For as long as I can remember my dad has joked about catching a halibut.
The day we had 17 species in a day at Chesil we kept saying the next one would be a halibut! (10 years on and it still hasn’t turned up!) So, last winter we finally decided that we should actually go and try and catch one! Neither of us having ever been to Norway we sought some advice and decided to go with a guide for our first trip, and Bodø was chosen as the destination.
With bags and rod tubes packed we were picked up at 4 am and were on our way to the airport. For the entire drive, and most of the 2 flights later, talk was aplenty of the crazy fishing that Norway can offer, and it’s fair to say we were all more than a little excited for the 6 days of intensive fishing ahead!
With fresh ragworm packed, we decided to break ourselves in easy on the first day, fishing a mark that produces plaice, dabs and also the halibut we were all hoping for! One rod each aimed towards the plaice grounds, and the other armed with popped up fish baits sent towards the channel that we hoped would hold a halibut or two, a channel with particular form having produced a former world record halibut none the less.
We were soon into decent dabs, and plenty of plaice averaging around 2lb, and after an hour or so, Steve’s halibut rod showed signs of life. Well actually something hit the bait so hard that it picked the butt of his rod clean off the ground as line was peeled off the spool! A short but spirited tussle brought a lovely little halibut of 6 or 7lb to the net. After a quick photo the fish was released to power off into the depths.
First cast of the trip and the first halibut, had to be a good sign… right?
Other than a few coalies the heavy rods remained static for the rest of the day. Fortunately the plaice rods were kept busy with a steady stream of fish, with a new pb plaice for myself of 3lb 7oz which came in as a double shot with another cracker of 3lb 5oz! It’s a strange emotion to see 2 big plaice come up, including a new PB, and be slightly disappointed that it wasn’t just one fish, as 6lb+ fish are a real possibility out there. Having caught a halibut, albeit small, along with loads of plaice, dabs, small codling, coalies and a bonus ling, the first day had been a success and we were all confident for the rest of the trip.
I would love to say that the trip continued in the same manner, however unfortunately the bait fishing took a dramatic downturn from hereon in.
For 5 days we struggled without a touch from another halibut. Our application to the fishing or the tireless efforts of our guide can’t be faulted, but the fish just weren’t there. We tried mark after mark, all of which have form for producing our quarry, but they simply weren’t playing ball, and sadly the decent cod, which the area is well known for, were also notable by their absence. It wasn’t just us struggling either, the other groups we bumped in to were reporting similar struggles.
Aside from the fishing we were treated to nature at its finest, with dolphins and porpoises showing regularly, sea eagles swooping to take coalfish on more than one occasion, and the northern lights even treating us to an impressive display, on one of the only nights where the sky wasn’t shrouded in cloud (and we didn’t even get a photo!). But, even in a place as stunning as Norway the lack of fish feeding, could have made for a disappointing trip.
Thankfully, however, we had packed our lure set ups, along with a selection of metal and soft plastic lures, and these proved to be our saviour. While the halibut baits remained unbothered, save for a few cod and coalfish, we found pollock on every mark, willing to smash into lures dragged slowly over the ledges or through the weed. They weren’t easy, and we really had to work for the fish, but when we found the lures they wanted on the day we had some fantastic action.
Over the 5 days I personally had 3 fish over 9lb including a new pb of 9lb 5oz and lost count of the 5-8lb fish. Dad also had some nice fish up to 7lb and got smoked by something which took his lure and just kept going before breaking him off! The lures also accounted for a number of cod, including an absolutely stunning looking golden fish just under 9lb, a few turbo charged coalies and a number of mackerel which would be considered massive in the uk.
The real bonus of catching fish in this way is the sheer fun that can be had.
Every fish gave a great scrap, with most hitting the lure within yards of the shore and immediately crashing for cover. Apparently pollock, cod, coalies and even occasional halibut, all over 20lb, are possibilities on lures out there, and I can only Imagine the sport that such fish would provide!
So our dreams of catching a halibut will have to wait, but we will certainly be back to try again. It’s nice to know that even if the bait fishing is a struggle, there is still some great sport to be had on the lure rod!