A fishing guide to the European sea bass of Norway

When you think of sea fishing in Norway, the European sea bass isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Cod, pollack, halibut or perhaps sea trout, but sea bass?

Well now it’s time to start to thinking differently. This year as some of the past five years has yielded impressive numbers of fish and to promising sizes too. For example I sent off a German friend of mine (he’ll know who he is if he reads this) to one of my favourite spots for sea trout. Then a couple of hours later I recieve a WhatsApp message from him. It reads in his own words:

”I caught 32. Then I caught 3 sea trouts too. Maybe 40-42cm. I release them but lost a big one. I think upto 55-60cm”

Now I nearly fell of my chair when reading this. I know this spot is a good sea trout place, a really good sea trout place but 32 bass. Here of all places. I was delighted, not only did my tips work (always reassuring if you’re a guide) but he caught a great number of bass where I didn’t even know bass existed. Jack pot! We all win.

My Turn

A few days pass before I get a window to fish and the conditions are perfect. Warm, high pressure, high tide, slightly windy…..

With my kids playing along the beach in the background, I cast out my pink size 2 flatwing into the sea current that flows here, nothing. Second cast into an area which forms a back eddy and WALLOP!

It’s heavy, it runs and all of my fly line disappears through my rod rings followed by 15m of backing. I pump my Hardy Zephrus #6 rod whilst doing the ’heave ho’ and winning back the metres on my Hardy Ultralite CADD reel. With roughly 15m of fly line left it goes again. Down to the backing we go again and the procedure of getting the fish closer starts over. Well 10 minutes pass of the game and then it shows itself. A large fish, easily seen from the 20m to which I stand from the fish. With comments like ”Wow”, ”that’s a big fish”, ”what is it” from my now semi-large supporter gang behind me, I beach the fish. My largest European sea bass ever in my 32 years of fishing sits before me. I lift the 2.5kg (5.5lb) 60cm beautiful creature up for a few pictures before it glides away back to where it came.

Now some people of thinking ”You let it go?!”. Quite frankly yes. The strong genes and the slow growth rate of these fish are like no other. Then that combined with it now being listed as an endangered species due to overfishing in Europe, makes all of us responsible for protecting this fish. They are extremely aggresive, hard fighting fish that we all want for many years to come. So stringent laws and responsible ’Catch and Release’ is paramount here.

Now I obviously haven’t been the only one catching these marvellous fish. There has been larger ones caught upto 4.7kg and many smaller. Here’s some inspiring catches from others:

So how do we catch them?

Very similar to fishing for salty sea trout. The same equipment and the same places. Though there seems to be a difference in them wanting slightly larger lures, flies or bait and these they like to be fished faster.

A typical fly fishing set-up would be a 9’ #6-7 couple with a reel that fits and a slow sinking line. Tippets maybe a touch stronger as these fish have a tendency of smashing the fly. Flies can be anything from shrimps (pattegrisen), sandeel imitations (flatwings) or fish imitations (Lefty’s deceiver). But don’t forget surface fishing too e.g. with gurglers, poppers etc. Very exciting and alluring which by the way works excellent for sea trout too!

My own hand tied Flatwings for bass. The pink one has given most fish this year.

My own hand tied Flatwings for bass. The pink one has given most fish this year.

Spinning set-ups say a 9-12’ rod with a rating of 5-20g or 10-40g depending on conditions. I would strongly recommend casting plugs like the Abu MO or something similar. Black and pink or green/blue have worked well.

Abu MO lure

Abu MO lure

Fish areas with currents e.g. points or straits. Sand banks with drop offs down to weed at the bottom are always a good shot. Also an influence of brackish water a good idea.

Many good places here around my town Mandal.

Many good places here around my town Mandal.

The future

Now I’m not going to paint dazzling pictures of sea bass catches on every outing, it’s just not there yet. You can have days with catches upto 9-10 and other days with none at all. But hey that’s fishing. But I can promise you, once you caught one of these fish, you’ll be left wanting more.

But what’s most important is enjoying these fish for the amazing creatures they are and working together to ensure an environment that encourages increase in population than the gross opposite. Here we all have a responsibility.

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