Highpoint of the winter: There are many fishing lakes in Vesterålen, where trout and Arctic char are the dominant species. The lakes are normally visited during the summer season, when the coffee pot, frying pan and an open fire add an extra dimension to outdoor life. But one should not scorn the fascination of going to the lake on skis, dabbing one’s face with a little extra sunscreen, drilling a hole in the ice, dropping a line and opening a thermos ful of hot cocoa and stretching out on a reindeer hide – while waiting for a tug on the line. For many, this is the highpoint of the winter …

Up until the present day such festive occasions have been the domain of local aficionados of ice-fishing. This is because visiting tourist fishermen normally come during the summertime. But a few have discovered that it is just as exhilarating and attractive to pursue one’s fishing luck during the winter as well. And Vesterålen is the perfect place for such pursuits. The natural surroundings and terrain here offer limitless opportunities, since most of the fishing lakes are nearby and easily accessible. 

There are also several local ice-fishing contests in various places in Vesterålen.

What is ice-fishing?
To go ice-fishing you will need an ice drill, a jigging rod, a small reel of fishing line (0.2 strength or stronger), jigging hooks and maggots. It is also recommended to dress warmly in windproof clothing and warm footwear. You also need an insulated seating pad. The most exclusive kind of seating pad is a reindeer hide, but a good Therm-a-Rest pad is also very suitable. Some prefer to bring along a light camping chair. Hot beverages and a packed lunch are not only important; they are half the pleasure of ice-fishing.

You should never ice-fish on unsafe ice. But should a mishap occur, it is wise to have extra clothing in reserve, waterproof packed. A minimum of safety equipment is also obligatory on ice-fishing trips – such as a safety line and a couple of hand spikes. A hand spike is a handle with a steel spike attached. It is used to grip a slick, icy surface so that one can pull oneself up after going through the ice. But this is important: you will get no help from equipment that is still in your rucksack! Keep it hanging around you neck or fastened securely to your jacket so that your can easily get to it in an emergency! It may be practical and useful to bring along a sledge or toboggan.

Safe ice
What is safe ice? The term varies in relation to the location of the water, the compactness and depth of the ice, the temperature, precipitation, wind – and the season. As we say in North Norway: If the ice holds around Midsummer Eve, it will be a late spring …

When venturing out onto unfamiliar icy surfaces, one should exercise caution. Drill pilot holes at regular intervals as you cross the ice in order to test thickness. This is because thickness may vary from place to place on the same lake. 10 cm of blue ice is normally safe, while snow-covered ice is the most difficult to gauge. One must always be wary of ice exposed to currents, such as at the mouth of a river or sound. Areas where you can see stones or vegetation sticking up are also exposed places. You should also be careful around dams. If the lake is regulated, it is definitely important to be observant. Contact local experts for information on ice conditions on any given lake!