a National Park positioned between Soroya Island and Hammerfest, the world’s most northerly town. We were collected from Alta airport by Stig, one half of the Cuban/Norwegian couple Diamela & Stig – our hosts at Seiland House for the week.
The property was formerly a boarding school for children of the district but is now run as an event and conference centre. We were staying in a two bedroom self-catering apartment.
We could come and go as we pleased and could fish from a 19’ open self-drive aluminium boat with an 80hp four stroke outboard. We found the boat could cruise comfortably at 25 knots and had decent fuel economy. The boat is equipped with basic electronics and was more than capable for the fishing we’d come for.
Fishing in Norway
The main focus of the trip was to for halibut but I wanted to see some of the other species this area is known for. The most unusual of which is probably the wolf fish.
These guys are common on most areas of rough ground around Seiland Island. They announce their presence by attacking any lures and jigs that enter their territory. We had a couple that came to the surface just hanging on to lures not hooked but also not willing to give up their prize.
They have a face that only a mother could love and need to be handled with care. Their jaws are incredibly strong and armed with a mix of teeth designed to crunch up any unlucky shellfish or crabs that come their way. The largest caught in Norway weighed in at over 50lbs. They are also popular fish to eat and regarded as a delicacy in Norway.
These were our main source of bait for our halibut fishing. It’s not unusual to see the surface boiling as huge shoals of small coalfish gorge themselves on fry. This feeding frenzy soon attracts the attention of any terns and gulls in the area keen to join in the feast below.
It seems that you are never very far from a shoal of coalfish and anywhere there is a concentration of birds is a great place to drop your string of feathers if you are looking for bait for halibut. Larger coalfish were more difficult to find and it is probably best to look for birds working over deep water as a clue to where they might be.
As Seiland Island is some way from the open ocean you don’t get the monster Skrei cod found at some Norwegian locations at the time we were fishing. That said cod are one of the dominant species and we caught plenty of smaller specimens during our week.
They are found at a range of depths but deeper water seemed the best place to catch larger specimens. Cod can be caught on any of the methods we used on our trip. The most successful was a string of large orange muppets with a large speed jig as a weight.
The main focus of our fishing was the pursuit of halibut, these fish grow to colossal sizes, fight really hard and are great to eat.
The Norwegians introduced some regulations in 2017 and it is now mandatory to release any halibut caught that is larger than 2m in length, this equates to a 100kg fish. It is also recommended that fish that are less than 10kg are also released. This is a good move in my opinion as the fishing needs to be sustainable to keep anglers returning safe in the knowledge that there are some giants left to catch. With this in mind we used single circle hooks of various sizes for all our bait fishing.
Results were good with this set up - every fish that came to the boat was lip hooked and it was possible to release or retain halibut as required. The traditional hook set-up is a two hook rig of single or treble hooks with one hook at each end of the bait. The risk of deep hooking a fish with this rig is high and it would be a shame to accidentally kill a fish that should be released unharmed.
Seiland is an excellent place to catch red fish and can produce really large specimens - these deep water predators are highly rated as table fish by many but we were put off by all the winding involved. Many Europeans take electric reels for this purpose.
Previous trips to Seiland have produced some large specimens but we didn’t bump into any this time. This is a shame as a few haddock fillets would have been very welcome at home.
I used three boat fishing rods during the trip all from the superb new Penn Carnage range.
For bait fishing the Penn Carnage Halibuster 50lb was ideal, these rods are light and powerful with a soft tip that is great for spotting bites and cushioning the rest of the gear from sudden pressure as a hooked fish makes yet another frantic dive for the bottom.
The 30lb Penn Carnage Halibuster proved perfect for lure fishing again with a lovely light feel and plenty of lifting power when required.
My third rod was a Penn Carnage Popping rod, the lighter of the two rods in the range designed to cast 30-120g which it did with ease and was quite happy lobbing 150g lures. This rod is not too long at 7’6” making it manageable on the boat, also the powerful blank had more than enough power on tap to deal with large fish.
Whilst travelling with 2 section rods is less practical than with travel fishing rods I didn’t have any issues. As ever the totally reliable Sportube got them there and back with no damage. Having the extra weight allowance the rod tube gives you is also very useful!
Reels and Line
I used Avets on the Penn Carnage Halibuster rods - an Avet MXL Raptor on the 50lb rod and an Avet G2 MXL with Magic Cast on the 30lb Halibuster. Both were filled with 60lb Momoi Generation 3 Hollowcore Braid with a knotless loop on the end.
I like this system because I can loop swivels and snap-links on the end, use a wind-on leader or splice a length of mono into the braid. So plenty of options for different techniques.
The Avets performed faultlessly and I can’t think that there is a better choice for a Norway trip.
On the popping rod I used a Daiwa BG MQ Spinning reel - these reels are really underrated and deserve to be much more popular than they are. I don’t think there is a better saltwater spinning reel for around £200 and they put a lot of reels that cost twice as much to shame. They use the same magsealed bearings as the famous Daiwa Saltiga reels and are 100% reliable.
A wide variety of lures were used during the week - here are some of my favourites:-
Westin Sandy Andy - A selection of these is a must - they catch all species at a variety of depths and the 300g size will get you down to the bottom in quite a depth of water. The smaller sizes cast well and you have a lot of options with these lures
Westin Crazy Daisy - These lures have caught an awful lot of halibut and cod over the years and are considered a ‘go to’ lure in Norway. They are available in a good range of colours and look great in the water.
Berkley Power Herring - this new lure comes with a choice of paddle tail or curly tail like the Crazy Daisy and is available in 180 and 300g sizes. Either body and tail option gives a great action and these lures are excellent value for money.
Storm Biscay Deep Shad - these were great to cast in shallow areas and bump back along the bottom, being weedless you don’t lose any and they proved to be great fish catchers.
Fishzone Shrimpy Rig - these pink shrimps were ideal for catching small coalfish for bait, I presume because krill must be a big part of the junior coalfish’s diet.
Bringing fish home
Taking fish for the table home from Norway to eat is now regulated, mainly to prevent anglers from Europe driving to Norway and taking everything they catch home with them. You are allowed to take 18kgs of fillets home with you. You will be given an export certificate for your fillets to show at customs.
Only registered fishing camps such as Seiland House can provide the necessary documentation. Seiland House has plenty of freezer space and a designated fish preparation area - we did however take a vacuum packing device and bags. Vacuum packing allows you to pack fillets more efficiently.
We used large insulated bags for travel and everything was still frozen solid when I arrived home. Make sure you have plenty of space in the freezer!
If you'd like to find out more about fishing in Norway and the tackle required, please give Allan a call on 01635 736436. For this trip we stayed at Seiland House, you can email Diamela & Stig directly if you are interested in visiting Seiland via firstname.lastname@example.org