nor.: sei; swe.: gråsej; fin.: seiti; dt.: Köhler
This salt-water fish is in the same family as cod and can be easily caught from the shore in the coastal areas especially further north. Along with cod it is also the most important fish from a commercial fishing perspective in Norway. This fish is a powerful swimmer and it navigates even the strongest current in Norway, the Saltstraumen maelstrom. It’s also there where you can find this fish – big in numbers and size. Saithe feed on herring, sprat, krill and almost everything else that has the right size and moves through the water.
Saithe can be caught all year round along the Norwegian coast. It is a very popular fish in the traditional Norwegian cuisine and is often served in a variety of grated fish dishes as fish balls or dumplings. You’ll probably know the taste from the frozen junks of your local supermarket but you cannot quite compare this to a fresh cooked catch. Unlike their bottom dwelling relatives the cods, they hunt closer to the surface and you will find it much easier to catch one of these. Well, it’s no salmon but still a very tasty catch. The flesh has a gray hue to it and is not shining white compared to cod. If you travel along the coast of Norway and want to survive on fish – this is one of the easier catches you’ll get.
Fishing and Fishing Methods
Coalfish live in some of the strongest currents in the world which makes them very strong and musculus fish. Other than their close relatives the cod, coalfish live and hunt closer to the surface. That does not mean, that they cannot be found in deep waters but when it comes to fishing techniques you do not want to place your lure all the way down. The classic lure for coalfish in Norway is traditionally the pilk, since it works well and is easy to use even for beginners. However, we had even more success with soft baits, like rubber sheds and also decent sized spoons. Especially for bigger specimen, sheds are very attractive since they can mime preyfish very well. They are very versatile and you might even encounter a halibut on the other end of the line.
Small coalfish are very greedy and it is usually fairly easy to catch some if you know where to look for them. As mentioned, these fish love strong currents, so look out for narrow tranches in the fjords, e.g. under bridges. A very famous place to fish for big specimen is near the Saltstraumen bridge, where you can find the strongest tidal current in the world. Every year, thousands of fishermen go there and try their luck in seek of their trophy fish. The world record at coalfish from shore is set in Saltstraumen weighing in at 22.7 kg.
A 20 to 50 gram spinning tackle is a good starting point to approach these fish. Lures are ususally fished quite fast through the water.
Coal fish belong to the cod family but do not feature the charackteristic “beard” cod has. It has three dorsal fins and two stern fins. The back is olive-green to gray-green with slightly lighter sides and a silver-gray belly. The lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw and the fish has a straight side line and a deeply incised tail fin.
Nutrition and growth
The fish lives in shoals and grow up to 130 cm and old specimen (30 years) can weigh in beyond the 30 kg mark. The usual catch however is more between 1 to 3 kg and considerably larger in certain areas as Lofoton. Its main alimentation consists of fish frey, herring and sprat.
Gray saithe is found along the Swedish west coast, and pretty much all over the Norwegian coast. In the Baltic Sea, it is almost non-existent. Gray saithe can dive to a depth of 200 meters.