10 fish to catch in the North. Hook up in Finland, Sweden or Norway.

by gone71 N

No matter if you are looking for a proper challenge on your upcoming trip to the North or if you just want to get better insights on the fish of your dreams – here you’ll learn all about the who is who of Scandinavian fish.

Arctic Char (salvelinus alpinus)

(nor.: røye; swe.: röding; fin.: rautu/nieriä; dt.: Saibling)

The mighty arctic char is one of the most beautiful fish and well known for the red bellies the male specimens get when becoming mature. It also happens to be one of the most delicious species swimming around and a sought after fish among chefs. The fish has a bit more fat then its salmonid companions so it is very suitable for frying. Before you can relish your own specimen though you have to come by one – and that can be a challenge in its own. They love extreme conditions – and they are the only fresh water fish species to be found above 80° North (the parallel of Spitsbergen). They live mostly in cold alpine and arctic waters and healthy populations can be found in the mountain regions of Swedish and Finnish Lapland e.g. the area of Kilpisjärvi and especially in the Northern mountain lakes of Finnmark in Norway. Our favourite area in this regard is the Varanger Peninsula especially in the direction to Kongsfjord. It is one of those fish that can go from biting everything to total rejection in one second. We love it!

Arctic char is cached by fly- and spin fishing during summer and ice fishing in winter. It can reach impressive proportions and specimen over 10 kg (20 pounds) are not uncommon, though not so much in Scandinavia where a 5 kg fish would be considered a very good catch. They feed mainly on snails, plankton, chironomids and also smaller char and other fish. Especially in summer chars feed on caddis flies, chironomid and scud so dry flies are a good way to pursue them. However a spinning rod can also be very or even more effective, especially if you are fishing from the shore in lakes.

For basic techniques, insights and fishing rules check our step by step guide Catch a fish in Scandinavia and Finland

Cod (Gadus morhua)

(nor.: torsk; swe.: torsk; fin.: turska)

From a commercial viewpoint, cod is the most important fish for the Scandinavian fishing industry. The fish is tied to the northern especially Norwegian culture like no other and the relation dates back over 10000 years. Norway features the worlds largest cod stock and has been not only a basic food source but also a trading good since the Vikings roamed the land. Since cod is well suited for drying it could and can easily be transported all over Europe and eventually the whole world.

There are two main types of cod, the Norwegian-Arctic cod and the coastal cod. Latter spends its whole life in coastal areas while its relative travels deep into the Barents Sea. The Arctic cod is also the fundament of the Norwegian fishing industry and when it returns for the spawning season (January to April) it does so in vast numbers.

If you travel around the northern coastal parts of Norway from the Lofoten upwards you will encounter huge wooden frames full with more or less dried cod in many places. This fish lives close to the bottom and prefers deeper waters that are best reached by boat but it’s also possible to catch them from shore if you are not looking for the big trophies. Cods over 40 kg (80lb) are caught every year. The prime destination for big cod fishing is the Lofoten. Every year in March the World Cod Fishing Championship is held there and gathers around 600 competitors from all over the world.

If you want to go fishing on your own without a boat Saltstraumen Bridge is a very good place to be for bigger fish. If you are just looking to fish for smaller cod for dinner you are usually best off to look out for peers, moles and natural spots like rock formations that give you access to deeper waters.

Regarding equipment you are usually best of with a spinning rod in the medium range The range of 20g to 50g will do just fine if you are fishing for smaller fish from the shore. Otherwise you might look for something in the 40g to 100g ranges. Use a braided mainline 20lb will do fine for most purposes.

Grayling (Thymallus thymallus)

(nor, swe.: harr; fin.: harjus; dt.: Äsche)

This freshwater fish belongs to the salmon family. Its body is covered with silver-greyish scales topped with its distinctive feature – a shimmering dorsal fin also called “the sail”. Grayling prefer cold, clean, running riverine waters and they are found throughout the northern parts of Scandinavia. Some of the best fishing grounds for grayling can be found in Finnish and Swedish Lapland. Specimen around one kilo are considered a trophy fish but catches up to 2 kg are caught every year.

The good thing about grayling is that they are mostly in good mood to bite and our experience. Fly-fishing works better than spin fishing on this fish. If you are just starting out your fly-fishing career fishing for grayling in Lapland is one of the best ways to do so. You can even repurpose your spinning rod for fly-fishing with some simple tweeks. Season opening is usually around the end of May and wet flies are the way to go during this time. Later in the summer dry flies work best. If you are not looking for the biggest fish, really small black dry flies can bring you a lot of happiness and food especially during summer. If you stick to spin fishing you can use smaller spinner or spoons and jigs. The best grayling areas for the purists are in the wilderness far off the beaten path in the backcountry of Lapland.

Perch (Perca fluviatilis)

(nor.: abbor; swe.: abbore; fin.: ahven; dt.: Barsch)

This predatory fish is one of the most common fish that can be found throughout Scandinavia with exception of the northern most parts of Scandinavia. It’s a popular game fish and especially popular in the southern parts of Scandinavia where it grows BIG. The Swedish record is a whooping 3.15 kg. That might no seem too much in comparison to other species but for perch a 1kg fish can be already considered a fish of a lifetime. They inhabit rivers, lakes and even the brackish waters of the Baltic and Bothnian Sea, especially the Finnish archipelagos. This fish can get very old and even seemingly small specimen can be several years of age. It tastes delicious and a tasty table fish.

Perch is a very aggressive fish and they bite usually around the clock with morning and evening being the best times. The best technique to go after perch is jigging but classic spinner and spoons can do the job also very well. You can even set out and perusing perch by classic means with hook, bait and floater. Find spots with deeper waters and drop offs. Perch also like to take cover under natural or man made objects so look out for peers, bridges or overhanging trees.

One prime destination for perch fishing is right in the middle of Stockholm at Skeppsbron in the old town. The best part is that you even do not need a license to go fishing in Stockholm since it is considered as coastal sea area.

Pike (Esox lucius)

(nor.: gjedde; swe.: gädde; fin.: hauki; dt.: Hecht)

“The greediness of pike knows no bounds” wrote the Russian author Sergei Aksakov 1847 in his famous notes on fishing. Swedes refer to it as “crocodile” and it is not uncommon that they tackle larger fish than themselves and suffer coat. There are even those campfire stories of pikes swallowing whole ducks if they reach their record size of one and a half meters.

It is a torpedo shaped and well-camouflaged predator from head to tail equipped with hundreds of razor sharp, backward-pointing teeth. The best fishing grounds for pikes in whole Europe can be found in the lake land of Finland but also in the Southern parts of Sweden. Especially in Finland this fish is quite controversial. Fins either love pike or they hate it. Many despise it due to the taste of the white, flaky meat. They see pike as inferior especially in comparison to their salmonid relatives. Nevertheless many locals, especially in the south consider this fish as delicious and because they are so willingly taking lures they are a great game. Specimens up to 20 kg are caught every year but usually a one-meter pike is considered a respectable trophy.

Pikes are a good target if you just start your spin fishing career or want to have a quick nourishing dinner at the campfire. They can be found in pretty much all waters from lakes over rivers and in the brackish waters of the Bothnian- and Baltic Sea. Pike can be caught the whole year round with autumn (October till ice) and spring (April, May) ­when they feed heavily after spawning ­to be the best times of the year. When the water gets warmer, bigger fish will move on into deeper waters.

The methods for fishing on these predators depend on the waters you fish in. The most common way to catch pike is spin fishing but trolling and vertical jigging is also common. The latter one is the way to go for big pike in open waters and produces usually the biggest catches.

Their white firm flesh features some Y-shaped bones, which are easy to remove if you bake the fish as a whole (e.g. at a campfire). We consider pike as great tasting fish and if you have to feed a lot of people it is a great fish to host a feast. Its meat is very juicy when well cooked/baked and there are several possibilities to enjoy this fish.

Whatever you do – ­­ keep your fingers away from their teeth at all time if you want to keep them in one piece!

Pikeperch or Zander (Sander lucioperca)

(nor.: gjørs; swe.: gös; fin.: kuha)

Zander belong to the family of perch but grow considerably bigger. They are very tasty but also more demanding to catch. They are mainly hunted by trolling or jigging from a boat in the deeper waters of lakes but can also be caught from shore in certain places. It is a tasty and welcome guest at the dinner table or at the campfire if you manage to catch one.

Very well known for its vast zander population for example is the Tampere region and the lake land area in Finland but you can also find them in the brackish water of the coastal areas or in parts of Sweden. They prefer murky water and tend to live in the deeper areas of lakes and rivers. Twilight is usually their most active time and they rise closer to the surface to hunt. During the warmer summer days you have to target them close to the bottom and depths down to 30 meters are not uncommon.

Even though spin fishing for Zander is possible in some places, vertical jigging and especially trolling are more common. The latter can be easily achieved by using a rowboat, one or more rods and a couple of lures. If you have for example a kanu or kayak to your disposal you should definitely give it a try. You might be surprised how effective this method can be. It is also advisable to use floating lures [Rappala https://www.rapala.fi/content/zander-articles/zander-trolling-finland.html?fdid=blog&id=1]. In this way the lures rise to the surface when the boat slows down and can’t get stuck at any bottom dwelling obstacle. The sinking depth of different lures varies and you should make sure that you have a variety (1m, 5m, 10m…) to choose from. For vertical fishing you should consider a sonar.

The best season for Zander is usually June and July but they can be caught in summer and autumn. Keep in mind that there are minimum catch sizes for zander varying from country and region. For Finland the minimum size is usually 42 cm.

If you are fairly new to fishing this fish might give you a hard time in the beginning but in our experience it is well worth the effort.

Find top Fishing Spots in Finland Top Fishing Destinations in Finland | with map

Saithe or Coalfish (Pollachius virens)

(nor.: sei; swe.: lyrtorsk; fin.: seiti ; dt.: Köhler/Seelachs)

This salt-water fish is in the same family as cod and can be easily cached 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.

Smaller saithe is a realtively easy fish to catch at the coastline of northern Norway. photo © gone71.com

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 you can eat it and it is free to catch.

Salmon (Salmo salar)

(nor.: laks; swe.: lax; fin.: lohi)

This is undoubtedly the king among all fish in the North and you may consider working your way up little by little until you try to tackle this one specific species. Not only are there the most rules and regulations (often involving serious money for a license), you also might need some more advanced techniques and equipment if you want to play with the big boys. The latter quite literally in fact since you’ll find yourself mostly accompanied or even competing with a vast amount of fellow fishermen and –women professionally equipped down to the bone which can be an intimidating experience in itself.

Atlantic salmon can grow up to more than a meter and unlike its Pacific counterpart it can survive spawning and return to the sea several times. If you feel ready for this particular fish you will find some of the best salmon rivers in the North e.g. Tana river (Tanajoki, Tanaelv), Laks river (Lakselv) or the Alta river (Altaelv). Acquiring a license can set you back some serious money though and rules and regulations are very strict, especially in Norway where you need also to disinfect your gear. If you want to skip complicated licensing and disinfection you can consider e.g. one of the Finnish tributaries of the Tana river, the Utsjoki which is well known for good salmon and grayling catches. You can acquire licenses in the local supermarket on the spot and even ask for some recommendations. A popular spot is about 15 km South of the little border town Utsjoki where the main road crosses the river. Unlike in many other places where it is fly fishing only, you are allowed for lure fishing (using, spinner, spoons, wobbler etc…). However if money is not an issue you might consider other spots.

Sea Trout (Salmo trutta trutt)

(nor.: sjøørret; swe.: havsöring; fin.: meritaimen; d.: Meerforelle)

Sea trout is actually a freash water fish and basically a form of brown trout that converted to an anadromous (migrates on a regular basis between river and sea) lifestyle.

Sea Torut, Finnmark, 65 cm. photo © gone71.com

It is not an easy catch BUT since you can catch it from the coastal shore it is free and you do not need a license – great news! Be aware though that there is also a minimum size of 35cm required in order to keep your catch. Otherwise you have to carefully release it. Sea trout have a very similar look to salmon and grow much bigger than their river dwelling counterparts. On a quick glance you might even mistake them for a salmon but there are some distinct features that can tell you the difference (straight tale fin, position of the eyes). However they are actually ordinary trouts that have adapted their feeding habits. They can be caught all year round but usually spring and early autumn are the best times.

Brakish coastal water with low salt content is usually the place to be. Sea trouts up to 4 kg are considered a normal catch in certain parts and they can grow even bigger. They are a great game for spin fishing, fly fishing and trolling alike but a spinning rod is the most common way to catch them from shore. Sea trouts are well known torpedoing out of the water catching insects. For more experienced anglers this can be a great opportunity unwrapping their fly rod.

Depending on the waters and your gear a 10g – 30g range of lures along with a rod, reel and line should be sufficient to get you started. There is sheer infinite number of lures to choose from and we had great success with [Toby, Zigge from Abu Garcia]. However, it might be wise to switch through your stack until you find something that works best for you.

They have a similar red meat like salmons and are a very delicious fish, not too far of from salmon. All the Fjord areas of Norway are suitable to go after sea trout but the most promising areas are those close to the rivers. Be aware though that there are regulations of how close to a river you can fish. Usually the estuary is off limits. If you are in the far north, a great (inside) spot for tackling this fish is the coast area in Kunes (70.350202, 26.506585). Stay away from the river mouth of the Austa river (Austaelva) though since this is a popular salmon river. We had some great results close to the boat houses and trouts up to 4kg are common.

Trout (Salmo trutta)

(nor.: ørret; swe.: öring; fin.: taimen; dt.: Forelle)

Trouts are among the most popular fish throughout the whole Scandinavia. They have adapted to many habitats and while some are dwelling freshwater rivers (brown trout), others have become lake-locked (lake trout) or even migratory (sea trout). They are all the same species of fish with different habits and habitats which can have a sever effect in their optical appearance and size. Usually ‘trout’ or the respective local term refers to the form of brown trout.

This is THE fish for many anglers, powerful, hard fighting and torpedoing out of the water. In their wild form brown trout is mostly at home far North in Lapland. In other parts all over Scandinavia they are stocked in popular fishing rivers for sport fishing purposes. The distinguishing feature between a native brown trout and a stock is the adipose fin (second smaller torsal fin) that is clipped in the cultivated forms. Except for Lapland (respective under 64° North) fish with adipose fin must be released and regulations are very strict on that.

The best fishing season depends a bit on your fishery of choice. For river fishing April and May are usually good months when the stoneflies hatch. Later in summer you might wander the night hours (there are not much dark hours in the North) for best results. They are mainly caught by lure- or fly-fishing and you might have to adapt your strategy from place to place. If you opt for spin fishing, the color red works usually quite well for wobbler, spinner or spoons.

There is also one other species of trout that can be caught ­– rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This fish is not native and always cultivated fish stock. Especially in Finland there are many small lakes and rivers that offer the possibility to catch these fish. In rivers they are usually perused by using colourful lures (flies, spinner, spoon, wobbler…). In lakes they are usually fished with colourful artificial paste bait (locals refer to it as silicon). In Scandinavia it’s solely purpose is game for sport fishing. Some consider this as a very unnecessary introduction of a non native fish. However the fishing minds are divided on this as usual.

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