It had been almost a year since our last trip to the fish rich waters of the Trondheim Fjord in Norway and after months of planning and preparations, Friday 5th April had finally arrived. Accompanied by Nigel Bowditch, Andy ‘Dodge’ Rogers and Jake Wadey, this was to be my ninth visit to the fantastic Skarnsundet Fjordcenter, located in the shadow of the Skarnsund Bridge towards the top end of the Trondheim Fjord which, at around 80 miles long, is the third largest fjord system in Norway.
With such a huge area to explore, offering countless potential fishing marks and with over 100 species of fish of all shapes and sizes having been recorded within the fjord at some time or other, this area offers a great opportunity for anglers of all levels to catch not only specimen fish, but also a variety of species not usually encountered in the UK.
After a two and half hour flight direct from Gatwick to Trondheim, followed by an hour and half drive north (with a quick stop at the supermarket for supplies), we finally arrived at the apartments which were to be our base for the next 10 days. We were greeted on arrival by our host Phill Dale and were informed that the fishing had been a bit tough in recent weeks, partly due to challenging weather conditions, but also because the fish were generally preoccupied with spawning and chasing the large sprat shoals in the area. However, despite these factors, some good fish had still been caught, so with good weather forecast for the duration of our trip, we were optimistically hopeful of some worthwhile catches.
We unpacked our gear and the first evening Nigel and I decided to try the breakwater outside the apartments to see if we could get our species count off the mark (Jake and Dodge were too tired and decided to rest up instead).
Specifically we were trying to catch one of the areas more unusual fish, the Ghost Shark. These odd looking fish, also known as Rabbitfish or Chimaera, are primarily a deep water species but they come up from the depths after dark and can usually be caught fairly readily from a number of marks around the area. On this session we had two each, with my best at just over 4lb ending up being the biggest we had during the whole trip. Unfortunately we were pestered by Velvet Sharks almost every cast and apart from a whiting each, along with a handful of Poor Cod, nothing else managed to get a look in so we called it a night after about 3 hours or so.
We had timed this particular trip to coincide with the spring run of plaice in the area, which can run to record breaking sizes. Four to six pound fish are not unusual and each year a few fish between seven and eight pounds get caught and it’s really only a matter of time before someone gets lucky and catches one in double figures, surely every anglers dream fish!
For our first full day session we decided to target the plaice in the Børgin Fjord, about a 20 minute drive away from the apartments and we fished a couple of different marks around the noted ‘Layby’ area just outside of Straumen. It would have been great to report that we bagged up on the plaice but unfortunately the dabs and codling were trying their best to get to our baits before the plaice did, and they succeeded spectacularly!
We all got plagued by dabs to just over a pound, often coming in two at a time, along with lots of codling which were generally between a pound and half to 4lb. This session however did produce the biggest plaice of the week to Nigel at 5lb 9oz, along with the biggest cod of the week to Dodge at 15lb 12oz and my best cod of the week at 12lb 2oz.
It was certainly a promising start but although we all caught plenty of fish, we just couldn’t get past the dabs and codling to get to the plaice, which was very frustrating as we knew they were in the area.
The following day we were struggling to get motivated, probably due to indulging in too much alcohol the previous night, and we couldn’t make up our minds about where to try. We eventually opted for a change of scenery and headed down to a mark called the Waterworks, which has produced some nice fish for us in the past. However, as soon as we arrived it just didn’t ‘feel’ right but we decided to give it a few hours anyway. Unfortunately that initial feeling about the place proved to be right and despite fishing hard for four hours or so, nothing showed apart from a couple of small lure caught codling. We decided a move was in order but couldn’t really agree where to try but on the drive back, I decided to have a quick look at a spot that I’d thought about investigating every time I’d been there but had never got round to trying. We arrived a couple of hours into the ebb, which possibly wasn’t the best stage of the tide to fish it, but despite that we managed a few codling to around 5lb between us, along with a couple of haddock to around 3lb, so it’s certainly a mark with potential and worth trying again on a future trip.
Day four and we were a bit more decisive about where we wanted to go, which saw us head off for our first road trip up to Einvika in the Flatanger area, about a two hour drive north. Target species for the day were halibut and cod but we’ve also had a variety of other species from there in the past, including plaice, dabs, ling, gurnard and even Lemon Sole, so almost anything was possible. Nigel and I opted to fish the ‘point’ and landed a succession of cod, including three double figure specimens at 11lb 14oz for Nigel and 10lb 9oz and 11lb 9oz for me, with a number of fish in the 5lb to 8lb bracket. I also managed a few coalfish to 3lb or so, dabs to 1lb 3oz and gurnards to around 1lb 4oz. Dodge found the only halibut of the trip, albeit a small one at 5lb 9oz, along with a personal best Wolf Fish of 6lb 14oz while Jake was still struggling to find anything worthwhile, although he did eventually get a ling of around 4lb.
Day five and Phill wanted us to join him to try out a new mark around Vanvikan, about an hour or so drive from the apartment. However, we had other ideas and decided to head down to Sandbakken instead, which is about an hour and half or so away from the apartments. This is a harbour breakwater which has produced double figure cod, 4lb plus plaice, halibut, big haddock and a variety of other species in the past so has a proven track record. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t live up to expectations and after 5 hours or so, I’d had seven codling to around 4lb or so and Dodge had five I think to just around 6lb, while Nigel and Jake both blanked! We decided to take the coast road back, which took us through Vanvikan where we stopped off for a look. Phill had long gone but we thought as we were there, we may as well give it a go for a few hours. Although the tide was well into the ebb, we were straight into fish, with Nigel and myself catching several ling to around 4lb and cod to 7lb, while Jake had several cod to 11lb 4oz, a plaice of around 1lb 8oz plus a few whiting and haddock. Dodge also found a ling of 5lb odd and lost a 5lb plus haddock at the edge when his hook link caught on a rock and snapped, so overall it wasn’t a bad few hours fishing. A couple of locals also stopped by for a chat, telling us about the potential for halibut in the area and showing us pictures of pollack they’d caught there in excess of 18lb! So it’s certainly a spot worth spending a bit more time on during future trips.
Day six and Nigel decided he needed a rest day so stayed at the apartment and did a few hours in the notorious ‘suicide hole’ so called because pretty much any lead you cast into it will never be seen again, as it’s very deep and a bit on the snaggy side. Apart from a couple of ling to 3lb or so along with a couple of Velvet Sharks and one good fish lost, it was a pretty slow session for him. Meanwhile, the rest of us decided to have another attempt at the plaice, so we headed back to the Børgin Fjord and tried a different spot along from the layby. Unfortunately this was also a very slow session, with only a few dabs and codling showing up between us, although Jake did manage to find a small plaice of just over a pound and the best cod of around 7lb 12oz.
Day seven we decided that we really needed to try and find some more ragworm, as our supplies were getting very low. This meant an early start, as the only worm bed we knew we could rely on with the size tides we had was a two hour drive away. However, we’d also planned to scope out a couple of potential new marks in that area so it wasn’t like we were driving all that way just to dig worms. The digging itself was hard going but we managed around 300 or so worms between us before the tide pushed us off the spot. We then headed off to check out our first potential mark but unfortunately we couldn’t access it, as what we had seen on Google maps didn’t quite look the same at ground level, so we headed off to another likely looking spot a couple of miles away and this time we liked what we saw and decided to give it a go. Initially things started off slow but then we began to get a few bites, with Nigel getting the first couple of fish, both ling in the 3lb range. Soon we were all catching a steady stream of fish, with cod to 7lb, ling to 6lb, pollack to 7lb 7oz, whiting to 2lb 4oz and a few Black Mouthed Dogfish to 3lb 3oz. Most of the fish fell to bottom fished baits but I did have a couple of 6lb plus cod on shads bounced along the bottom, which is a great way to catch them as they seem to scrap much harder on the lighter spinning gear.
Day eight, tiredness had really started to set in so we decided a lay in and late start was in order. Jake opted for a rest day at the apartment and tried the suicide hole, with only a few dogfish and Velvet Sharks to show for his efforts. The rest of us didn’t fancy travelling too far, so we decided to try a spot about a 10 minute drive away, which was recommended to us by Tom and Kevin, a couple of boat fishing guides that work with Phill at Skarnsundet Fjordcenter, who had been having good results catching quite a few good sized cod while fishing a 40m deep hole within 100 yards of the shore. We located the spot but after a few casts with no tide movement or any fishy action, and having baits being stripped off the hook by what must have been starving crabs, we didn’t get the feeling that anything was going to happen, so we decided to move back to another local mark, the Landing.
We were hoping to see if we could find a few haddock, which had so far proved pretty elusive as we’d only managed to catch a couple between us on the trip so far. The fish seemed to be on the feed, as I was into a succession of fish straight away, with codling to 4lb odd and haddock to around 3lb coming in on every cast.
As the evening went on, flocks of seagulls were gathering in ever increasing numbers and noisily chasing the sprat shoals which were being pushed to the surface by shoals of hungry coalfish below. As the light started to fade, the coalfish moved into casting range so Nigel grabbed his spinning rod and was into a fish first cast, followed by another, and another! The bottom rods were soon abandoned, as I grabbed my spinning gear and joined in the action. What then ensued was utter mayhem for about an hour and a half with Nigel and myself landing well over 50 coalfish between us, mostly 3lb to 5lb fish with a number of 6lb’ers and numerous fish were lost as they came off during the fight. Dodge managed to get in on the action too, landing several cod and half a dozen or so coalfish, his first ones ever caught on a lure. Absolutely fantastic sport, and all caught on metal pirk type jigs and light spinning tackle. As the light faded to darkness, the squabbling of the seagulls silenced and the fish went off the feed, so we headed back to the apartments and cooked up some of the coalfish we’d kept for the table. You can’t get fish any fresher than that and they were absolutely delicious!
Day nine was another fairly relaxed day. Nigel and I decided to see if we could catch a few cod on shads and light spinning gear up in the Straumen area, while Jake and Dodge wanted to give Straumen Field a go for another try at the plaice. The tiny tides and bright sunlight made the cod somewhat finicky and they were only plucking at the tails of the shads as they were retrieved, but despite that, I eventually managed to land seven codling and although none were particularly big, being mostly between 2lb and 4lb, they provided great sport in the swirling current.
Nigel had a bit of a frustrating session and couldn’t seem to keep a fish attached to a hook long enough to land it, so after losing four or five fish without even seeing them, he wandered off to see how Jake and Dodge were doing. They had been keeping themselves busy catching a succession of codling and dabs and by the time I wandered round for a few casts with the last of my worms in a last ditch attempt to catch a plaice, Jake had just returned a huge framed but very skinny plaice, which in prime condition would have probably weighed well in excess of 6lb but in the condition it was, only pulled the scales down to 4lb 7oz. Still, it was a new personal best for him and gave me some hope that I might be able to bag one myself. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and that was the only plaice to be caught, although I did manage to catch a flounder to increase the species count, along with a number of codling to around 6lb and a few dabs to just over a pound.
As our worm supply finally ran out and with the fish still feeding hard, we reluctantly packed up and headed back to the apartments to get prepared for another assault on the coalfish at dusk. We were hoping for a repeat performance of the previous evenings sport but as it happened, the seagulls were gathered on the opposite side of the fjord to where we were and after almost an hour of casting a variety of metal jigs and not so much as a hook up between the four of us, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. However, as the light steadily faded, we spotted a shoal of coalfish bursting on the surface just off a rocky point about 300 yards to our left, so we all scrambled our way along to get within casting range of them. First casts in and we were all hooked up into hard fighting coalfish and we ended up catching around thirty between us, all between 3lb and 6lb, before darkness got the better of us and the fish went off the feed.
Day ten was our final full day and we were again finding it difficult to decide where to fish. I wasn’t really keen on driving too far but with only fish baits left, we felt our best chances of catching anything worthwhile would be to head to the open coast to try for a halibut, or to a deep water mark for a ling or lumb. We spent all morning debating where to go and the thought of a two and half hour drive each way to the marks we really fancied didn’t particularly appeal to me but in a sudden flash of inspiration, I thought what the heck, lets try the deep water mark at Statland, which didn’t seem quite so bad at a mere two hour drive each way!
Nigel, Jake and myself had fished Statland several times before so knew what to expect but Dodge hadn’t. At around 180m deep just 70 yards out, it takes just over six and a half minutes for the bait to hit bottom. Add another 50 yards on the cast and you’d be in well over 250m depth! Dodge really didn’t fancy the idea but he came along anyway, so we suggested he fish at the shallower end of the venue, where the same 70 yard cast would put him in a mere 100m or so depth, which he felt he could manage a bit better. Fishing those kind of depths from the shore requires a different approach than our usual multiplier and monofilament line set ups. Fixed spool reels capable of being loaded with 500 yards of 45lb Braid is essential, as monofilament lines are too buoyant and would take forever to reach the seabed.
Our first casts went out and as soon as they touched bottom, Jake got a bite almost instantly from a fish that took a liking to his herring baited hook. He waited a minute or so for the bite to develop then wound down and lifted into a fairly heavy weight that kicked back nicely at the other end. After a good three or four minutes of pumping and with sweat pouring from his brow, a nice sized lumb reached the surface. This was a first for him, so a new personal best was set at 6lb 2oz. It was a promising start and over the next few hours we had a total of eight lumb between us, mostly between 3lb and 6lb, with Jake further improving his pb with the biggest of the day weighing in at 10lb 15oz.
The bites slowed up for a while as the tide continued to flood and Dodge decided to put out another fresh herring bait. He mis-timed the cast though and the bait came unclipped and splashed down just 30 yards or so out. He remarked that it was nowhere near as deep where that landed and he propped the rod up in the rest and came over to have a natter. About ten minutes had passed when we noticed that Dodge had a good bite and initially he started walking slowly back towards his rod trying to see what was going on, but he soon sprinted towards it when the bite developed into a rod bending run!
He picked the rod up and shouted that the fish might have dropped the bait but after holding the rod for a minute or so, it started to move off again so he struck. I could tell from the bend in his rod that he’d obviously hooked into something half reasonable as he started pumping it steadily towards the surface. Dodge was looking round a bit anxiously, so thought I’d better get ready with the gaff just in case it was needed. He confirmed it felt a really good fish and soon I had Nigel standing by me and we both peered towards the depths to see if we could spot what it was. Jake stayed up top shouting encouragement and decided to video what was going on. Dodge was beginning to break into quite a sweat and just as I thought the fish should be coming into view, I heard the sound of a screaming reel drag and looked up to see Dodge with his rod almost pointing at the water with line being stripped off at a very rapid rate. It appeared that he’d probably hooked a decent sized Halibut, which had suddenly decided it didn’t like the look of daylight and tore off back down towards the bottom. As the fish stopped its run, he began pumping it back up but unfortunately after a few minutes the braid caught on a snag, the line snapped and he was left wondering whether he’d just lost the biggest fish he’d ever hooked. We were all a bit disappointed not to have seen what it was but one thing is certain, it was a big fish and Dodge was absolutely devastated at losing it!
We all put out fresh baits, hoping that wasn’t the only big fish swimming around out there, and half an hour or so later it was to be my turn to work up a sweat. We’d started getting a few more bites and Jake had just reeled in a ling of around 4lb when I heard line being pulled off my reel with a steady pull down on my rod tip. As I picked up the rod and got myself into position, the fish on the end was still pulling away from me so I struck into it. I immediately knew it was a good fish as it backed off and started taking line against a fairly tight set drag… The battle was on!
As I steadily pumped the fish towards me, every now and then it would give some really violent heavy headshakes and dive back down towards the bottom, taking 10 to 20m line each time. After what seemed like the best part of 10 minutes, the strain of dragging up such a heavy hard fighting fish up from that depth was starting to tell. My back was beginning to ache and my delicate regions were feeling bruised and sore, so I had to resort to sitting down to relieve the pressure and rest the rod butt against a rock. Several times the fish snagged me up and each time I dropped the rod tip to allow it to swim free, it dived hard back towards the bottom taking even more line. Eventually though, I started gaining the upper hand and as Nigel and I were speculating what this fish might actually be, it popped up to the surface about 20 yards out, having blown its swim bladder. We could see it was a ling and it looked absolutely massive.
As I carefully coaxed it closer to the shore, Nigel reached out with the gaff and hauled it up on to the rocks. A big shore caught Ling has long been a dream fish of mine and now there it was, lying on the ground in front of us… all 34lb 2oz of it… not only had I more than trebled my previous best, I’d also beaten the Skarnsundet Fjordcenter record by over 12lb, a true fish of a lifetime!
We carried on fishing in the hope that more monsters were lurking around in the depths, but unfortunately all we had after that were a succession of Black Mouthed Dogfish, so as dusk descended we called it a day and somehow the two hour drive back to the apartments didn’t seem quite so bad.
So that ling brought a fitting end to our Norwegian adventure, as the next morning was spent tidying up the apartment and getting our gear packed away for our journey home. Overall we had a great 10 days fishing, although at times it was frustratingly hard going. I think when anglers talk of fishing in Norway, their expectations tend to be quite high, as most will have seen or heard of spectacular catches that other anglers have had and it’s easy to get the impression that it’s just case of casting a bait or lure into the fjords and an endless stream of fish are queuing up to throw themselves onto the hooks. Whilst that may actually be the case at times, more often than not you have to work really hard for the fish you do catch, but then that’s no different to fishing anywhere else in the world and surely that’s all part of the angling challenge.
If you fancy planning a visit to Skarnsundet Fjordcenter yourself then all the relevant information you need can be found on their website http://skarnsundet-fishing.com/ and you can check out their Facebook page at ‘Skarnsundet Boat and Shore Fishing Norway’ for up to date catch reports. Phill Dale and his team are always very helpful and will go out of their way to make sure your trip is as successful as it can be, which is why most anglers that visit keep returning again and again.
We’ve already got our next dates booked and can’t wait to get back out there for some more Norwegian adventures!