The proof: Summer has arrived! (Photo: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews)
I am so fortunate that I only live a few hundred meters from the Norwegian Sea, and this particular day I bring my fishing rod, a couple of saltwater lures, a sharp knife and bike down to the ferry quay. The trip just takes a few minutes.
I have gone fishing so many times that I can say this with certainty: Big fish eats small fish. However – when, where and why cod, coalfish, pollock or mackerel takes the bait depends on the benevolence of the fishing gods.
To me, the hunt is more important than the catch. Season, temperature, tides, currents, nutrients in the ocean, wind, light, time of day, color and size of the lures, how deep I allow the bait to sink before I pull in the line – not to mention good fortune – are all factors that determine whether I come home with fresh dinner.
In wintertime, I fish cod. A magnificent fish that for good reasons are one of Norway’s most successful export articles since the Viking Age. Dried and salted clipfish still enchants many Portuguese and Brazilian palates as main ingredient in their traditional bacalao, while Italians love unsalted stockfish.
In our home close to the ocean in Central Norway, the delicacy is divided into perfect slices, often served with liver and roe, accompanied with boiled carrots, potatoes and melted butter.
In summertime, grilled pollock with cucumber salad and potatoes tastes heavenly.
Just the idea that I live in a place where we never have to pay for fresh fish, but can catch it with my own two hands without too much effort, is incredible.
This afternoon in June is perfect: It is almost windless, 18 degrees Celsius and the moon has drawn the sea down at its lowest before it just has begun to rise.
It always smells good from fresh, crystal clear seawater. So clear, that it sometimes can be a problem because the predatory fish spot me before I spot them.
My fishing spot. (Photo: Herman Jelstad)
In summertime, pollock and mackerel draws towards the coast to eat and spawn, and when I catch my first pollock I know that summer has arrived.
From the edge of the quay and down to sea level, it is about three meters, and I hope that the fish I am going to catch are not too big, or I will not be able to pull it up out of the water without breaking the fishing line.
I am using a yellow-orange lure, irresistible colors for cod and pollock.
A fish takes the bait in the same moment the lure hits the seawater. An annoying, small coalfish. There must be millions out there, I think. I quickly pull in the fishing line and throw the annoying small fish back to where it came from.
I throw out the lure, longer this time, and let it sink to the seabed before I start pulling it inn. Coalfish usually stays in the upper water layers, while cod thrives at the seabed while they look for their next meal.
I am gently pulling in the line while I let the bait follow the bottom through the kelp forest before it rises when approaching land.
Then, it bites again. A slightly bigger coalfish. About one kilogram. With time, I have gained so much experience that I know exactly what size and type of fish that has taken the bait: Cod feels heavy and flabby while coalfish wriggles and throws itself around in pure desperation.
Pollack however, reminds me of Atlantic salmon, a real fighter that uses all of its streamlined muscles to fight while moving the fishing line up and down, back and forth.
The mackerel attacks everything that shines, and easily becomes hysterical.
My friend is still on the hook and I let it wander freely in the water as a tempting prey for bigger fish.
Maybe the pollock finally has come into the coast to spawn, or, maybe a giant coastal cod is looking up through the water layers and cannot resist the wriggling bait?
Just add salt, freshly ground pepper, dill and a few drops of lemon – and the pollock is ready for the grill. (Photo: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews)
The coalfish becomes calmer and I pull it slowly into the quay while I give out some more line and allow it to sink to the depths along with the bait. Then, I observe the gold glittering shade that quickly is coming up from the depths. The attacker turns around and halfway gobbles the living bait that is rotating helplessly in the water.
Oh, what a feeling!
My fishing rod almost bends double and the reel locking mechanism begins to squeal. The predator has taken the bait.
The battle is tough and I am holding the line tight and gently pulls the fighting fish closer to land. I can feel how strong it is and am thinking that this is a worthy fight.
The pollock is patiently maneuvered towards the sea surface and the nearest ladder. My experience is that I have one to two minutes from the predator breaks up through the surface before it comes to itself, mobilizes, and tries to pull me down into the depths.
I look around and yells to a random watcher who is observing the fight. I ask the man who later proves to be a German tourist, to hold the fishing rod, be determined and calm although the line seems to break every moment. Fortunately, he stays cool as a Viking crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.
I climb down the three-meter-ladder while trying to control the line with my free hand. In a few moments, I finally am able to grab the paralyzed pollock under its gills.
The beautiful fish still has the much smaller coalfish halfway inside the mouth. It is rally heavy and still puts up a fight. However, I am stronger, have more time, and am just as hungry for a fishmeal as the tasty predator.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews