With the weather looking likely to change we headed back to Rolla in Northern Norway to have one last crack at the halibut before the white stuff comes. For those who are yet to tangle with this fish, it is a species that should come with a health warning for their addictive qualities. Every take, fight and successful landing of these monstrous flatfish releases adrenaline into the body in vast quantities and as any adrenaline junky will tell you, you simply crave more of the same!
Our plan was to try out some potential new marks which we had looked at on the Norweigan charts. We use a site called Kart.gulesider.no. From this we can find sandbanks, depths and ledges. This though, does not guarantee you will be able to fish these places but it will give you a good start in trying to assess whether the venue is fishable. Once you have a general ideal of the topography of the area you can make more informed decisions too. In addition, once we are at the chosen mark we then use a ‘Deeper’ sonic ball, a very clever device that when cast out will give you a picture of the seabed and depths as you reel the ball in. All viewable on your phone! The technology to help with fishing these days really is quite incredible.
Our first venue was a harbour arm with a nice sandy bottom and a depth of around 20 metres. This also had a nice steady current running through and looked ideal. Generally you’re looking for a clean bottom, tide and a food source for halibut. Depth is very much a personal preference and they can be caught in both surprisingly shallow and very deep water as well as everything in-between. In terms of food source, small coalfish in the water are always a good sign, but they equally like to feed on dab on the bottom.
We had only been there an hour when Rob had the first run of the day. Rob had already worked out where he would land any fish, a pivotal consideration when addressing a new mark. They can be a dangerously lively fish to land, so you really need a safe accessible platform from which to do it. After a ten minute battle he sent me down to gaff the fish. It was a halibut around 20lb, so I gaffed it and bought it up the rocks. We weighed it and it turned out to be 23lbs so a great start to our trip! If a halibut hasn’t come in too green, you can get a nice chin gaff that will ensure the fish goes back safely, though as always if the fish is smaller or there are safe landing options that don’t necessitate the gaff then these would be preferable.
Things were quiet for a while then Rob had another run. This one was better! Rob had more of a battle on his hands this time. The fish went to ground a couple of times and definitely went under a ledge too. The key in these situations is not to try and rush and bully the fish out. A lot of people have pulled for a break in situations where a bit of patience will eventually see the fish move off. Fortunately, Rob, with a bit of experience in these fish, was patient and the fish moved out from the ledge and he was able to get it in to the rocks at the base of the pier.
Once again I gaffed it but it was very heavy and quite difficult to lift up and over the boulders! Eventually I got it up the top. This was a good fish! We weighed it and it went 61lbs on the scales and a new PB for Rob. Happy days!
The next day we took a 40 minute car drive to another new mark. There was lots of room for fishing here with clean ground, nice depth and with the added bonus of being able to park the van right next to the the rods. It’s surprising how many marks in Norway are like this. It’s certainly a very accessible place to fish for those that can’t do the miles of off-road hiking these days.
As for the fishing, there were plenty of coalfish about and we caught and used fillets of coalfish as our baits. Fishing was non-stop with lots of bites and I managed to catch two halibut here, one of 12lb and a 4lb baby. It’s certainly good to see some of the smaller ones to know the stocks are continuing to breed and be healthy for the future. There is a lot of potential on this mark, as we also had cod up to 15lb, haddock, whiting, pollack and a lumb. It’s definitely somewhere I will fish again!
The following day we went to one of our proven marks where we split up with Rob and I fishing the rock and Michael fishing on the pier. I was in to a great start here with a run on my first cast. This was a good fighter but once landed turned out to be a halibut of 19lb. I certainly thought it was bigger by the way it fought, but whist no monster it was still a nice fish in prime condition. Its fairly difficult to estimate the size of a halibut on the fight alone. Some larger specimens, perhaps tired through spawning can be slower and more cumbersome, maybe conserving or depleted of energy, whilst some smaller ones seem to run like an express train when they get up a head of steam!
We slipped the latest fish back into the water and concentrated on our rods in anticipation of more to come. In the meantime Michael was busy landing a small halibut which he had caught on a single ragworm! Even large halibut have been known to fall to ragworm from those aiming for plaice, though it’s more than likely gone for another fish feeding on the worm and simply knocked it off the hook in the process.
It wasn’t long before Michael was back into another fish. This was a better one. I clambered up and down the rock mark and went round to the pier to help net the fish. The fish made a few darting runs but after eventually tiring it out I managed to get it in the net. I Must admit it did make a bit of a mess of the drop net, but it’s better than damaging a fish we’d intend to release. It went 14.5lbs on the scales and a PB for Michael. Michael also had a small halibut of around 3lbs after that to cap off a good day for him.
The following day we went back to the rock mark but it was very slow with a constant dreaded easterly wind which as with most other places, didn’t seem to help the fishing. Rob though did eventually have a screaming run, which he failed to connect with but consoled himself later on by landing a nice halibut of 20lb.
The halibut was caught on a pulley pennell rig with coalfish head proving to be the successful bait. We tie our own rigs using 6/0 to 8/0 hooks, strong mono and heavy duty swivels. I have learned the hard way that it is best to make your own rigs thus allowing to adapt to certain venues or situations. I have also learnt that it is wise to use a rotten bottom on most rocky venues. I have lost decent fish too many times when the lead gets caught up ant the whole rig snaps off. Often you will get the fish off the clean bottom you tend to find halibut on, but they’ll take you straight towards ledges where leads will readily hang up.
Our last day we went back to the harbour arm which we fished on the first day. We had a strong NW wind on our backs and hopes were high for another halibut or two. Unfortunately it proved to be very slow fishing with just a few cod on the run up to high water, though just as we were due to reach top of tide Michael got a lovely run and was into another halibut. A nice little fight followed and Rob went down and gaffed the fish for him. Michael was very happy and another PB at 22lbs, beating his PB for the second time this trip.
Over the week we had 10 Halibut in total up to 61lb and a fair few cod too. We focused on using mackerel and coalfish as our baits for the halibuts but we did try squid and cooked tiger prawns as well and these were successful if you like catching cod.
We are certainly still in the early stages of discovering Rolla and its neighbouring areas, but we are having good results with nice peaceful and undisturbed fishing, so roll on the next trip!