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Cold weather shore cod fishing in Norway

Norwegian shore caught cod

Norway has become one of the most popular destinations for UK sea anglers. Its reputation built on incredible boat catches of big cod, haddock, coalfish, ling, wolffish and of course halibut. But now shore anglers are realising the massive potential for shore fishing all along the Norwegian coast.

I was to team up with Ian Peacock, the UK representative for Din Tur, a Norwegian adventure holiday company responsible for taking thousands of UK anglers out to Norway over the past few years. Also in the team were top Northeast match anglers Gary Pye, Darren Swan and Dave Sinclair, also friend and colleague Steph Monaghan from Hamilton in Scotland.

We flew initially from our respective regional airports and assembled in Sciphol, Amsterdam for the easy and short connect flight to Trondheim. Piling loads of gear in to the hire cars, we then enjoyed an incredible drive through some of the most amazing scenery to our destination, Hasvag, a small village at the head of a peninsula situated between Bole Fjorden to the south and Jossund Fjord to the north.

In part the intention was to fish well outside the traditional tourist season to sample the quality of the shore fishing available at that time. Also to establish a precedent that anglers unable to fish during the summer months due to family commitments can still visit Norway in mid winter and enjoy great fishing. We chose mid February!

Even though we’d travelled all day, immediately our gear was stowed in the house, we were off fishing. We chose a mark five minutes from the house and just 75-yards from the car.

This was a rock mark casting into about 20-metres of water to the right and maybe half that to the left. Gary and Darren fished bluey and crab baits, while the rest of us worked artificial shads through the water column. The shads proved ineffective on the night, but Gary was first in on the bluey with a cod about 6lbs. Darren followed suit, then it all went quiet.

Leaving Gary and Darren fishing we decided to call it quits and get some supper and  well earned sleep, but just as we got back to the house the phone rang. Gary had a good fish, so I shot back and took photos of a cracking 13lb 2oz cod. What a start!

Norwegian shore caught cod

The next day we chose a mark, dead opposite across the bay from the previous night’s adventure, towards Krona. We found ourselves fishing off big broken boulders in varied depths ranging from 10-metres to over 25-metres. The ground was mixed rough, but you lost no tackle to speak of, which is typical in Norway.

First in was Gary with a cod about 4lbs that took a bluey and crab cocktail. I was boulder hopping with the camera and headed over in response to a shout from Ian who’d just landed a cod about 5lbs. Darren was also in to fish about the same size.

Sport was consistent but not hectic, but I left my rod out of the water to concentrate on the camera. Next in was Dave. He shouted he was in to a better fish and as I reached him, he lifted up a near 8lb cod. These were fat, well conditioned fish that fought hard all the way in the deeper water. That afternoon produced good sport, but after nightfall we elected to move to another nearby rock ledge and caught more cod, with the best again about 8lbs.

We intended to try as many marks as we could and headed ten minutes north of Hasvag the next day to try a deep water fjord. This produced plenty of cod during the day, but Darren and Dave stayed on in to dark on this mark and found very deep water. He lost what he described as a massive fish on a fresh coalie bait that had the line singing, probably a ling. He also landed a ling about 12lbs to prove the point, plus the lads had torsk, dabs and haddock.

The rest of us headed to another mark within a ten minute walk of the house. This was a rock ledge in to water about 15-metres deep. Steph was first off the mark with a big dab, followed by all of us landing cod to 6lbs or so.

Norwegian shore caught cod

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we chose to try a small rocky headland, again just a few minutes drive south of the house towards Steinvika. This was one of the shallower marks we fished but saw us casting in to maybe 12-metres of water amongst rocks and weed. Steph landed a series of smaller codling to 3lbs on mussel tipped with limpet, and Ian bagged a nice fat 6lber. I followed up with cod to 6lbs taken on bluey baits.

The other lads joined us and went about 400-metres over to the right. Instantly they were in to cod to 7lbs and enjoyed non stop action for a few hours.

Suffice to say the fishing within 10 minutes of the house over three days had proved consistent with numbers of cod averaging 4 to 6lbs backed up with fish from 7 to 10lbs, plus the 13lber.

Having gauged the sport available in Hasvag we decided to move further a field to a mark near Lauvsnes, just under an hour away. This again was a rock mark casting out towards small islands. Darren and Gary went further west down the fjord and found a cracking mark fishing between a narrowing channel with some tide run between the mainland and a small island. Constant chatting on the phone kept us informed that they were catching cod to 9lbs in big numbers and it was non stop action for them.

Norwegian shore caught cod

Dave and I started picking up fish straight away landing cod to 6lbs, plus I had dabs and a few haddock. The afternoon proved very eventful with Dave catching two small halibut and I was lucky landing a 15lb 10oz halibut. You can read the full story on this halibut adventure here on WSF in the separate feature Halibut: The King of Fishes.

So good was the fishing here that we decided to spend the penultimate day of the trip on the same mark and again the fishing proved excellent with a ling of 9lbs for Dave, cod to 9lbs for Gary and Darren, cod to 7lbs, haddock, dabs, whiting to close on 3lbs and coalfish for the rest of us.

The final day we looked for a totally new mark not far from Lauvsnes. We followed roads leading towards the shore until we found access to a series of rock ledges. Darren, Dave and Ian fished here and produced a cracking string of cod with Darren getting two over 10lbs, plus a12lb 5oz fish.

Norwegian shore caught cod

The numbers of cod on this mark were high and they fed well right through from three hours before high water and most of the way down the ebb. The top bait was either fresh mussel or bluey, though frozen crab the lads had brought also produced a good number of fish.

Gary went off on his own finding cracking haddock to 7lbs, and Steph and I fished another experimental mark in to the main channel of the fjord, both taking cod to over 6lbs on bluey tipped with mussel.

Norwegian shore caught cod

In the six days fishing we’d covered a lot of different marks and caught well on all of them. At first the fishing was good but not quite the fast action we expected, but then as the tides eased off the fishing really came on and over the final four days a lot of fish were landed between the team with virtually all of them returned alive, bar for a half dozen or so we ate. It proved the point that even in February the fishing can still be excellent with huge numbers of cod, backed up by haddock, big whiting, huge dabs and ling.

I loved Norway in winter! The scenery was immense, the air clean, and the fishing superb yet relatively unknown. That’s the key word “unknown”. The big cod are proven and without doubt far bigger will be caught! The question I asked myself on the last day was what other cold weather leviathans await winter shore anglers in the magical land of The Norse?

Norwegian shore caught cod

The best option is a 13ft to 13ft 6in powerful, fast taper beachcaster capable of launching 6ozs and a big bait. Match this to a Penn 525Mag2 or Shimano Torium loaded with 20lb line and a 60/80lb shock leader.

The best rig is a Pennel Pulley rig, but use 80lb mono for the rig body as you never know what size of cod, or maybe a halibut, you might hook. Have a few different rigs made up with size 4/0 and 6/0 hooks. Some lads like the 8/0 Sakuma Manta’s, and they are a good all round choice for the cod.

Also take a few three-hook rigs with size 1 and 2/0 hooks on which are good for the flatfish, haddock and whiting.

Carry about 30 5.5oz to 6oz leads. Fishing hard over 6 days in to generally rough ground I lost just four leads, and the other lads I think didn’t lose more than eight or ten at worst. The ground you’re fishing is hard rock, but not that snaggy anywhere it seems.

You’ll also need a small box of swivels, beads, lead links etc, a couple of spools of bait elastic, scissors, long nosed pliers, small bait knife and a reliable headlamp. Oh…and don’t forget a cloth to wipe your hands on.

Penn mag reels

It was colder than normal in Hasvag this winter according to the locals. We experienced air temperatures down to minus 8, but with a wind chill it feels much colder. Usually the temperature is only just either side of freezing at this time with some days plus 6 or 7C, so it’s much like home.

Normal thermal under clothes worn under trousers and a T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt or hoody and a fleece, then your normal Bib & Brace trousers and waterproof coat is all you need. Bobble hats are okay, but I found a proper trapper hat with ear flaps that might make you look a prat, but they keep you much warmer and are highly recommended.

I used good quality climbing boots with a normal pair of socks, then thermal ones over the top. If you use Wellies then choose good quality ones with a heavy sole that insulates your feet from the cold ground.

Gloves are essential. I bought a pair of Sealskins and was very disappointed in them feeling cold on my hands all the time. I’d suggest woollen fingerless mitts, then gauntlet type gloves over the top for when the fishing is slow.

Sunglasses are a good idea as even though the sun is low in the sky most of the day, it is bright and especially when reflecting off the water or snow.

Norwegian shore cod fishing

The lads brought frozen crab, a few wraps of black lug and plenty of bluey out with them. All baits caught, especially the bluey.

If you look at the bases of the rock ledges where they fall in to mixed weed and grit ground amongst rocks you’ll find huge mussels with a shell length up to 8-inches or more. These are excellent baits for the cod, haddock, flatfish and whiting, but take only what you need for the days fishing.

You will pass numerous muddy bays along the road side which are teeming with huge numbers of lug, white rag, smaller mussel, sand clam and big mud clam. So prolific are these baits that it would pay a group of four of you to buy a good fork from one of the stores to guarantee fresh bait. If you do decide to dig your own bait, please back fill the holes as you would at home and again, only take what you really need.

Ian Peacock of Din Tur is also looking to organise frozen bluey, squid, mackerel and herring that can be pre ordered and waiting for you on your arrival at your accommodation. This is the option I would choose as it frees you up from all the worry of getting your own bait over there on the plane etc. These baits also produce the fish!

Mussel bait

A KIS or Bazuka rod case is best for transporting rods. Remember you can load these with your rods, rod rests and add leads etc, to them to free up luggage weight in your standard luggage case.

Use a rucksack as carry on luggage and carry your boots in this, again this frees up weight in your main case. You can also use the rucksack to carry your fishing gear when in Norway.

If you want beers or spirits while away, buy them in duty free.

Some people take packed meat and cheese with them for sandwiches, also staple foods such as pasta, coffee and tea. This can reduce costs slightly, but personally I find if you shop and eat sensibly that Norway is no where near as expensive as some people make out.

We stayed at Hasvag Fritid, an old school house superbly converted in to three separate apartments capable of sleeping up to 16 people. The apartments offer double and single rooms, separate toilets and showers, kitchen with all modern facilities and a lounge. There is also a master communal lounge area where everyone can congregate in the evenings. Heating is via wood burner stoves which give out pretty much instant heat. Other facilities include a barbecue using an old traditional boat as a weather cover, play area for children, parking right outside, plus I understand a boat is available for rent should you wish to sample a little offshore fishing.

Hasvag is a small scenic coastal village with a small harbour and marina, a pub which opens in the summer, and all set amidst some beautiful scenery. In the mornings you can see red deer, sometimes moose, red squirrels, sea eagles and a myriad of other wildlife.

There is no supermarket in Hasvag. We called at one of the numerous supermarkets you pass on the road after leaving the airport and stocked up pretty much for the week. In addition the owners of the house can pick up any food items you need as they travel to and from work each day and are very happy to do so.

Our group flew from Teeside, Glasgow and Birmingham airports with an easy onward connection from Sciphol, Amsterdam to Trondheim. Most regional UK airports will have connect flights with access to Trondheim. From Trondheim It’s an easy 3-hour or so drive, but through beautiful countryside amongst lakes and mountains and is as enjoyable as the fishing.

Bookings and all arrangements are through Ian Peacock, Din Tur UK, Unit 1B, Cromwell Business Park, Hartlepool, TS24 7LR. Tel; 01429-866814. Mob: 07763 576995. E-mail: peacock@dintur.co.uk Ian is highly experienced in organising Norwegian holiday’s for anglers and is an excellent angler himself. He will answer any questions you may have and suggest the best possible all round package for you.

A typical 7-night package for Hasvag Fritid based on 4 people including a hire car from Trondheim Airport, plus the cleaning of the apartment after you leave costs just £330 per person. Flights and bait are obviously not included, but are very reasonable.

Brochures are also available from Ian covering all Din Tur’s angling destinations throughout Norway, which I believe is well in excess of 200, so you have plenty to choose from covering both boat and shore.

Footnote: Also check out Halibut: The King of Fishes in the feature section of WSF where you can read the full account of Mike’s 15lb 10oz halibut caught from the shore during this same trip.