Fishing in Norway

Back in 1973 I spent some time in Bronnoysund, Norway. While there I learned a great deal about fishing, while living with the Berg family. Julian owned a pretty little Nordic wooden boat, probably @ 22 feet long. She was small and slow by today's standards, but at the time she was one of the few private recreational boats to be found on that past of the coast.

I learned a great deal from Julian, who fished in a tradition that dated far back in time. 

We jigged for Cod off the coast, catching huge fish in waters of 100 feet or so. The Cod were not exciting to catch, often I was not sure once I had the first hit, whether I had a fish on the line or not. They were taciturn as you pulled them up from the depths, often like logs. There was a ritual to filling and preparing them. Once in shore, Julian would normally salt the Cod. He had huge tubs of salt Cod in his shop. This was a taste I had never experienced. It would take days of soaking to wash the intense salt away. They much preferred it to fresh fish, even though there was plenty of refrigeration available by that time in Norway.

The salt cod tasted fine, and to be truthful, I don't remember much, except that we lived on a diet of mostly fish. I rarely had fish growing up, but took a quick liking to the Norwegian diet. Rarely we would have meat. Once Julian came back from a farm with a prize trade, mutton. That night we had a mutton stew. One of the pieces I had still had the hair on it....I vastlty preferred fish bones....

Asta, Julian's wife, once went on vacation to Yugoslavia. Julian prepared food for the weeklong absence, a vat of boiled fish steaks. These were Sea Trout, or at least that was how it translated. They were quite delicious, and we ended up making sea trout sandwiches all week, with the cold fish on bread with mayonaise.

   Squetegue, or sea trout  on the East Coast of New England appears to be related. This was a fish that was rare, but known back in the 70's, and would occasionally be caught amongst the bluefish. I have not seen or heard of one in twenty plus years.

Another thing Julian would do would be to dry Cod under the boathouse. Called Torfisk, this was like beek jerky, tough, stringy and chewy, it was tasteful.

Once we went longlining. This was a great adventure. A huge length of line was let out along the oceans bottom. I think we were probably a mile off the coast, but still in the waters protected by the offshore islands of Vega among others. Whitecaps were rare in these sheltered waters. fter letting out huge amounts of  baited line (there was a hook every few feet, which was baited just before it went over the side).

The next day we returned to pull in the line. A whole variety of fish came up with the longline the next day, Steinbit being one of the more memorable. (Stone Bite) is a nasty eel like fish, which is capable of biting through just about anything, as Julian displayed to me by holding out a wooden gaff. The fish jumped the hook, and lunged into the gaff with it's teeth. A crunching sound followed as the fish bit clear through this slid wooden gaff, and dropped to the water below. Lesson well learned, keep hands away from a Steinbit's mouth.

Later I tried cooking one, but was not impressed.

I actually went out one day myself in a double ended Norwegian rowing dory. Alone, with a jig line, I jigged as I drifted rapidly out to sea. The wind was blowing from off the shore, so I had to keep rowing back in, so as not to get too far away from the coast. My first catch was a tiny little cod, perhaps nine inches long. I gently let the hook out, and released him over the side. At the time I had been living by myself in the Berg cottage in Tilrem for a while. Catching a fish was pretty important, because I had no food. I wouldn't starve, but it would be real nice to have dinner in the boat. There was not a lot of action, and so I went a while without any fish. Finally I had another hit, and brought up the same small fish I had caught a while before. This time I kept the fish, and minutes later caught the largest Cod I have ever caught, a big fish by any measure. I cooked up the tiny cod for dinner, and gave the big fish to Julian to salt. I remember showing the fish off to someone passing by as I rowed back into the harbor. Norwegians respond very well to well caught fish, and great enthusiasm greeted me from the shore.

After Julian salted the fish I remember trying to soak and cook it. I never was able to get the salt taste out of it, and felt badly that my big catch tasted so badly.

I also had whale while in Norway. Julian prepared it one night, in a thick dark brown sauce, it tasted like meat, which surprised me, with a slight flavor of liver. It was not something that I would want to try again.

I also saw lots of Puffins that summer. I had never seen them before, and did not know the English name, so called them clown birds, due to their brightly colored beaks. I remember them flying on their short wings. I delighted in just looking at them. And of course the sun never set, because we were so close to the artic circle.

 

 

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