A Fisherman’s Cornucopia:
Sportfishing on the Faroe Islands
Of one thing we can be sure:
When there is ONE country that has a saying “Small, but OH!” then it has to be the Faroes. The average recreational angler may consider these islands somewhat isolated geographically, perhaps to be compared with the Shetland Islands, or some Danish islands in the Baltic, but this impression is quickly revised once you stand on the shore with a fishing rod in your hand.
You have to experience the Faroes for yourself, if only because it is difficult to get hold of detailed information in advance of your trip. In fact, there is very little literature on the topic of sports fishing on the Faroes. Yes, there are some blogs and the occasional travel tip via testimonials, but these are mostly just ‘snapshot' impressions and are not really based on years of local knowledge. Very much in contrast are the publications of Mauritia Kirchner, herself a passionate fly fisherman. She has lived on the Faroes, her ‘adopted home’ for almost 15 years and is regarded as a pioneer in her chosen field. She has a great affection for the country and works informally to engage with travellers who are interested in angling. She has already published numerous magazine articles, a travel guide especially for those interested in fishing, and was a guest, and a consultant on several television documentaries. Here she presents some key facts about fishing on the “Islands of Sheep”.
A paradise - not only for anglers
The first word that comes to mind about the Faroes is ‘harsh'. This is closely followed by ‘overwhelming'. On the map, the Faroes are made up of 18 islands, with no point being further from the sea than five kilometres. ‘Water' is, therefore, the country's most dominant element, and this transforms the Faroes into a paradise, not only for anglers but especially for them.
Due to its geographical location between Scotland and Iceland, and the fact that it represents a mix of the cold polar water and the warm gulf stream, the water around the Faroes is one of the most fish-rich of the North Atlantic. But there is also something special on offer ‘ashore’. You have to imagine the Faroes as the tips of a mountain range that have appeared out of the ocean. They are green, and they are majestic. The terrain drops directly into the sea to a depth of up to 882 metres. Rivers are, in general, only channels for run-off water, which after periods of little rain, all but dry up. However, the archipelago has abundant rainfall, so the impressive waterfalls are refilled continuously.
Possibilities for sports fishing on the Faroes are almost limitless. Anglers have the choice of deep-sea fishing, fishing from a jetty, breakwater or beach, or fishing in one of the many lakes. There is an absolute wealth of fish that are genetically pure. The sport is accessible to beginners and also full of challenges for professionals. Today you could choose to fish in a lake for salmon, tomorrow for cod at sea, the day after for sea trout at the beach. Here, fishing is all about how the mood takes you, provided the weather is right. So now it’s time to say a few words about the weather.
In actual fact, the climate on the Faroes is ideal for anglers. Due to the gulf stream, the winter is relatively mild (3°C on average), and situated in the north means it has fresh, windy summers (11°C on average). At midsummer in June, it is light for 24 hours, and that means 24 hours for fishing. And the wind takes care of the rest. A stiff breeze can also be helpful for those who lack experience in casting. But there are some things to note. The climate is rough, and nature is primal. Life is in direct contact with the elements earth and water. That means you have to respect them and be ready for anything. When the sun shines at 10 a.m., you may well be happy an hour later that you brought your rain jacket.
However, those who know how to read nature, and use it correctly can experience unforgettable hours on the water. And as the saying goes: There is no wrong weather for fishing, only the wrong clothes.
FISHING ON THE FAROES: The ‘Where' and especially, the ‘What'
FRESHWATER - The ‘Where'
Water is present on the Faroes in many diverse forms and speeds, some significant, others less so. Fishing in the rivers, however, plays practically no role. The geological characteristics of the islands mean the rivers only accommodate runoff rainwater. Fishing in the small mountain lakes, however, is a multifaceted pleasure. These natural jewels can be found on each of the islands and sometimes represent real treasure both regarding the landscape, and the underwater world. Larger lakes are located on the islands of Vagar, Eysturoy and Sandoy.
FRESHWATER – The ‘What'
Non-predatory fish, such as carps or others like pike do not occur naturally on the Faroe Islands. From time to time it is possible to catch a small type of arctic char. It is in this water that you fish for brown trout, sea trout and in summer time for salmon.
To set the scene: The Faroes are not a classic salmon territory. There are only two lakes that rate as successful for salmon fishing, the Leynavatn with its two Mjóuvøtn lakes further upstream, and the lake in Saksun. As a general rule, these lakes yield up to 10 large salmon per day. The season is mostly from the end of July to mid-October. Much credit for this must go to the Faroes Fishing Association with its around 300 members, who have been very engaged over past decades in rearing and stocking Atlantic salmon, which they do with considerable expertise and enthusiasm.
In principle, the genetics of the Icelandic salmon have been adopted, although in recent years some ‘escapees’ from aquaculture cages have joined the wild salmon population.
We recommend engaging the services of a local guide to get the most enjoyment from your fishing trip here. They know the best ‘tight lines' tactics.
Sea trout are the real treasure of the Faroes. You find them everywhere and in large numbers, and there is no set season. However, fish over 60cm are seldom caught. They can be found in numbers where fresh water runs into the sea in specific radii to the coast, where they appear on the tides in large quantities or shoals.
Sea trout mostly feed on sand eels or crustaceans and therefore have rich red meat. They migrate to freshwater areas to spawn during the winter months, and they also like to alternate between fresh and salt water areas throughout the year. Important to note: it is not permitted to take fish under 30cm, and in this case, ‘catch and release’ is to be practised. Faroese anglers are very keen to protect and keep this species. Here it also makes sense to go fishing with a guide because they know the ideal time and place that offer the best chances of a good catch.
Apart from sea trout, the brown trout represents one of the real treasures of the islands. They are present in all the lakes and appear in different sizes and colours. Here one should dismiss one commonly held view: the bigger the lake, the bigger the fish - right? No, wrong. The opposite often applies. It is probably wiser to take note that if the water is relatively inaccessible, there is likely to be an abundance of fish. It is also important to be aware of the fact that in the Faroe Islands, in contrast to the lakes in continental Europe that have generous amounts of fish food, brown trout grow very slowly in the nutrient-poor lochs, and a fish between 30-40cm represents a Methuselah who deserves to be released. This is especially the case because there is no restocking of this wild species of self-reproducing fish.
Important to know: Every lake in the Faroe Islands is privately owned. Fishing is mostly tolerated, and respectful behaviour is required. To keep it this way, every guest should ask permission before they begin their activities, or even better, to go on tour with a local guide. Generally, is it forbidden to fish without permission. For the Leynavatn, Mjóuvøtn and Saksunartvatn lakes, which are leased by the Faroese Fishing Association, it is necessary to buy a fishing license.
Find out about the current valid times to fish, the regulations and the contact points for acquiring a fishing license on the Fishing Association’s website www.laks.fo
SALTWATER – The ‘Where’ and ‘What’
As we mentioned in the beginning, there is no point on the Faroes that is further than five kilometres from the ocean, and that means if you plan to fish in the sea, just follow the island map. It is possible to fish for sea trout and flatfish in all bays and inlets, ideally with sandy soil. It is possible to fill whole tubs with pollack when fishing from jetties and breakwaters. Deep-sea fishing yields cod, pollack, ling, ocean perch, flatfish and mackerel, and it is not uncommon to catch up to 14 varieties of fish in a single day. There are large areas of coral reef on the seabed surrounding the Faroes, and these are important spawning grounds.
Deep-sea fishing in the North Atlantic is a real adventure. The deep, ice-cold water, the sometimes-raw conditions, and the rough seas all require seaworthiness and a little daring, but the reward is impressive. The fishing grounds are abundant, and a successful catch is practically guaranteed. And when back home, you can also entertain the landlubbers with a fascinating description of your fishing trip.
Meanwhile, a word of warning: As a newcomer or tourist you should never go out to sea alone to fish.
What are you waiting for?
If the Faroes are presently just an unknown destination on your travel map, if you just know they are somewhere far in the north and have perhaps heard a passing reference regarding football, it is time to discover them for yourself. The Faroes are breathtakingly beautiful, hospitable, modern, and at the same time such a primal land that it is certainly one of the world’s last paradises – and not just for anglers.