“I’ve fished in more than 40 countries and can say without a doubt that Sørøya is the best place in the world for Arctic deep-sea fishing. There is nowhere in the world you can catch so many fish and such big fish. You’re absolutely guaranteed a catch!”
19 trips in 20 years
So says fishing enthusiast Geir Sivertzen, for whom it was love at first sight when he first came to Sørøya in West Finnmark 20 years ago. There have been many trips since then – 19 so far – and he keeps coming back.
Although anglers are known for exaggerating, he promises he isn’t doing so in this case. Sørøya also holds the world record for four species of fish: cusk, cod, redfish (known as rosefish in the US) and catfish.
“You might not catch a fish over 20 kilos every day you fish, but you’ll certainly see someone landing a big fish,” says Sivertzen.
From Europe to Sørøya in a day
Sørøya is Norway’s fourth-largest island by area, and the largest without a mainland connection. The harsh climate of the Barents Sea in Norway’s extreme north is tempered by Sørøya’s location close to the Gulf Stream and, in fact, it enjoys a comfortable climate all year round and is often called “the green island in the north”.
Until a few years ago, most people visiting the island came by car. But thanks to three daily flights to Hasvik with Widerøe, you can get here from anywhere in Europe in just a few hours. Most flights stop in Tromsø, but there are also connections from Hammerfest.
“We’re really pleased about the evening flight we now have to Hasvik. It enables our guests to get all the way to Sørøya, for example from the Czech Republic, in a day,” explains Mona J. Saab, who runs the travel company BigFishAdventure with her husband Ahmad, originally from Lebanon.
Mona and Ahmad Saab took over the running of Hasvik Hotell from her parents in 2000, and two years later started offering angling packages.
“Most people who come here have a genuine interest in deep-sea fishing. Lots of our bookings are made by groups of friends, sometimes several years in advance,” she explains.
The hotel has 11 rooms, and Mona and Ahmad also rent out houses and flats in Hasvik and on Sørvær to tourists attracted by the fishing.The hotel is within walking distance of Hasvik Airport (HAA), although the hosts usually arrange transport from the airport. Car hire is available locally if you want to explore the island’s 40 km or so of roads independently.
The dream of the giant halibut
Sørøya’s fishing season runs from March to October, and you can land cusk, catfish and saithe (pollack) whatever time of year you come. Many guests dream of landing a halibut. The halibut stock off Sørøya has increased in recent years, and there is nowhere better to catch a giant halibut of 100 kilos or more. And a halibut of 30-40 kilos is not to be sniffed at either!
“Sørøya has everything you need for a totally unique fishing experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world. You can get here by plane in a few hours, stay at the hotel or rent a house, and you’re ready to get started the next day! You can hire a boat with or without a guide and skipper, as well as all manner of fishing gear,” Geir Sivertzen explains.
Taking your fish home? No problem!
And it’s no problem taking your fish on the flight home either. You can use Big Fish Adventure’s service facilities for filleting and freezing fish – and pack your catch in a special polystyrene box that you check in as hold luggage for the flight. Guests from other countries are subject to an export quota of 15 kilos of filleted fish per person. There are no restrictions for Norwegian visitors.
“You definitely don’t need to be an expert fisherman to get a lot out of a stay on Sørøya. If you have little fishing experience, you can go out with a guide, who will show you the best places to fish. It’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” says Sivertzen.
In the angling community, Geir Sivertzen is known as “Dr Hook”. Among other things, he works to promote Sørøya as a destination for both Norwegian and foreign tourists.
“We have ever-increasing numbers of Norwegians visiting, but there is room for more! Last summer, we had a number of new guests, who were travelling on Widerøe’s Explore Norway ticket,” says Mona J. Saab.
More than just deep-sea fishing
And if you should tire of fishing, Sørøya has other outstanding natural experiences to offer too. A hike in the mountains will bring you close to the island’s animal life, including birds of prey and reindeer, and there are also many beautiful sandy beaches, good for a swim on warm days. If you’re a sun worshipper, this isn’t the place for you, but if you love nature and exotic wilderness experiences, then Sørøya is a destination worth investigating.
If you come in the summer, you’ll also experience the midnight sun, while the northern lights are spectacular in winter. You’ll also find plenty of wartime history on the island, and the area also boasts some exciting post-war architecture.
And when you’re hungry, there is of course fish on the menu – fresher than you’ve ever eaten before.
“You can bring the day’s catch into the kitchen and prepare a meal with the chef,” says Mona J. Saab.
If you fish for the excitement and the experiences, why not register for the Sørøya Big Fish Challenge, which starts on 1 January 2018? This is all about catching the biggest specimen of catfish, redfish, cod or halibut. The competition runs over a full year and is expected to attract anglers from all over the world.
Photo: Big Fish Adventure and Geir Sivertzen