In part 1 of this series, I mentioned that fishing with medium/light spinning tackle and rubber shads is most of the time not only much more effective, but offers much more fun! To get most out of it you need to control the drift and master your fish finder & chart plotter. And use the right tackle of course!
The Atlantic cod (Lat. Gadus morhua) is for most anglers the prime target and the ultra-rich waters of Norway hold them in unbelievable numbers. They can grow to over 20 kg, but fish of 10-20 kg and 100-125 cm long are a specimen fish for most anglers. Cod of that size you can expect all year long and if you fish the right way on the good spots, with the good tide, you can catch huge numbers of them. Not only near the bottom but more often in midwater around the schools of baitfish. Look for underwater plateaus of 50-100 meters, surrounded by deeper water and most likely you will find the bigger cod there.
Shallow plateaus of 20-40 meters also hold a lot bait, but mostly much smaller cod, especially in the summer months when the water is quite warm.
Big cod like big shads of 25 cm (or even bigger) in bright colours which are fished slowly. My favourite shad is the Illex Dexter (UV) shad in 25 cm, which is not only very attractive but also very tough. Simply reel it in slowly and stop the retrieve once in a while. A typical big cod bite is when you feel a good tap, followed by a slack line when the fish inhales the shads in an upward motion. Cod can put up a good fight, especially just after it has been hooked and a 15 kg+ cod can bend the rod to its limit, thinking you might have hooked a halibut!
Although Atlantic cod is the prime target for many anglers, coalfish (Lat. Pollachius virens) are also very abundant along the coast. Small ‘sei’, as they are called in Norway, of 1-3 kg you will find everywhere, but the bigger fish of 5-15 kg+ can sometimes be harder to locate as they often stay far outside in the open ocean. But when they come closer in, mainly in the months of June to October, they offer unbelievable sport on spinning tackle!
They are not only as streamlined as tuna, they do fight the same, never giving up until the very last seconds of the fight. That is why they are often called the ‘tuna of the North’. Coalfish are very fast predators, hunting in huge schools in all water layers, even sometimes near or on the surface, especially towards evening/night.
Speed jigging with metal jigs can be very effective, but so can fishing with shads, especially ‘sandeel’ types lures fished on a jighead of 30-100 gram. Spin them in pretty fast, (much) faster than fishing for cod and make a sudden stop after a couple turns of the handle.
If they are hooked in the upper layers, they often don’t realize it for a second or 2 before shaking their heads violently and taking off with lightning speed to the depths! Even smaller coalfish of 5-8 kg put up quite a fight, but when you hook a monster of 12-15 kg+ you will wonder if it will ever stop… or if it might be a halibut!
You often find big coalfish near steep drop offs close to deep water of 100-200 meter deep (mostly feeding midwater) with lots of current, but they also come in closer to shallower water.
On a recent trip to the Lofoten archipelago we found big coalies just a 10 minute run out from our cabins near two underwater plateaus. We were catching one big fish after another, all of which were over a metre long, it was incredible. To get a good strike you had to make an abrupt stop with the lure, this is what triggered the bite! Then the wind suddenly changed from southwest to north and they vanished… typical coalfish!
Although many fjords offer very good fishing inside, you will see often that the bigger fish tend to hang out towards the Atlantic ocean, but the weather (wind in particular!) can make it sometimes dangerous to go out on the open sea with small boats. However, the thousands of islands and sheltered fjords along the 25,000 km coastline of Norway offer not only protection from the wind but also good fishing options. Sometimes even better than out on the open sea!
During a trip in June to the beautiful island of Senja, also known as ‘little Norway’, we found the best fishing far inside the fjord, only a 10 minute run around the corner from our holiday home.
Two weeks of heavy westerly winds had pushed the baitfish deep inside the fjords, followed by huge schools of coalfish, together with big cod and even halibut.
Outside on the ocean there was hardly any baitfish to be seen on the big underwater plateaus, which are normally a guarantee for big fish. It looked like the blue desert on the screen of the fish finder. Inside the fjord there was so much bait that the sounder was showing a completely different picture, full of fish on their tail. We hooked one big coalfish and cod after the other, all on spinning tackle which you would normally use to fish for pike. Great fun, I can tell you! It was so addictive that more often than not we went out fishing again after diner time, and came back at 2am in the ‘night’, with the sun still shining on the snow-covered mountain peaks surrounding the fjord!
Pollack (Lat. Pollachius pollachius) is often an overlooked species, which is a shame as this fish offers great opportunities for the light tackle fanatic! Although it doesn’t occur much above the polar circle, it is abundant in some places… if you know where to look! Big specimens can sometimes be found on the same sort of (deeper) spots you look for cod and coalfish, but a better bet is to look for water near rocky islands or shallow underwater plateaus of 10-20 meter deep with kelp and a good current running.
Here you will often find big schools of pollack, offering fantastic sport on light spinning tackle! Cast a sandeel type lure on a 25-40 grams jighead to the rocks and start spinning it back very slowly, just above the kelp. You often first feel a couple of taps, thinking it might be small fish. They are for sure big fish swimming behind the lure, plucking at the tail of the shad. The trick is not to strike, but slow down the retrieve or even give a little slack. The small taps transform suddenly into a strong pull when a big fish inhales the bait like there is no tomorrow, rod bending double in close quarters. Although they look quite similar to coalfish, fishing for them is quite different – a much slower affair! If you are a fly-fishing fanatic, you can even fish for them with streamers!
One of my most memorable fishing days in Norway was a cold October day on the island of Hitra, at the very end of the immense Trondheimfjord in middle Norway where we were fishing the outer lying islands towards the open sea. We caught over 100 pollack on light spinning tackle, with many of 5-9 kg! Great fun in a stunning scenery.
Drifting close to the rocks or on a shallow reef, our shads were getting attacked time after time. Sometimes very brutal hits, but more often very subtle bites. Typical pollack!
It is a very unique species, which may look quite similar to a coalfish, but which feed totally different and which you will find in different places. Usually much shallower spots, enabling you to fish with a light/medium spinning outfit. This not only gives you fantastic sport but it will also bring you more fish!
In part 3 – I will focus on fishing for halibut, mainly with spinning tackle and rubbers shads. See you next month!