Norwegian fishing hand line
Norwegian fishing hand line
Great Black-Backed Gull (<i>Svartbak</i>) catches a Pollack (<i>Sei</i>)
Great Black-Backed Gull (Svartbak) catches a Pollack (Sei)
28 gram Stingsild lure
28 gram Stingsild lure
Pollack
Pollack (Sei)
Geirangerfjord
Geirangerfjord
Cod (Torsk)
Cod (Torsk) caught on a green Stingsild

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Saltwater Fishing in Norway's Fjords

Fishing in Norway's fjords is fantastic. Norway has over 20,000 km of coastline, pretty much all of which is fertile ground for saltwater fishing. The needs for gear are modest, there are a lot of fish of many varieties, and the fishing is good year round. What's more, you do not need a license to fish in the fjords, so it is both easier to arrange and less costly than other fishing in Norway.

Did I mention that Norway's fjords are beautiful beyond description? It makes for quite a fishing environment.

Fishing from piers or from the shore can be productive. I've caught Cod, Haddock, Pollack, and even a few Wolffish when fishing from piers in Norway. At other points along the shore I have caught Sea Trout, Pollack and the occasional Cod.

It can be even more productive to fish from a boat, but you'll probably need local advice on where to rent one and likewise where to take it. Fishing from a small boat, I've caught each of the same species other than Sea Trout, plus a few Rockfish as well.

There also are many others types of fish you might catch, such as Halibut or Flounder.

As noted above, to fish in the fjords you do not need a license. However, take note that along the banks where a river enters the fjord you may be in an area where you do need a license, as it may be governed by the licensing for the river.

Pollack (Sei) caught in Malangen
Pollack (Sei), caught jigging from a small open boat in Malangen
Shore and Pier Fishing

My favorite lure for fishing from the pier or the shore is a Norwegian lure called Stingsild. These are made in various weights and colors, but I have had my best luck with the 28 gram greenish tinted Stingsild. These imitate a herring and are very effective for catching Pollack, Haddock, and Cod, and I've also caught a few Sea Trout with one (for example see the picture on the main Fishing in Norway page). If you're planning to fish in the fjords, do yourself a favor: go into a Norwegian shop and buy one or two -- they cost about 40 Norwegian kroner (less than $10US).

To fish one of these lures, you jig it — jerk it, reel in a little, jerk it again, etc. It has no built in motion of its own, so to be lifelike it depends on the action you apply.

Stingsild is quite a popular lure, so you can find them pretty much anywhere in Norway. Larger towns have tackle or sporting goods stores, but in smaller towns look in general stores, which often have a fishing tackle section. If in doubt, ask around — most Norwegian locals will know where you could buy fishing tackle in their area.

I've also had luck pier fishing with large (2 oz) chartreuse bucktail jigs, brought from the US. I prefer "banana" shaped bucktail jigs, because they help keep the hook pointing upward as they bounce on the bottom. I fish these on a 10' rod that will get the jig out a considerable distance, and I try to make it imitate a little shellfish hopping along the bottom. I let it pause from time to time. Bouncing it along the bottom has resulted in nice catches of Cod, Haddock, and Wolffish. This is the only way I have caught Wolffish from the shore. This bottom jigging approach has not worked where there is much seaweed, as the lure tends to get stuck in the weeds.

I use either an 8' or 10' spinning rod for this fishing, with 12 to 20 lb test monofilament line. The longer rod is definitely a help in catching larger fish, as it can get the lure to deeper water. But it's a bit more trouble to carry when traveling. For Sea Trout fishing, where shallower waters are fished, I prefer the shorter rod and lighter line.

Boat Fishing

Because so many of Norway's fjords are relatively sheltered waterways, small open boats are popular with Norwegians who fish in saltwater. Compared to many other areas where you could fish similar species of Atlantic fish, you will find in Norway that the fish are much closer to shore. For example, look at the photo above of a Cod I caught within a stone's throw of the shore. Deep, cold, sea water is at hand even many miles inland along the fjords in Norway, making for a unique fishing experience.

As noted above, fish like Cod, Haddock, Pollack, and even Wolffish can be caught even from shore, all of which are species which in many other parts of the world one would think of as deep sea targets requiring a boat to pursue at all. In Norway, a boat will certainly help broaden your prospects, but is not a necessity.

If you do decide on a boat, put safety first. Remember that while fjords are sheltered waters they are still inlets of the ocean and as such are capable of presenting you with deadly serious weather and sea conditions. If you're not an experienced boater, find someone who is who can go with you, or stick to shore fishing.

Fishing from a boat, you can use the same gear as from the shore, but I'd also suggest trying a large Norwegian jig fished either with a rod or on a hand line. Such a jig is called a pilk in Norwegian.

Norwegian pilks are available in a range of sizes and the largest can be huge, weighing as much as 24 oz (500 grams), enabling you to adapt your jig weight to get down to the bottom where fish like Cod, Steinbit, and Rockfish are found.

With the heavier pilks you can get to the bottom even in deep water or strong currents -- and remember that with the steep mountains lining them Norway's fjords can be quite deep even though they are inshore waters. But use the lightest pilk that will let you stay near the bottom -- it's not much fun to jig one of the really heavy ones, and a lighter jig will also have a more lively motion.

On the line above the pilk are typically tied a series of 4 or 5 hooks with plastic worms or other attractor hooks about every 6 to 12 inches. This rig is then lowered to the bottom in a promising spot (ask a local), raised some distance off the bottom, and jigged up and down vertically a short distance above the bottom.

Large Sølvkroken Stingsild and Svenskepilk Pilks
Large Sølvkroken Stingsild and Svenskepilk pilks, up to 500 grams

Try Fishing with a Hand Line and Pilk from a Boat

You can do such jigging using a rod, but when I grew up we used a stout hand line and these are still popular. It's a unique experience to feel a large fish strike on a line you're pulling up and down with your bare hands, then to haul that fish to the surface without the aid of a reel. It's something you won't soon forget.

As a child I hooked a good sized Wolffish on such gear. It was quite heavy for a kid to pull in on a hand line. I will never forget the moment I saw that ugly fish's face full of teeth as I got it to the surface. My father tried to bring it in the boat but of course my mother, who was also in the little open boat together with my sister and two of my equally young cousins, became quite agitated, dare I say hysterical, at the mention of the word Steinbit (Wolffish).

Steinbit translates literally from Norwegian as Stone biter, a name that reflects their big teeth and powerful jaws. Mom seemed sure that fish would cause some hideous deforming injury to the four of us kids in our crowded little boat... and she may well have been right. She demanded that my father cut it loose, which, following some argument, he did -- reluctantly. That fish was arguably the best "one that got away" of my childhood.

Such hand line jigging outfits can be found in Norwegian sporting goods or tackle stores, complete with line wound on a spool, a pilk, and attractor hooks.

When you catch a fish with this gear, you need to take some care in retrieving the line. It's a bit difficult to respool the line as you haul in the fish. One can let it pile up in the bottom of the boat and rewind it onto the spool after the fish are landed. But, get careless with that line piled on the floor of the boat, and the result will be another unique experience, namely the fishing line tangle of a lifetime! If you have a helper who can respool the line while you haul it in, it will improve things.

Species Notes

It's useful to remember that fish in the fjords have differing characteristic depths at which they typically are found. This can help you target your fishing and expectations.

Cod (Torsk) — Cod are generally to be found on the bottom. Whether you are fishing from land or a boat, keep your lure near the bottom if you're hoping for Cod. I've caught Cod boat fishing with a pilk, and shore and pier fishing with Stingsild or with bucktail banana jigs. These can be big fish.

Haddock (Hyse) — Haddock are found near the bottom, and can be fished in the same manner as Cod.

Wolffish (Steinbit) — Wolffish are found near the bottom, in deeper water. Fishing books don't generally mention the possibility of catching Wolffish from land, but I've done so in the arctic when fishing from a pier. It required getting the lure out pretty far, using a surf fishing rod. It's exciting to pull a Wolffish in, but you must be very careful of their teeth! Wolffish have large, sharp teeth and very powerful jaws designed to crush shellfish, and they can hurt you. If you catch one, for your own safety kill it before trying to extract the hook. They are bottom fish, like Cod, and I've caught them using a pilk in a boat or a bucktail jig from a pier.

Pollack (Sei) — Pollack are found in water of intermediate and shallow depth. Often you catch them jigging from a boat when you don't keep the pilk right near the bottom. Think of Pollack as swimming around somewhere above the Cod, Haddock, and Wolffish. Small Pollack are very common in the shallows near shore. I've often caught Pollack on a Stingsild, whether from shore, a pier, or a boat. Pollack are fun to catch because they will fight aggressively.

Sea Trout (Sjøørret) — Sea Trout are found in shallow water, often in areas with seaweed that provides cover, especially where the bottom has a varied mix of seaweed, sand, and rock. They can be caught with a Stingsild or other spoon type lures, spinners such as Mepps style lures, or on a fly. Sea Trout are the same fish as Brown Trout, but living in the ocean waters of the fjord, so a lot of the same ideas that apply to catching Brown Trout can be applied to Sea Trout.

Tides

Whether shore, pier, or boat fishing, I've had most luck fishing when the tide is flowing before and after high tide. Something like the period two hours before or two hours after the high water mark is about right.

Statens Kartverk maintains a website with Tide Tables for Norway, with predictions for over 20 locations in Norway, in English and Norwegian.

You can also find tide predictions in local newspapers, which will note the tide times under Flo og Fjære, usually in the weather section, or sometimes in a corner of the front page of the paper. Flo is the high tide, Fjære is the low tide.

Saltstraumen and Other Tidal Currents

Having mentioned tides, if you're looking for a good place to fish in the fjords, pay special attention to any spot with the word straumen (or strømmen) in the name. The word straumen means current, and places so named often are tidal currents, places where the fjord narrows creating strong currents when the tide is moving. In many cases these are very good fishing spots.

The most famous such current is Saltstraumen, said to be the strongest tidal current in the world, and one of the best and most famous fishing spots in Norway and perhaps in the world. There are many such tidal currents, another famous one being Moskstraumen (The Maelstrom), made famous and romanticized by writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne, who wrote about it as a place treacherous to ships.

In any such currents, but especially the stronger ones, great care should be taken. Boating without a knowledgeable local guide would be a mistake, and even when fishing from shore caution should be used -- many of these currents are as strong as a major river, with whirlpools and eddies that can take you under.

If you want to see some of the most well known of these tidal currents, look at this Map of Fishing Spots in Norway's Fjords.

Norddalsfjord
Norddalsfjord
Malangen
Malangen
Pier at Sylte
Pier at Sylte
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