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Exploring Winter Fishery in Denmark

By Rodney Hsu, Fishing with Rod | Published in January 2004

A sea trout from a river in Denmark

It's always exciting to explore a new fishery, doesn't matter how much you enjoy fishing for your favourite species at your favourite location. A change once in awhile is refreshing, and it lifts your enthusiasm and makes you realize how diverse fishing really is. It's also a progress of learning. Learning the resource that is available in other parts of the world often makes you appreciate what you often take for granted back home. After an unpredictable salmon season, I once again set my foot on the land of the Vikings. December is the month that I long for each year. It's not necessarily the fishing. In fact, most will probably agree that fishing does not get any better than British Columbia. When I inform people that I will be fishing in Denmark during December, the response is often a puzzling look on their faces. Why on earth would a British Columbian want to fish in Denmark when most of the Danish anglers are eager to come here? It's the overall experience! Angling is simply a very small component of it. Being able to interact with people from a different culture and taste some of the best traditional cooking are just some of the attractions that drive me back each year. Basically, being able to experience something completely alien is quite a welcoming contrast to the same old driftfishing that we participate each fall.

In the last two years, I tested some of the local put and take lakes where you have to pay to fish. These lakes are privately owned and stocked regularly to ensure your success. For a region that has no major mountains and streams, this is a good alternative to kill the fishing bugs. This year, I decided to search for other options that I may have during the winter months. After a bit of research, I was pleasantly surprised that the options are plenty. Fishing in December is not limited at all in Denmark. I had a choice of hopping on a charter boat to target large atlantic cod and herring, beach fishing for sea trout, or hunting for northern pikes, sea trout, redfins and some of the other native species in lakes and small creeks. Temperature was definitely a factor, December is not exactly a warm month. Hauling in some cod and herring may sound fun, but exposing my face to sub-zero windchill just did not seem pleasant. I decided to play it safe, with some guidance of a couple of wonderful local anglers, we fished a small creek that is about one hour outside of Great Copenhagen.

This creek was completely dwarfed by the rivers of Northwest, it was only 10 to 15 meters wide. Beside the CDN$20.00 annual license that I had to pay for, in addition we had to pay for day passes that were CDN$10.00 per person. The money goes to a local fishing association that maintains the river. On your day pass, a map is drawn out, showing the area that you are allowed to fish. Only certain sections, banks were allowed to be accessed by anglers, while the rest of the sections are owned by private housing or operated by other recreational users. A total of 3 to 5km of fishable stretch was available, which is quite different to what I am used to in British Columbia. The species that are found in this little creek include sea trout, northern pike, redfin, eel, and some of the european coarse fish. During December, we had a chance of catching some pikes, redfin and sea trout. Sea trout are sea migratory brown trout, its lifecycle is somewhat similar to North America's steelhead. Because the sea trout were returning to spawn, catch and release were required during winter months. A redfin is simply the european version of a yellow perch, and it can grow as big as 2kg! Northern pike is a native species in Denmark, and in some system such as the one where we fished, it can reach as big as 28kg! After learning these facts, I was excited to give it a try!

If you ever travel to Denmark, remember, it's always windy! Our first outing was no exception, the wind had no mercy. We did not see anyone fishing that day, possibly due to the requirement of a day pass? Or are we the only ones who were simply dumb enough to stand in the cold and watch the guides froze as we fished? I think so!

A small European perch from Denmark

My initial goal was to see one of these big northern pikes. Since I've never hooked one before, I was eager to do so. After an hour or so of cast and retrieve, the chance seemed slim as we came up empty handed. I decided to give the wire leader a rest, and throw on one of my home-made spinners that have always been good to me back home. First cast, I slowly retrieved as it spun along the bottom. Halfway across the stream, a definite tug as the blade stopped spinning. I set the hook immediately and the little Shimano spinning reel started to scream. It fought like a coho! For awhile, I had absolutely no idea what it was. As it reached the surface, I could see the brownish body. "Is it a pike? No.... Is it a sea trout?" This sure was exciting, as I'd never caught either species. A quick glance of the head, and yes it was a sea trout! It began to roll on the surface a few times, just like what a salmonid would behave. I scooped it up with my wet hand, that water sure was cold! Once I got a hold of its tail, a quick lift and photo shoot, it went straight back into the water. The entire event took only a few minutes, but that was enough excitement for us to be overjoyed. A pretty fish indeed, it's always thrilling to catch a new type of fish. I was amazed by the colour of its spots. The rain storm rolled in soon after my first catch, and our first outing quickly came to an end.

Still no northern pike, our confidence dropped greatly after the first outing as we thought northerns are way easier to catch! Thanks to the unusually mild weather, the lakes near Nina's house remained ice free until Christmas. I visited these lake several times after the creek outing but always came back empty handed. During the very last outing before the lakes froze up, I managed to hooked one fish briefly before falling off the hook. So close, I needed that pike photo badly!

The lakes remained frozen for the rest of my trip, it sure was frustrating. I decided to venture back to the creek one last time to see if I could connect with one more fish before my departure. Driving alone in a foreign country can certainly be intimidating, especially when everyone else was doing 150kph+ on the freeway! The creek on that day was semi frozen, the artic wind was cutting through my spine like a knife, but fishing must go on. Surprisingly, despite the cold weather, there were a dozen or so other anglers fishing, maybe they knew something that I didn't? Soon after I started, a hit was felt as I retrieved the same spinner. Fish on! This time the fish stayed on. After a minute or so, the head emerged from the surface, a northern pike it was! It was only about 5lb, but very satisfying indeed.

Northern pike from Denmark

A memorable trip indeed, it sure couldn't get any better than landing three new species of fish. I love our salmon and steelhead, but sometimes a change of fishing style can be very refreshing. At the same time, it makes you appreciate what you already have so much more. All of my fishing outings in Denmark have been excellent, but at a pretty high price. Most waterways are privatized, therefore a day fee is necessary. Food is delicious but generally very expensive. Public transportation is convinient, but who would want to carry their rods and waders for two hours in a train? Cars can be your ticket to prime fishing locations, but gasoline is very pricy in Europe. An enjoyable trip such as this allowed me to bring back some fantastic photos to share with you. It also makes me realize just how important it is to address the ongoing issues that surround our sportfishery so we do not lose these precious public resource one day.