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Shore fishing for halibut

Shore halibut intro

Norwegian shore fishing is still in its infancy, but it offers massive potential to those willing to experiment. The fact is that you’ll be fishing marks unlikely to have ever been fished before by rod and line anglers. Incredible catches of cod, ling, haddock, whiting, coalfish, wolffish, torsk, plaice and maybe even turbot await those that venture in to this virgin territory.

But one particular fish is the ultimate target for the shore angler, and that is the halibut. Talk to anglers visiting Norway and for the majority the halibut is the Holy Grail. Even size is immaterial, just to catch a halibut from the shore is enough. These are special fish!

I was scheduled for a February trip to Hasvag in central Norway teaming up with Ian Peacock, UK representative of Din Tur, the Norwegian adventure holiday company who have built such a huge reputation for providing top class venues throughout the country. Also with us would be top Northeast anglers Gary Pye, Darren Swan and Dave Sinclair, and friend and work colleague Steph Monaghan from Pure Fishing.

We assembled at Trondheim Airport, then drove through some of the most beautiful lake and mountain country imaginable to Hasvag on the south side of Jossund Fjord.

We fished the first three days sampling just a small selection of the numerous shore marks all within 15 minutes or so drive of the house catching good numbers of quality cod, but you can read an additional feature on the cod fishing we enjoyed here on WSF.

By the fourth day we decided to head further north, less than an hour’s drive, to fish near Lauvsnes, to a mark where Ian and Gary had previously fished the year before and done very well with cod and varied species. Ian and Steph would boat fish in Hasvag first, then join us later.

Darren decided to fish a mark about a mile away from us in a channel between the shore and an island. I set up at the edge of a little bay that led in to a small harbour with a jetty. Dave was about 70-metres to my right and Gary way over to the right and well out of earshot.

The fishing started quiet enough, but about two hours before high water I picked up a few small haddock, coalies, some big dabs and a couple of cod, the best about 4lbs. Dave caught some cod to 5lbs, a big dab and coalies, and Gary seemed to be finding a few better cod to 6lbs.

Suddenly I heard Dave shout he’d got a big flounder, but then as he landed it he realised it had teeth and was his first ever halibut about 3lbs. He was rightly made up with a huge grim on his face and I shot across to take a photo for him. No sooner had I got back to my rod than he shouted he’d got another, this a better fish that looked close to 6lbs.

Double halibut from the shore

Now two halibut in quick succession is no coincidence. It occurred to me that halibut often feed over slack water, which we were just approaching, and with Dave’s two quick fish, obviously they were keen to dine.

I re baited with a large section of bluey, well bound on with bait elastic, presented on a Pulley Pennel rig carrying two 6/0 Viking pattern hooks. I hammered the bait out as far as I could. The grip lead settled and almost immediately I got a bite. This was no big flattie and proved to be a small greedy cod about 3lbs.

Out with another bait and I settled down to wait. Maybe 10-minutes passed before I noticed the rod tip dip slightly. I waited and it dipped twice more, then suddenly pulled hard over lifting the butt off the floor. I was up on my feet and winding down in to the fish in an instant.

As I lifted the rod to set the hook the tip bowed over and the fish started to rip line off the drag. This first run was awesome and I stood watching frankly amazed as I lost somewhere between 30 and 40-yards of line before the fish went to ground. I felt the fish powering across the seabed during that initial run and realised pretty much straight off what I’d hooked.

Pressuring the fish it moved, swung in the tide then tore off on another good run, dragging more line from the reel. As soon as it stopped I pumped the fish hard regaining quite a bit of line, but then the fish stopped, turned and tore off again.

I briefly thought about calling Dave over now, but decided against it as there was plenty of fight time left in this fish yet. I was also concerned that I’d got a rock ledge in front of me about 25-yards out that I had to get the fish over, and that wouldn’t be easy.

I worked the fish hard but kept it at range and well out beyond the ledge aiming to tire it as much as I could before trying to coax it over the top of the ledge. The fish was just making short runs of just a few yards now, but it was amazing the power the fish had, especially in the deeper water which it used to good effect.

Slowly I could feel the fish tiring. It made one shorter run, then sat on the seabed using all its weight. Immediately it did this I upped the drag just a touch and put full pressure on the fish. It moved and I made sure it kept coming. Trying to gauge where the ledge was I worked that fish really hard and literally bullied it up and over the ledge and still kept it coming towards me scared of losing it.

For the first time I saw the fish and confirmed my suspicions as a halibut turned in front of me and swung away ripping a few yards of line off the reel looking to reach the ledge again, but it had to turn to the pressure of the rod and started swimming powerfully backwards and forwards in front of me. It made one last rush seawards then wallowed on the surface.

I finally shouted to Dave and he was across like a bullet and down at the waters edge. I steered the flattie towards him and brought it nose first in to his feet. I watched anxiously as he lifted the fish by the gill, and as he did so it gave him a good whack with its tail on his leg and he did well not to drop it. I knew by the looks of it it was well in to double figures but didn’t dare to dream it was over 15lbs. Taking hold of the fish myself I knew it was close.

Dave was a pleased as I was and was instantly there with a congratulatory handshake. We were joined by Gary now who’d heard all the commotion and weighed the fish together watching it bounce the needle down to 15lb 10ozs!

Halibut from the shore

Although the others lads caught some great cod that day, Dave and I had the biggest smiles on the way home.

I live in awe of halibut! I’ve been very lucky now and caught quite a few, though all from the boat bar two. The ratio of power to size is incredible. The muscular body is pushed along by that massive paddle tail and their acceleration has to be felt to be believed. I enjoy any fishing and will fish for tiddlers as well as giants, but to me halibut are the true king of fishes!

Norway is a land that can produce fish of a lifetime and that 15lb 10oz halibut was a dream fish for me. There are much bigger halibut yet to be caught from the Norwegian shore and certainly 50lb halibut are a distinct possibility. If you get the chance to go, then it could be you who lands that monster!

I don’t think you can be really specific, especially in Norway, trying to pick a shore mark with halibut in mind. Halibut are literally where you find them, but they do like channels between islands and the edges of bays cutting backwards in deep water. They also seem to favour mixed ground or flattish rock ledges they can sit on looking upwards for passing prey. An edge of a tide run is also a good place to put a bait.

Good fishing marks are often very close to the road in Norway and just a short walk away. Often you can spot a headland or rock mark and just go and fish it with access over open ground. Study the chart and pick the deeper rock ledges to start with, but don’t discount shallower water, especially inclines and rising ledges.

Ian from Din Tur will also provide you with specific marks, either highlighted on a chart, or give you GPS co-ordinates you can locate with an iPhone to put you right on a mark that has proved good before.

As in the UK though, never drive through or park in someone’s back yard without permission, and always respect fences, gates etc.

Shore fishing in Norway

Rods need to be powerful to fully pressurise these potentially big fish. I fished an ABU Atlantic 464, though an MTI 300, Penn Affinity Surf, or any similar powerful, fast taper beachcaster from the Greys, Century or Zziplex stables would also be perfect.

I matched the 464 with a Penn 525mag2 loaded with 20lb line and a 60lb shock leader. Other good reels would be Penn TRQ100’s or Shimano Torium’s. Whatever reel you choose make sure the drag works efficiently and that the gears are tough and strong. Trust me…you’ll need them to be!

The rig I chose was a simple Pennel Pulley. I used 70-inches of 80lb Penn shock leader line for the rig body. Tied a Gemini Lead Clip to one end. Slid on a 5mm bead, a Pulley rig bead and another 5mm bead, then tied in a figure-of-eight knot leaving 30-inches of hook snood. This rig being made from one continuous length of line is stronger and will withstand a long fight. I used Partridge Uptide hooks size 6/0 rigged pennel style. With hindsight I wouldn’t change this rig in any way.

Penn 525 Mag reel

I decided to rely on bluey. I’ve caught lots of fish of varied species on bluey everywhere I’ve fished with it and have full confidence in the bait. I like the tail cone of the bluey, or will cut the head and tail off the whole body, half the body down the middle and cut each section in half again binding one section on to the hook to secure it adding the top pennel hook by positioning it through the top of the bait.

I would also expect half fillets of coalfish, whiting or cod to take halibut. The other good bet would be big chunks of dabs, especially if you keep some of the guts attached to the chunks. Herring is also reliable. Halibut are a top predator, but will also scavenge on the seabed, so change baits within a 20-minute time span to keep maximum scent flowing out.

Ian at Din Tur also tells me that he is in the process of arranging for bait to be ordered and available on site for when anglers arrive. Baits will include bluey, squid, mackerel and herring. This will prove to be an excellent service and takes away all the worry from travelling anglers re a good bait supply.

Bait for halibut in Norway

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 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, so 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: As mentioned look out on WSF for a forthcoming feature on how the team did targeting cod and other shore species available in the Hasvag and Lauvsnes areas.