The island of Sørøya in Norway is as far north you can go before leaving civilization behind completely. It is the fourth largest island in Norway and is covered in rocky mountains and beautiful fjords. The only way to get there is by plane or ferry. Here, everything revolves around fishing.
We met up with our guide, Daniel Eriksson from Camp Halibut, at the small airport of Hasvik on the southwest part of the island. We are travelling with Jeanett Bersås, an experienced angler who has caught some monster fish, but never a big halibut. The same is true for me, so our common goal is to fight one of these enormous fish before the end of the trip.
After a short but breathtaking drive, looking out over the fjords and rocky landscape, we arrive at the camp. It is situated in one of the many fjords, protected from the worst winds and waves. Daniel and his colleague Alexander Strid give us all the information we need about the gear. We find out what knots to use and how to catch the fish. Most importantly, they tell us, do not leave anything to chance when it comes to the gear. Always check the knots and use a super strong braid. You can get away with some things when you are catching smaller fish, but when you hook into a real monster there are no room for mistakes.
On the first day, we decide to head to the north of the island to a big but quite shallow area with a sandy bottom. The perfect place to find halibut. The key to catching halibut is to keep an eye on the tide and the best fishing is usually right before and after the low and high points. When the currents are strong, the baitfish move around and activate the predators. It also provides a good drift with the boat so you cover more water.
Daniel instructs us to drop our soft baits down to the bottom, reel up a few meters and then just fish it with small movements. We reel it up slowly a few more meters now and then to fish it a bit higher up in the water, and then drop it down again. We are fishing at depths from 10 meters to 30 meters on this first day. The soft baits we are using are the Berkley Power Herring and Sandeel in the bigger models. We also have a dead fish bait in the water, a coalfish around 1,5kg, as this sometimes can be the most effective way to catch them.
After a slow start we get a call on the radio from the other guide boat, they have hooked up to a monster fish! We head over and see the two guests and Alexander taking turns fighting this fish that barely moves from the bottom. Once they get it up closer to the boat, it decides to take off again straight down to the bottom. Finally, with some great team work, they can secure the fish by the boat side. It turns out it is a massive 195cm fish, estimated at almost 100kg.
Inspired by the huge fish we keep on fishing and something is nibbling on Daniel’s baitfish. Now, the key here is not strike too soon. Wait until you can really feel the weight of the fish pulling the bait, then do the hardest strike you possible can, to set the hook. Despite their size, halibut are notorious for being incredibly careful when they take the bait. The technique works and Daniel hooks up to his first halibut of the day. The drag on his Penn Slammer IV does its job without hesitating and after a short but hard fight we can land a nice fish around 120cm!
DESPITE THEIR SIZE, HALIBUT ARE NOTORIOUS FOR BEING VERY CAREFUL WHEN THEY TAKE THE BAIT.
While fishing, a massive wall of fog has blown in from the ocean. We cannot see more than a few meters and the swells are getting massive. But we keep hunting for more fish. I hook up to a strong fish on my Power Herring, my first halibut! Fighting the waves and the fish at the same time is no easy task but finally I can see the fish breaching the surface. Daniel hooks it with the landing hook in the lower lip and secures it. This the safest way to land these fish. We bring it up in the boat using a sling to make sure it does not get hurt. 134cm and a great first fish!
As we are among the fog and a big swell, simply tying on a new leader turns out to be a bad combination. I have never been seasick before and thought I never would be, but there is no way out now. I know for next time to bring seasickness pills! We round of the day with a few more fish before we head back to camp.
Sørøya is not only a great destination for halibut. There are many other species to be caught here. Cod in enormous size and numbers, especially in spring when the skrei cod is migrating here from the Barents Sea. Fish over 40kg is not an impossibility. There’s also coalfish, wolffish, rose fish, ling, and many others.
Jeanette is still waiting for her first big halibut and we decide to try a big fjord with some spots that look perfect. Shallow bays where the sandeels hang out also attract loads of small coalfish. Both sandeels and Coalfish are the halibut’s favorite snacks. It does not take more than a few minutes before Jeanette hooks her first fish and it feels like we are getting bites all the time.
While I am fighting a smaller fish, Jeanett shouts that she has a bigger one on! Daniel quickly releases the small fish and gets ready to land her big one. Jeanette’s rod, a Regiment III Pro boat rod, must work hard to not give the fish an opportunity to get off. After a 10-minute fight Jeanett lands her biggest fish ever, a 153cm halibut. A short while after and she is on again and this one is even bigger! A 159cm fish comes aboard and is estimated at 56kg. Both were caught on the Power Herring soft bait.
AFTER WHAT FEELS LIKE HUNDREDS OF LANDED AND RELEASED COD, AND WITH SORE ARMS, I HOOK INTO SOMETHING HEAVIER.
The last day and the weather is looking promising which means we can go far out to the best spots. Storskalltaren is an area about 90-minutes west of the camp. It has all the right characteristics of a perfect fishing spot and sees little commercial fishing. We decide to go out in the afternoon and fish through the night under the midnight sun.
We immediately hook up with some cod with many nice fish landed but not the ones we are really looking for. Daniel and Jeanett quickly decides to use a bigger baitfish to avoid all the medium sized cod but I am hanging in there with my soft bait, hoping to find a bigger cod. We spot a school of coalfish on the sonar and attach the Power Sandeels to our spinning rod outfits. Coalfish love speed and this is where the Slammer IV really excels. We drop the baits to the bottom and then wind up as fast as possible and just hold on! This is a super cool way to fish and the coalfish fight incredibly hard for their size.
After what feels like hundreds of landed and released cod, and with sore arms, I hook into something heavier. It turns out to be a 20kg cod which is a nice one to catch in the summer season, and my persistence with the soft bait has paid off.
On our way home we spot a group of dolphins jumping on the surface. Just another fantastic experience in the north of Norway. We will return here and try to catch even bigger fish, a 2-meter halibut suddenly does not feel impossible anymore. Anything can happen at Sørøya.