Jeg har modtaget denne blog fra en bekendt i Norge, den er på engelsk, den er mega lang – men LÆS DEN! Den er det hele værd!
Hvis nogle af jer nogensinde har været i tvivl om man skulle tage en tur til Norge for at uvjage, bør dette denne blog kunne overbevise de fleste!
God Læse lyst! 🙂
… I love it when a plan comes together, and even more so when there’s a bit of an effort behind the rewards. That is why this is a rather long story, so instead of making it short, I’ll try to make it exciting. Even if you don’t have the patience to finish it all, at least there’s always the pictures.
Two and a half years ago I was up in the Arctic collaborating with some people up there for an experiment for my PhD. I was there for about 6 weeks, just as the light was returning after the mid-winter darkness. Surprisingly to me at the time, this is a magical time of year in the Arctic, with seemingly endless sunrises and sunsets and of course the northern lights. Even before I went I’d dreamed of hunting large Atlantic halibut, it has been ever since I started spearfishing. Up there I heard stories of hook and line fishermen catching halibut on a fairly regular basis, and I also found a few YouTube videos of SCUBA divers swimming up to large Atlantic halibut in what seemed to be fairly shallow waters.
Naturally, the idea of hunting halibut was milling away in my head and I started making plans. However, the Arctic winter is cold and dark and I never got a chance to give it a shot while I was working there and when I left I had no idea whether I’d have the chance to come back to give it a go. Therefore, the plans lingered in the back of my head, without ever really materializing into actual plans for a trip. I practically forgot all about the halibut hunting throughout the spring and summer, until this picture suddenly arrived in my email inbox just over two years ago:
My buddy is a big guy, 190cm+, and as you can see the halibut is even longer: 205 cm and weighing in at a rather astounding 152 kg (~335 lbs). That is bordering on obese for a halibut this length The fish was caught on sport fishing equipment from a small boat, and it had taken him almost 45 minutes to reel in the fish. A fish that big is a fish of a lifetime even by Atlantic halibut standards, and he told me he’d caught it at a depth of only 12-14 meters (~40 feet)! He also added that he’d been fishing in the same area many times throughout the summer and he’d caught halibut half the times he’d been out! Even better, more than half the fish he’d caught had been above the 30 kg mark, and they’d all been caught at depths from 5-25 meters. In other words, perfect for spearfishing… Needless to say these news got me excited and in the early fall I was headed up above the Arctic Circle again, finally ready for the much coveted halibut hunt.
My buddy had booked a cabin close to the fishing spots and we loaded up the boat and headed for the cabin. After we’d relieved the boat of some weight at the cabin we headed towards the halibut’s turf. Conditions were very good, ~15m visibility and sandy/gravel bottom and a manageable current. My buddy was fishing and steering the boat while I was in the water looking for giant halibut. The diving was very different from what I’m used to; due to the great visibility and sandy bottom it felt like I was floating above a desert. I also noticed that I couldn’t see a single fish worth taking a shot at. After swimming around for an hour and a half I’d not seen any trace of as much as a small cod or coalfish, which are rather plentiful in this part of Norway. I did see the occasional school of sand eels swimming around, but that was all. Another issue that started milling in my head was the halibut camouflage. How good was it really? Would I be able to see a 10 or 30 kg fish from the surface at 10 meter depth? I guess the answer to that would only come when I found one…
Not long after I spotted something on the bottom at about 8 m depth during a surface interval. A flatfish like shape maybe? No matter what it was it was small, no doubt, and hardly distinguishable from the sandy bottom. I decided to have a look at it in case it actually was a halibut and started my descent. A few meters down there was no doubting it any more, it was indeed a halibut, and as I’d feared it was very well camouflaged. I could easily have missed it from the surface in spite of the fish resting on top of the sand without any signs of burying to cover itself. About three meters away from the fish I let the spear fly, hitting the halibut right behind the gill plate, unfortunately below, not above, the lateral line. The fish bolted and was gone in an instant; so different from all other flatfish I’ve shot which usually just sit pinned to the sand, unable to move the spear. The halibut actually took my float for a ride a few meters before it was done, but it didn’t take me many seconds to pull it back in on the break-away float line. I’d finally caught my first halibut, albeit a very small one. When I got to the boat my buddy told me it was the smallest halibut he’d seen caught in the area and if it’d been a few months later, it’d been illegal. A minimum size limit for halibut was implemented in 2010 in Norway (80 cm). The fish turned out to be bigger than expected though, roughly 4 kg and was fantastic eating that night. I did a bit more searching, but no more fish were spotted that day.
At the start of day two we were three people in the boat: we’d picked up a buddy of ours the night before. The two of them fished while I hovered above the sandy wasteland for an hour or two, again spotting only the occasional sand eel school. I was starting to feel the cold (7-8 degrees C water) but decided to have a look in the shallows towards the shore, in 4-7 meter depth. After fifteen minutes of surface swimming against a mild current, a dark, odd shape lying on the bottom caught my eye at the edge of visibility. I made my way towards it slowly and it didn’t take long before the diamond shape became obvious and I realized I was looking at a much larger halibut than the one I shot the day before. This thing was massive! A rough guess would be around 50 kg and a meter and a half in length. It was sitting quietly on top of the sand, in about 6 meter depth, blatantly obvious from the surface, even 10+ meters away. It was hardly camouflaged in comparison to the sand, and very dark in coloration. I remember going back and forth in my mind about what to do next: Dive down and get closer or opt for a surface shot? I chose the surface shot. Off the spear went. It hit the halibut in what seemed like the perfect spot; in the middle of the gill plate where there’s plenty of holding power. The fish froze for a split second before bolting off out of sight taking my float line with it. I grabbed the line and waited for the halibut tow job. One, two and three seconds went by and I finally noticed the line had stopped moving. Had the fish settled on the bottom again so fast? No way. I started pulling in the line and felt only an eerie absence of resistance. It didn’t take long before I saw the spear and the absence of a giant halibut on the end. Either the spear must not have penetrated far enough (not past the flopper pin) or the flopper didn’t engage. Either way; it felt awful and I prayed I didn’t hurt the fish mortally.
But on the positive side, I knew I was in the right place and that at least some of the big halibut could be easily spotted from the surface. By now, the excitement and counter current swimming have made me nice and warm, so I carried on surface swimming to look for another giant. In this spot there were a few more rocks and some bedrock interspersed with the sand making the habitat seem less barren. After only 5-10 minutes, another large, dark brown diamond appeared on the bottom below me. I couldn’t believe it and had to have a second look before it finally registered. This one wasn’t as large as the first, but still a good fish, maybe 20-30 kg, it all depends on how thick they are… Again I opted for a surface shot, in fear of scaring the fish before I could fire, and was careful not to aim at the gill plate this time. The spear hit its mark a few cm behind the gill plate and at the same time a strange cracking noise resonated through the water. The fish bolted, leaving the spear in a cloud of sand on the bottom, and me devastated due to another lost fish. By now my buddies had pulled the boat up to check on me and when I told them about the lost fish the looks on their faces were priceless. They immediately started fishing shallower and drifted away again. I reloaded my gun and kept on swimming, pretty much bummed out because of the two lost fish. I was absolutely sure I’d wasted my only two chances at catching a decent halibut, but still continued to swim; there was no way i was getting back in the boat yet, I was just too worked up. I was now moving into a shallower area, where the sand was heavily interspersed with bedrock, in only 3-4 meters depth. Yet again I saw something that looked not quite right.
Directly in front of a large chunk of bedrock ahead was a light grey structure and I moved closer to check it out. Again, as I got closer, the diamond shaped body of a large halibut appeared and my heart started racing. This fish was the biggest by far and in only 3-4 meters depth! Again I lined up for a surface shot, not daring to potentially disturb the fish by diving while I was so close. As I pulled the trigger, the fish decided to bolt despite my efforts to be stealthy; it was gone surprisingly quick for such a large animal. The spear did meet up with the fish, but it hit its flank only a few cm into the flesh and that tore out before I even felt the resistance. Again I was utterly gutted because of another fish lost, but luckily this one was barely scratched compared to the others. I decided to check out its actual size and went down to the bottom to lie down in its spot. I was amazed. The fish was at least as long as me (excluding the long fins), 180 cm+ (6 feet), which corresponds to a weight of ~80 kg and definitely far bigger than the Norwegian record at the time. Now I was stoked, almost high on the experiences of the day, and kept on swimming around to try and find another fish. But that was it for the day, another hour or so went by without sight of fish, and I decided to get back in the boat to warm up. My buddies were of course thrilled to hear about yet another large halibut and they had also hooked a small one on rod and line, but it had let the lure go a while into the fight.
The next day the images of the giant fish were still swimming about in my head and I couldn’t wait to get into the water for another chance. After an hour or so I descended to about 7-8 meters and notice a drop off a few meters away. These ridges in the topography are usually nice spots and fish can often be found either on top or at the bottom of a ridge. I made my way to the edge and dropped down about 5 meters to where the ridge levelled out with the next plateau. I swam about a bit and found nothing but sand, but when I angled up to start my ascent I scanned the perimeter of my visibility and spotted that tell-tale diamond shape quite a distance away. I decided the fish would probably stick around long enough for me to come back down again with some fresh air in my lungs, so I continued upward while I kept my eye on the diamond shape on the bottom. I could barely make it out from the surface, but it was enough let me to kick against the current at the right pace and stay in position above the fish. A surface interval had never felt so long before! I did finally finish my scheduled time at the surface, took one deep breath and headed down, all the while keeping my eyes pinned on the halibut below. I had seen the fish from an odd angle rather far away so I had a pretty vague idea of the size. I knew it was above tiny and below behemoth, but other than that I was in the dark. As I passed 7-8 meters it became obvious the fish was quite small by halibut standards; I estimated it to be around 10 kg. When I had closed the gap a little more I let the spear fly and it hit the flattie right behind the gill plate, pinning it to the sand underneath. This halibut didn’t put up much of a fight and was soon in the boat. I spent another hour or so in the water, but spotted no more fish and called it a day, thus ending my first trip to the halibut hunting grounds.
My second trip up north came through last summer. I spent three days up there during July last year. Despite my efforts I did not see a single halibut during diving. However, the weather was fantastic and midnight sun diving is highly recommended!
Also, the hook and line fishing was spectacular! After about half an hour of fishing, my buddy hooks this fish:
The second and third day went rather well to. While I was out diving, my buddy managed a fish estimated to 45 kg on the rod but I came up empty handed in the water. However, during the late evening my buddy hooked what seemed to be an OK fish and handed me the rod, saying “Wanna have a go?”. No need to ask me twice, I was right on it. On the first run towards the bottom, the fish literally almost pulled me out of the boat, all the while my buddy was saying that the fish seemed to be a bit tame… It was hard work, but within half an hour the fish was secured to the side of the boat. 175 cm and estimated 75 kgs. I decided to have another go at diving in the same area, but no luck there. However, as I was getting ready to get in the boat again, I did a few test shots on the halibut with my gun and a few close up pics and my buddy shot a few pics of me and the giant flattie.
At the very end I also lost a ~20kg fish on the rod and reel just as we were about to board it, it was a shame, but not much to be done about it.
I just recently got back from my third trip, and let’s just say it was no let down
On the third go I finally managed to shoot and land a good size halibut, and not only one, but two!
I had only been in the water for about an hour and was heading up from inspecting something near the bottom at about 11 meters. As I looked around I noticed the tail of a halibut to my right, a decent size fish that I thought was in the 20-30 kg range. I had no air left to go after it, so I ascended and watched it from above. My heart was racing in my chest, it felt like I was doing a sprint while I was breathing up. I had some serious trouble calming myself enough to prepare for the decent, but I finally managed it and headed down. The water was a bit cloudy and I was having trouble judging the distance to the fish, but I think I was about 3-4 meters away when I let the spear fly. My almost brand new Ulusub 145 mid-handle did the job perfectly, and punched right through the gill plates. The fish took of in what seemed slow motion, swimming up the spear, and shooting off with my floats. I grabbed the floats and hung on for a ride. It must have pulled me 60-70 meters before it settled back on the bottom and I was able to go down with a second spear and get the kill shot in. Needless to say I was over the moon, finally, after many years of dreaming and three years of attempts I had finally bagged a nice halibut! It turned out to be 141 cm long and estimated to be 38 kg according to the length/weight table.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this year’s trip!