Every year, the World Cod Fishing Championship takes places in the waters outside Svolvær. The competition is a celebration of the traditional fishing season in Lofoten – and an opportunity to reel in some true whoppers in spectacular Arctic surroundings.
Right now, approximately 80 fishing boats are heading towards Svolvær, the main center of the archipelago Lofoten in Nordland county. Thousands of guests are expected to visit the small island community, with almost 600 of them ready to battle each other.
This is where the biggest sea fishing event in Northern Norway, the World Cod Fishing Championship, has been happening annually since 1991.
In the deep of the ice cold Vestfjorden swims the answer to an important question that will be answered this weekend: Who will land the biggest skrei?
“Skrei” is the Norwegian name for cod from the Norwegian-Arctic stock, which migrates from the Barents Sea to the coast during the first half of every year. This fishing period, known as Lofot fishing, goes on from January to April – and has been since well before the Viking Age.
This tasty catch has been the region’s most important livelihood for countless years, and it remains the main source of income for many people along the Northern Norwegian coast.
“This annual winter adventure has secured the inhabitants of Lofoten easy access to food for 10 000 years. Hundreds of generations of fishermen and their families along the Norwegian coastline have survived because of Lofoten and its resources”, the mayor of Vågan, Eivind Holst, explains in this year’s championship magazine.
The competition is open to both professionals and amateurs, and the combat covers both total catch and biggest individual fish.
The latter provides the perhaps biggest kicks. Cods are often massive in both size and weight, and it’s not unusual to land fish up to 30 kilos.
25 year old Thomas Kløften claimed both the first and the second prize in last year’s championship – his first ever. His advice for hopeful contestants, however, is on the funny side.
“Keep the seasickness at bay and fish as much as you can while everybody else is busy puking over the boat railings."
Although the World Cod Fishing Championship is well on its way of turning 30, new elements are constantly added to the arrangement.
This year, several of the boats will be of an old traditional Northern Norwegian kind called “fembøring”, which is an open boat with square-rigged sails.
At the other end of the modern scale, brand new technology will be tested: A Norwegian-produced underwater drone will be capturing the secret life of Vestfjorden and broadcast the images live in the festival tent. Thorleif Olsen of Lofoten Rent A Boat, the company who will be demonstrating the drone, has high hopes of capturing previously unseen marine interactions.
“We’re hoping to run into some shoals, see how much cod there is and witness fish biting the hook. We can’t move too close to the lines, but we’ll figure it out”, Olsen says to the championship magazine.
More information about the World Cod Fishing Championship – including results – is available here.