Hook and Cook

WHY NOT CATCH YOUR OWN DINNER? For a very good reason, Lofoten attracts enthusiastic sports anglers from all over the world. Waters here are teeming with gourmet seafood.

Courtesy of the warm Golf Stream, copious amounts of plankton sustain a long and ravenous food chain with you at the end of the table munching on baked halibut, fried trout, or steamed cod.

BRING YOUR FISHING TACKLE, RENT OURS, OR BUY A NEW SET from Ketil in the local sports shop  His prices are reasonable, and he will gladly give you pointers about the perfect place to go fishing on any given day.

IN REINE YOU CAN CATCH POLLOCK AND MACKEREL from the coast. Reel in fast or use a float to avoid losing your lures to rocks and seaweed. You want a heavy jig for a good, long throw and a mix of rubber-dressed and bare, shiny hooks attached to the line.

Place yourself strategically at one of the bottle necks of the diurnal tide where it flows either in or out of the Reine Fjord.

In peak hours the current whirls up nutrients for baitfish and crustaceans which again attract shoals of bigger pray like pollock and mackerel. During still water between ebb and flow the feeding frenzy stops, and the fish don’t bite.

Check the tide table for Reine at TIDECHART to see exactly when to go fishing, or download the Norwegian app TIDEVANN (iPhone) or and type in Bodø as your nearest reference.

TRY FISHING FROM THE BEACHES. Dressed in wetsuit or waders, in places with shallow sand bottom, you can walk a long way out to pick a fight with the giant sea trout. Or keep your feet dry and go for fluke and plaice in stead.

Flatfish burry themselves in the sand and just wait for you to lure them with a light array of baited hooks. Throw the sinker as far out as you can, let it settle on the bottom, and just wait for your dinner to come nibbling at the bait.

Mackerel meat is a good bait because of its strong aroma. But then you’d have to catch one first. Collecting clams and mussels is easier. Low tide bares an abundance of blue mussels on the rocks along the coastline. While you’re at it, pick some for an exquisite hor d’oeuvre and maybe add a dash of truffle seaweed.

Do not cook dead mussels. To determine if a mussel is alive, tap it onto a hard surface. A live specimen will slowly close. If it stays open, it is dead and therefore a potential bacteria bomb. But flatfish are not that picky.

IN MOUNTAIN LAKES, early spring is the ideal time to sample Lofoten’s world class trout and charr fishing. Later in the season lakers follow their prey to cooler water closer to the bottom. If you show up in the right spot though, armed with fly fishing gear or light spinners, after heavy rain and during dawn and dusk, then dinner’s a done deal.

In late autumn, the mountain lakes freeze over, and that marks the end of the trout and charr season. Winters are mild here, so ice fishing is rarely an option.

A 30-minute hike from Catogården will take you to the nearest lake, Reinevatnet, above the local hydropower plant where 2.000 young trout are released every year.

In Sørvågen, seven kilometres from Reine, you have easy access to the lakes Sørvågvatnet, Fjerddalsvatnet, Tridalsvatnet, and Tindsvatnet.

At the end of our world, by the village of Å, nine kilometres from Catogården, you have a short walk to the breathtaking panorama of lake Ågvatnet.

DEEP-SEA FISHING FROM A CHARTER BOAT probably is the most popular alternative and much closer to my heart. I grew up as the daughter of a fisherman, and at the age of 15, I spent a gap year fishing with my father on his vessel. Up until then, the happiest year of my life.

Lofoten is all about the fishery, so many companies are vying for your business. One attractive option is a four-hour trip with Trio II  ut of Reine which is staffed by a crew of commercial fishermen with extensive knowledge of the sea around Lofoten. On Tripadvisor, hundreds of guests have left raving reviews about gorgeous and successful fishing adventures, Aqua Lofoten. 

Catering to smaller groups or families, Kay Petter at Nordic Fishing Adventures down in Sørvågen offers a range of individually tailored tours. He will pick you up at Catogården.

Kai Petter is sweet as pie. He started his business in 2019, got fully certified as a skipper, and turned his love of sports fishing into a living. If you are a beginner, he will show you how to gut, clean, filet, and smoke your catch.

And better yet, Kay Petter teaches the Japanese art of gyotaku fish printing. You paint the cleaned fish with octopus ink, cover it with a sheet of handmade rice paper, rub it gently in, and voila. You have made a unique and artistic print of a fish as proof of your exotic catch (try making a selfie that way). 

IF YOU CHOOSE TO RENT A SMALL BOAT without a local guide, then at least wear a proper floating suit. Make sure the boat is fitted with radio and AIS (Automatic Identification System) and learn how to use them so a rescue party can locate you in case of an emergency. We want you to come back alive.

THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN COD FISHING is held in Lofoten a weekend every ear in March. Vågan Boat and Sea Fishing Society is hosting the COMPETITION which is usually won by one of the tourists because they vastly outnumber the locals. The record catch was a monster weighing 28,55 kilo.

As you can imagine, the world championship is a rowdy affair that turns the small town of Svolvær into a 48-hour Klondyke followed by a massive hangover. For the survivors.

LOFOTEN ATTRACTS TROPHY HUNTERS, but they are frowned upon. I have a message about that from my cousin, Bjørn, who is on the board of the Norwegian Coast Fisher Association:

It is not acceptable to haul a 60-year old female halibut out of the ocean just to brag about it. That will endanger the local stock. It doesn’t even taste good.

By all means, get a photo of the proud moment. But please be very gentle and release all adult halibuts OVER ten kilos and all youngsters UNDER four kilos. It is not the law, but it is the honorable and sustainable thing to do. Keep what you can eat the same day and release the rest. Live and let live.

As a tourist, you are not allowed to sell your catch, and you may not bring more than 20 kilos of fish out of the country. Still, an estimated 20.000 tons of fish are being smuggled out of Norway and sold abroad every year by so-called sports fishermen. Not only is it detrimental to Norwegian stock, it is also theft which should be punished with cement shoes and a long walk home.

But as an actual sports angler, you are more than welcome in Lofoten. Throughout the year, you can catch cod, fluke, wolffish, haddock, red beam, sea trout, and upwards of 150 other species. April to October is high season for halibut and plaice. Though a bit unpredictable, roaming schools of fat and tasty herring and mackerel are abundant from July and way into the autumn.

PLEASE BE A GOOD SPORT AND COMPLY with all RULES and CODES of conduct and safety. And beware that you need a license to fish in most lakes, streams, and rivers in Norway. Buy one ONLINE or in any post office. Here in Reine, the friendly staff at coop can help you out.

ONE LAST PIECE OF ADVICE: ASK THE LOCALS. After all, fishing has sustained Lofoten for more than a thousand years. For instance, among local fishermen, it is a known fact, supported by a millennium worth of empiric observation, that shagging before fishing is auspicious. We call it GODT HAILL.

Obviously, you may not catch anything, and now you know why. But you can still save your dinner or barbeque if you pop over to Anita’s super delicious seafood shop in Sakrisøy (4 kilometres from Catogården). Do not leave Lofoten without trying her famous pollock fish burger at least.

Without fail, Anita always offers an impressive selection of incredibly fresh fish which her son, Carl Frederik, has pulled straight out of the ocean the very same day. Day after day. The lucky bastard …