Part Two, Journey Beyond the Arctic Circle: Ice Fishing on Lapland’s Lakes

Ice fishing on Nitsijärvi.
Ice fishing on Nitsijärvi in Lapland.

While I was growing up my grandfather occasionally took me fishing and I sometimes tried to catch something from the small muddy ponds that were near my home, but I never was very serious about it and I never once went ice fishing. However, since I enjoy outdoor activities I jumped at the chance to learn about ice fishing when a few friends invited me along on their annual ice fishing trip to northern Lapland. I soon learned about both the highs and lows of the sport and came to realize that not all ice fishers disregard common sense about safety on the ice (yes, I sill shake my head when I see people fishing when no person in their right mind should be out on ice that thin). I also learned about new species of fish and learned to solve fishing’s periods of boredom by taking in Lapland’s outstanding beauty.

The first day of fishing started well. I was instructed on some basic ice safety, such as avoiding dark spots in the ice and areas with rocks (normally = thin ice). However, the ice was thick everywhere with nearly a foot of solid blue ice with a thick layer of weak, white ice on top. We began fishing in a deep part of the lake where we hoped to catch arctic char. After just a few minutes one of our group caught a small white fish.

A nice sized arctic char.
A nice sized arctic char caught on the trip.

A few minutes later someone else caught a nice arctic char, but it was unfortunately a few centimeters too small to legally keep and so it was released (much to the amazement of some locals when we told them we had released perfectly good food). After a long time without catching anything else we moved to shallow water to try our hand at catching grayling, a species of fish related to the salmon. Soon we caught several small ones, but none large enough to keep. Catching fish large enough to keep would be a battle the whole trip; most fish simply were not biting and the ones that were tended to be small.

Once we had switch to grayling I caught my first fish of the trip. I have to say that I really enjoyed fishing for grayling for several reasons. First, we were in just a few feet of water and the water in Lapland is so clean I could easily see the bottom of the lake. Second, and because of the first point, I could also see fish. When I caught my first grayling, I saw it make several passes at my lure before it took the bait. There were also other small fish around called Eurasian minnows that could provide entertainment while you waited for bigger fish. If these little guys suddenly scattered, it was a good sign that something bigger was in the area.

The author's largest grayling.
The author’s largest grayling.

The next morning it was decided to visit two lakes and try again to catch graylings. On the first lake we stopped at a spot where in previous years my friends had caught small to medium grayings and soon several people had either small graylings or white fish. As for me I still was on fish number one. After about an hour we decided to move on to the next lake which was very shallow and rocky. Soon one of the guys in our group started catching white fish, some of which were sizable, and he continued to catch them throughout the day. The rest of us spent the next five of six hours moving from spot to spot without landing anything. At one point I saw a large grayling fly by my whole in the ice and take my lure. The next second my line snapped like thread and the fish was gone almost as quickly as it had come. One the way back home that day, we decided to stop at the first spot on the first lake. I was tired and disappointed about losing a big fish so I lagged behind the rest of the group and focused on taking some nice pictures of the scenery, which was spectacular.  When I caught up I sat down at my hole from that morning and dropped my line. After a few minutes we decided to leave and as I was about to get up, a grayling grabbed my lure! It was larger than the others we had caught, but still too small. I was excited and requested that we stay a little longer. I dropped my line in again and almost immediately I got another bite and I pulled up the biggest grayling that I would catch that trip. Just as I got the fish onto the ice my line broke again, but this time the fish was not going anywhere. That night I ate well and decided that I liked fishing for grayling even if most of the day had been a wash. I also changed my line.

The nicest fish of the trip was a large trout which broke a record for the man who caught it.
The nicest fish of the trip was a large trout which broke a personal record for the man who caught it.

We continued to fish for two more days and more fish were caught including one guy’s record for trout (it fed four hungry guys with nice portions). After a week of ice fishing I can say that despite the fact that the fish were not biting, ice fishing is fun. Three days in a row we (and by “we” I mean the other guys) caught enough fish for everyone to eat for dinner and we had a good time hanging out and enjoying the amazing Lapland wilderness. The bottom line is I would do it again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *