Lofoten during winter, 150 years ago: Thousands of fishermen from all over northern Europe are housed in the local “rorbuer” (fishermen's cabins), defying the biting cold and difficult conditions. They are not here to enjoy themselves, far from it, but to row out to to catch the annual cod run from the Barents Sea.
Travel to Lofoten in March, and you can still experience a mass-gathering of anglers. But today, they are here just for fun, to participate in the World Championship in cod fishing. A massively popular event that is open to all, despite its formal-sounding name.
It’s no coincidence that events like this are held in Norwegian waters. Norway’s extensive, rugged and largely unspoilt coastline is a paradise for anglers. You can find a myriad of good spots from Østfold in the east to Kristiansand in the south all the way up to the coast of Finnmark in the north, with variations in scenery and fish species.
Cod is probably the most popular among visiting anglers, and whilst Norway (especially Northern Norway) is the unofficial “cod fishing capital of the world”, Norwegian seas are also rich in many others species. Black and silver flanked coalfish weighing upwards of 9 kilos (20 lbs) is not uncommon. There are also haddock and the ugly-looking, though sweet tasting, wolffish.
Norway is also the place to lock horns with that king amongst flatfish, the mighty halibut, and in recent years visiting anglers have taken many individual specimens weighing hundreds of pounds. The biggest so far weighed over 180 kg (400 lbs). Beat that!
Please note that some species are vulnerable to overfishing. Recreational fishers are required to comply with the minimum fish sizes, while it is more and more common to practice catch and release.
That said, most of the world's fishing grounds Norwegian waters receive relatively little commercial pressure, and with favourable conditions provided by the Gulf Stream and rigorously enforced fishing regulations, populations of many species are actually on the increase.
All over the coast you can join the locals on piers or skerries, trying to catch today’s dinner. Most of them will probably be flattered if you ask for advice on good spots and baits.
If you’re a more ambitious angler, join a charter skipper on a modern boat that will take you to the most productive marks. Self-use boats are also available for hire to experienced boat-handlers.
The Norwegian association for hunters and fishers have compiled a set of guidelines for anyone who wishes to try their luck in the Norwegian seas. These are:
In order to preserve Norwegian fish stocks we encourage everyone to avoid catching fish that are under the minimum size specified.
If you do catch a fish that is smaller than the minimum size, free it carefully from the hook and release it into the sea. If the fish is dead or is clearly not capable of surviving, you can keep it to eat.
Read more about the fishing regulations.
The rise in use of organic food has been an important political target in Norway, and in the last few years sustainable food consumption has gotten a big breakthrough.
In addition, the word "kortreist" (literally "short-travelled") has found its way into Norwegian cooking dictionaries. The word implies producing and consuming more local foods that don’t rely heavily on emission-inducing transport. Many of the local producers combine ancient Norwegian food traditions with new scientific methods for developing the products in a safe environment.
The products can be bought locally, or through the large supermarket chains that are focusing more and more on higher quality products from local producers.
Many Norwegians also take pride in cooking from what they harvest themselves. During summer and autumn, the forests are brimming with fresh, wild berries and tasty mushrooms, and harvesting them is seen as a recreational activity.
Angling is an integral part of the Norwegian lifestyle. Countless lakes and rivers and an extensive coastline means outstanding opportunities for catching a big one.
If it’s peace and quiet you are after, you can do much worse than exploring the many seemingly endless lakes and streams in Norway with a fishing rod in hand. In many cases, you will have the place all to yourself.